Myrtle Beach, SC

Why Buy a Timeshare? The Best Are Like a 2nd Home, a Boat — or the Poshest Country Clubs

Joseph Serwach

The 10 best reasons to buy a timeshare as Hilton Grand Vacations buys Diamond Resorts International Grand Vacation's Ocean Enclave became the tallest building in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when it opened in 2019. Photo by Joseph Serwach.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.  —  Why buy a timeshare? It’s like buying a beach condo, cottage, cabin, or boat — a personal place of escape, a second home.

The new Hilton Grand Vacations agreement to buy Diamond Resorts International for $1.4 billion could be a game-changer for the industry, creating a well-known global brand with 154 resorts and 720,000 property owners.

“Diamond’s extensive regional, drive-to network of resorts and expanded demographics uniquely complement HGV’s best-in-class lead generation, world-class hospitality, and premier destinations backed by the strength of the Hilton brand,” said HGV President Mark Wang.

When Americans can more easily “drive to” nearby timeshare “second homes,” will leisure trips grow? HGV estimates the merger creating a new industry-leading-brand will give members a 140 percent jump in “drive to” resorts.

The top 10 reasons to buy a timeshare

Thirty years after first covering lodging, hospitality, and tourism for the Myrtle Beach Sun News (and later for Arthur Andersen), I’ve heard every pro/con argument (including the daily “timeshare exit” ads that now saturate us on cable TV).

There were many downsides when timeshares first began in the 1970s, and it’s not hard to find people who don’t like a marketing pitch they heard (we’ve personally sat through 10 pitches) or some deal they shouldn’t have gotten into. We decided to buy one anyway — in 2019. Here are the top 10 best main arguments:

10. Like gym memberships, timeshares force you to do something good for your health and wellbeing the smallest Ocean Enclave units sleep four. Photo by Joseph Serwach.

If you pay for a gym or health club membership and use it regularly, it’s a bargain.

If you never go to the gym after investing in the cost of long-term club membership, then you threw your money away.

Gyms (like timeshares) have both extremes: club members who “go all the time” and people who thought they’d go (when they made the purchase), and they never did because other life priorities got in their way. Use it — or lose your money and feel like a fool.

The true gift of timeshares and gym memberships? The bills are a reminder you really need to make a commitment and go to your place. If you really can’t use your points at some point? Timeshares (unlike gym memberships) actually allow you to send guests or friends in your place or even sell the points.

9. It’s way cheaper than a second home, cottage, or condo

The average timeshare cost $22,180 in 2018, comparable to (or less than) your best deal on a low-cost car. That’s far less than the average $40,000 Americans paid for all new vehicles in 2020.

Both timeshares and cars are a fraction of the price of even the most modest cabin, cottage, condo, or beach house. Even if you plan to buy a second home and “rent it out” most of the year, estimates the “true costs of a second home” shock and surprise many.

Lakefront cottages used to be far more affordable (my Grandpa Joe had a lakefront cottage and boat from the 1940s until he died in 1990). Second homes were “the dream” for years. A timeshare is a more achievable way to replicate that “second home dream.”

8. The longer you own, the more you save… three-bedroom unit included this view. Photo by Joseph Serwach.

The ownership vs. “only rent a room when you want to travel” argument is similar to the debate over whether it’s best to buy or lease a vehicle or residence.

Short-term, renters save money and maximize their flexibility (and they can grab last-minute deals).

Long-term, the advantages shift to property owners. The principle holds whether it’s a car, a house, or a vacation home: paying down a property loan isn’t fun, but once the principal is paid off, the savings compound the longer you own (and use) your property.

7. “Welcome home” rather than a nomad going to hotels

“Welcome home!” staffers say when they see us walking in (owners and hotel guests tend to have different colored bracelets). Our units have full kitchens with everything we need to cook (though we still wind up going out to eat) so we can live like we are home.

When you become a “road warrior” traveling regularly, hotel rooms can look the same, but we enjoy returning to our “home” resort, feeling like it’s “our place.”

6. Not nearly as scary as a boat — but if you want to cruise…

In the film Absence of Malice, Paul Newman calls an employee who had his boat “ready” for him as he arrived, so he could drive to the dock, get on board, and take off (the ultimate way to own a boat, I thought).

Most boat owners know that the boat itself can cost less than all the related costs of ownership (storage, fuel, maintenance, etc.), which is where we get the adage that it’s better to have a friend with a boat than your own boat.

When you join a large timeshare club (which typically includes access to “cruise packages”), it’s like having that staff taking care of the boat (or condo), having everything all ready to go when you arrive.

5. The purpose of leisure

Being a “workaholic,” with no time for vacations, always working, always “plugged in,” is a badge of honor for many, especially in the prime of their career. Both capitalistic and communist societies elevate the focus on work, but they forget the reason we work is to have leisure time. boardwalk by our place in Myrtle Beach. Photo by Joseph Serwach.

We don’t get to our deathbeds wishing we’d worked more hours; we end our lives wishing we’d done more with the people we loved.

“Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves,’’ Josef Pieper argued in the classic Leisure: The Basis of Culture. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.”

He warned back in 1948: “the world of work begins to become — threatens to become — our only world, to the exclusion of all else. The demands of the working world grow ever more total, grasping ever more completely the whole of human existence.” Ocean Oak Resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Photo by Joseph Serwach.

4. Tired of your current situation? Get up and go…

The main reason people have second homes in different parts of the country?

When something has you down in one place (from the weather to worries to whatever), you say, “Let’s go to the other place.”

And you book a condo, get in your car and go. That is the feeling of pure freedom. Bigger clubs offer more options and choices.

3. Maintenance fees totally beat doing actual maintenance yourself

Every day and night, we see the twangy attorneys on cable TV telling us they “get you out of your timeshare contract and the endless maintenance fees.”

OK, no one likes to pay “endless maintenance fees” except that ownership and maintenance go together. All property breaks. All property requires maintenance and upgrades.

Having a second home is appealing, but who desires to mow multiple lawns? Having staff to do all that maintenance is far more appealing than actually doing the maintenance yourself.

2. Community: The gift of feeling “in the club” rich

The pandemic’s isolation taught everyone the importance of community, joining like-minded people to become part of something bigger than yourself. As soon as our resort re-opened in May 2020, we got back there.

Points-based travel organizations from timeshares to airlines give you the community feeling of being “in a club,” adding the almost addictive challenge of maximizing your points to feel like you’re “winning something” with each deal.

Something about that “in the club” experience (whether it’s an HGV or a Costco) offers that communal “in the club” feeling of being part of something special (like a pricier country club or athletic club).

1. Family vacations: Saving marriages, making your children an offer they can’t refuse

How do you get your grown kids and grandchildren together? Treat them to a free vacation where all they have to do is show up.

Well-off friends can afford to pay all the travel costs (including airline tickets). Less well-off people with cottages and second homes nearby have “extended family gathering places.” We wanted that too.

A points-based timeshare, where you can get “home-sized places” up to three-bedrooms, offers an instant family reunion whenever you can get everyone together.

Smaller units are available when you want to instead focus on saving your marriage (and sanity) with a few days of fun. Ocean Enclave master bedroom by Joseph Serwach.

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