Time-shares are starting to reach a wider audience, thanks to the Internet.
Websites like Redweek.com, Tug2.net, Bidshares.com, and Timesharegateway.com, as well as all-purpose sites like
''Before, there just wasn't a place to help the time-share owner put their unit up for rent and sale," said John Locher, vice president for marketing and sales at Redweek, which he said has grown to 910,000 members since its 2002 launch.
Time-shares are a great way to travel, especially for families. Most time-share resorts have all the usual vacation amenities, and the units themselves offer a lot more than a hotel room, often including full kitchens, separate bedrooms, patios, and sometimes washers and dryers.
Time-share rental ''is one of the true travel bargains today," said Bill Rogers of the Timeshare Users Group at Tug2.net, which was created by time-share owners.
''If I were getting involved with time-share again from the start, knowing what I do now, I would not buy a time-share but rent from current owners instead," said Rogers. ''Usually you can find great rental deals just about anywhere you want to go and at prices that are sometimes near the annual maintenance fees" that owners pay to their resorts.
According to the latest figures from the American Resort Development Association, there are 5,425 time-share resorts worldwide and 9.7 million owners.
Many of these owners are finding it's more economical to rent a week they can't use rather than banking it in a time-share trading network. They pocket the cash rather than taking the risk of whether they will be able to trade for the week they want at another resort.
RCI, the biggest time-share trading network with more than 2.6 million members, charges $89 for a year membership, $149 to process a domestic exchange, and $189 for an exchange abroad. By contrast, most of the websites facilitating time-share rentals or sales charge minimal fees.
The biggest drawback of the time-share websites is that no one site has gained dominance, which means you may have to check several sites to find a week that works for you.
Diane Krieghoff of Oneida, Wis., owns two weeks at the Surfrider Beach Club on Sanibel Island in Florida. She put one week up for sale or rent in local newspapers, at the resort itself, and on Tug2.net. She got a number of responses, but the Timeshare Users Group worked best.
Listings on TUG are divided into sales and rentals, then broken down by state or region and then by week. Krieghoff paid $15 to join TUG and she placed her initial ads for free. The usual charge is $10. Buyers or renters pay nothing.
Once an owner and a renter find each other, they work out the details of their financial transaction. The renter needs assurances that the owner actually owns the week he is offering. One option is to call the resort and check out the owner.
Redweek also has an escrow option where the owner and renter use a third party to handle the transaction. The third party, in Redweek's case First American Title Insurance Co., collects the rent and releases it to the owner after the week is used. First American charges both parties $50 to process the transaction.
Locher said one reason Redweek collects a membership fee is for security. If anything goes wrong, Redweek has credit card information on both parties.
Contact Bruce Mohl at email@example.com.