Why Were Timeshares Once So Popular?

Timeshares have been around in some form since the 1960s, with leading companies in France and Switzerland largely credited with the start of the timeshare craze as an alternative to the package holiday deal.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the timeshare concept really started to gather speed, spreading from European countries into the USA and beyond. Now, around 600,000 Britons own their own timeshare, while 7% of American families are said to have stakes in a property.

However, of these British owners, around 250,000 of them would like to sell these timeshares on, with only 1 buyer for every 400 sellers. This is largely due to the negative associations with timeshares these days and the various scams that are found throughout the industry.

So what was once the appeal of these timeshares, and why were they once so popular, when the consensus today is largely a negative one?

The myth of a good deal

Timeshares gained widespread popularity due to the belief of consumers that they were getting a great deal, which was pushed by many of the hard-selling salespeople.

Many timeshares were sold on the basis that it gave people who wouldn’t be able to do so alone a chance to own a holiday home, by sharing the cost with multiple owners and only paying for what they used.

However, this has now been shown as false, with a large upfront fee alongside extortionate annual maintenance costs actually costing you more money than a typical holiday.

This post can give you more information on the financial side of timeshares.

The myth of more flexibility

Timeshares were also sold on the basis that they would offer owners more flexibility than staying in a hotel.

Because they were self-catered and had all the top quality amenities of a normal house, with a full kitchen, laundry facilities, and multiple bedrooms, many people believed that you had more facilities and more flexibility than package holidays, at a lower cost and with better quality accommodation.

And, with the introduction of points systems and exchange companies, consumers were sold on the idea of exchanging their week or resort for other options, meaning they weren’t tied down.

Again, however, this is not always the case. Even with the rise of exchange and points schemes, owners are not guaranteed the chance to change their week or resort and must compete with others to get the best deals.

Similarly, timeshare contracts are notoriously difficult to be released from and therefore actually reduce the flexibility available to you as a consumer.

Forbes has a guide to more pros and cons of timeshares here.

The myth of security

One of the primary selling points of timeshares was the security of your holiday. By purchasing a timeshare, you were guaranteed a holiday in the same place knowing what standard you were getting and could arrange it around your needs, such as purchasing a timeshare for during the school holidays.

Because the accommodation and facilities are held in trust and/or are registered in a public register for the lifetime of the right to use, as long as the consumer continues to pay the fees, they have contractual certainty of a holiday every year. This was an essential selling point for most consumers.

However, this security is a double-edged sword. While the contract guarantees a holiday, it also ties people in for extremely long periods of time, with many people racking him huge costs should they want to end the contract.  

If you have been tied into a timeshare agreement and need any specialist advice, we recommend getting in touch with Timeshare Consumer Association, who offer an independent service to those looking for assistance.