Timeshare started as a simple idea based on the assumption that people don't need vacation lodging except for a week or two a year. Take a house, cabin, condominium, or villa, and divide ownership into 52 weeks (in practice it's usually divided into 51 weeks with one week allowed for maintenance). It allows you to purchase the time spent as vacation lodging, and 1/51 of the timeshare ownership of the home. The next logical step in the development of timeshare ownership was to be able to exchange time in these places between people who want to vacation in different areas each year. So, the two entities you'll likely be dealing with are the resort lodging, or timeshare itself, and an exchange company.
The number of systems in use for buying timeshares has grown tremendously in recent years, but three systems are commonly in use: fee simple, leasehold, and right-to-use (RTU).
Fee simple you own forever, while certificate timeshares are often 25 to 30 years in duration. Fee Simple Ownership is another term for a deeded timeshare property. By purchasing an interest or week of timeshare in a deeded location, your ownership is perpetual. Just like owning your home, you will receive a deed to the timeshare.
Under the leasehold system you own the property, but only for a specific length of time.
Ownership Certificate, also known as right-to-use, gives the individual the ability to own a timeshare for a specific amount of years. In most cases this will be the most common form of timeshare ownership outside the US.
There are a variety of consumer choices available today. Normally only one type of timeshare will be available at a particular resort. Listed below are the examples.
Fixed Week. The oldest and most familiar form of timeshare is the fixed week type. The weeks of the year are numbered 1-52 and you purchase one or more weeks to be used at the same time each year at your home resort. The advantage to these types of timeshares is the assurance that your resort unit will be waiting for you faithfully each year. If you choose to exchange your fixed week you will receive a week at another resort in a similar season as yours, but most likely not the same week as you own.
Floating Time. The next type of timeshare is floating time. You buy your vacation time by size of unit and season of the year, not designated as to the actual date or week of the year. It is your responsibility to contact your resort each year and confirm your exact arrival date to the resort. Check-ins are usually Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Obviously these types of timeshares offer some scheduling flexibility, however, it is usually based upon a first come-first served basis, so highly desirable weeks go early during their season. Also, when exchanging, you must first reserve or affix your time at your home resort before the Exchange Companies will accept it for deposit. Tip: Book as early as your resort allows giving you as many options as possible.
Points. The newest form of timeshare ownership to become popular is the points system or credits. You purchase a specific number of points or credits, which enables you to travel in specific seasons of the year and to various sized units. You also have the ability to use most point or credit based resorts for a minimum of 1 night to the maximum number of weeks purchased. The point or credit distribution usually relates to more points or credits used during high seasons and larger accommodations versus a smaller unit during the quiet season. Because these timeshares are very flexible, they are growing in popularity. Their accounting systems are sometimes confusing. And they are subject-to availability, same as with floating time.
Multi-Location. Some timeshare programs have further expanded their offerings with multiple locations within the same timeshare organization. The obvious advantage of such an arrangement is the additional flexibility to visit other timeshares in other locations, either near or far which belong within the group. Some assign you a 'home resort' location with the right to 'internal exchange' for other resorts, while others are totally open, depending on your reservation request.