Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Want A Timeshare? Just Charge It!

Thank you to the reader who sent this little nugget my way. How about owning this penthouse (you need to click on the "penthouse" link at the top) at an "exemplary address" in Manhattan for a week every year? The best part? You can charge it on your American Express card! Prices for this timeshare range from $40,680-$121,400. And, if you buy before March 31, 2008, you get ten times the Hilton Honor points! Yippee! The irony is that, once you purchase the timeshare and earn your extra points, you won't need one because you'll probably have enough points to stay in hotels for the rest of your life.

Just knowing that I'll leave my week vacation in Manhattan with a "sense of clarity" certainly is enough for me to charge my life away and make outrageous payments for eternity. I mean, isn't "clarity" priceless? (I know, it's the wrong credit card.)

I've never been a fan of timeshares, and it's something that I don't think I'd ever buy. I may be wrong because I've never researched it, but I see them as depreciable assets. For one week a year, it doesn't seem worth it to me any way I look at it. However, I must say that I have several friends who own one or more timeshares and love them.

Speaking of timeshares, have you heard of "condo hotels"? It takes the idea of timeshares up a notch--but you're stuck in one location. Basically, you can buy a hotel room and, when you aren't using it, the staff can rent it out to others. Some are as low as $200K, but others are a bit more pricey. Here is one that came my way. I looked at these when I thought that we'd actually be able to pull our money out of the apartments. I ruled it out quickly, but it was one of those, "Wouldn't it be great to own a vacation rental in a totally cool spot that we could use whenever we want, and make money from it the rest of the time?"

I gave up on vacation rentals long ago because A) I think it's kind of gross, B) Supposedly, you are lucky if you cover your taxes and insurance with the income that you make, and C) The management fees are exorbitant (30% in the areas where I was researching).

When we stayed in an upscale cabin in the mountains, it was surprising to me how many personal effects the owners left in the home. The medicine chest was full of prescriptions, pain relievers, toothbrushes, etc. The owner had just stayed there before we arrived, and the shower had a used bar of soap in it. I mean, was that what they considered hospitality? Did they really intend for the renter to use it and then for them to lather up with it after we did? There were clothes in the closet. Works of art. Knick-knacks. It felt like home, just not my home. But the really important stuff was kept in a locked cabinet. Do they just leave on the days when a vacationer is scheduled? I almost expected to find them behind the false wall of a hidden room.

I keep looking, though, waiting for the prices to fall low enough in tourist areas. Not that I'd buy--it's just what I do for fun. Don't people try to unload their second homes before losing their primary ones? I haven't noticed a big decline in the places where I'd be interested in visiting. If anyone knows of a good vacation rental location where prices have dropped significantly, please share for others who may have the funds to jump in.