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Score a Luxury Timeshare With No Strings Attached


Four-star resort options widen as the industry sputters.

The market for timeshares, that odd sliver of the luxury vacation business that has more or less flourished since the 1970s, has never been worse.

Americans now own 1.5 million timeshares around the world, and 870,000 of them are available for resale, according to Timeshares Daily, an industry publication, which flatly states that "there is no secondary market for timeshares."

In the absence of any possibility of selling their timeshares, most owners are looking to rent them, no strings attached, for a week at a time.

If you're looking for a vacation rental, you have your choice of close to 900,000 fully-furnished luxury condos in the US and abroad -- virtually all of them boasting four- or five-star resort leisure amenities and located in popular vacation destinations.

In many cases, they appear to offer a much better deal in terms of space and facilities than a comparable hotel room.

First, you have to decide how to go about it, and whether it's worth it.

A Little Background

Timeshare purchases appeal to people who like to feel they have a little home away from home in a place they like to go for a vacation one or two weeks every year. There's a big online swap meet out there for timeshares, too, so if owners don't feel like going to Cancun this year they can trade their place for a week in Vegas.

The industry has always had its seamy side, with a reputation for high-pressure sales tactics practiced on resort visitors who have had one margarita too many.

During the real-estate boom years, the industry gained respectability as big players like Marriott (MAR) and Starwood Hotels & Resorts (HOT) built four-star resorts in prime locations and sold them as timeshares.

Not so much anymore. In the current economic climate, timeshare developers are stuck with vast unsold batches of the ultimate discretionary item.

Marriott has put its further timeshare development on hold, and is looking to sell land it was hoarding for more, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, Starwood is closing sales centers and cutting staff in the face of a 48% drop in timeshare sales in the fourth quarter.

Individual buyers, naturally, are the ones really left holding the bag if they want to get out of their timeshares.

And they're the ones you'll be dealing with if you decide to book a timeshare instead of a hotel for your next vacation.

Where to Find Rentals

There are many online marketplaces for timeshares, but among the big ones is, which has a database of available rentals and contact information.

You can browse the top layer to see what's available, where, and when, but actionable information can be accessed only after payment of a $14.95 annual fee.

Virtually all the listings are for a one-week stay in a modern, fully-furnished apartment in a complex that boasts hotel-like amenities and leisure facilities.

Many are in the Caribbean and Florida. Other top destinations include Las Vegas, Hawaii, and Myrtle Beach, and there's a sprinkling of ski resort listings.
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