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Timeshare, also known as vacation ownership, is a type of resort lodging accommodation. In North America, timeshare resorts can be found throughout the U.S., in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Timeshare began in the 1960's when an enterprising French resort developer discovered that the best way to solve the problem of high demand for ski season accommodations at his resort was to subdivide the ownership of his resort into units of weekly ownership. With timeshare, depending on the legal form of the resort development, you own a deeded interest in a particular condominium unit, a right to use the condominium for a designated period of time, or you purchase points in a points-based club system which can be redeemed for accommodations. Timeshare condominiums are typically fully furnished and include kitchens. Some resorts may include extensive on-site amenities such as golf courses or spas and usually are built in prime locations in the most popular vacation destinations. Deeded and right to use resorts are typically sold in one week intervals. However, other forms of ownership exist including one-quarter share(i.e. 13 weeks) and one-eighth share. An annual maintenance fee is paid by each owner to a condominium owners association to assure that sufficient funds are available to keep the resort in good repair and furnishings up to date. Most timeshare resorts are affiliated with one of two worldwide exchange companies (Interval International and Resort Condominiums International). Some resorts are affiliated with both. Resorts are rated or ranked by the exchange companies based on the peak, shoulder and low season characteristics of the vacation destination where the resort is located. The exchange "power" of a week typically depends on a variety of factors including the quality of the accommodations, the vacation destination, and the season in which the week occurs. Exchange companies aim to provide "like for like." Owners, by joining the exchange organization their resort is affiliated with, are entitled to deposit or "bank" their timeshare week with the exchange company which acts as a central clearinghouse. The owner can then withdraw and use a week in a similar-sized condominium at another resort, selecting from thousands of resorts in locations around the world. The capability to exchange gives timeshare owners flexibility and a wide variety of vacation destination choices. This is one of the advantages of timeshare compared to whole ownership of a second home. Another significant advantage is the fact that a management company is typically hired to oversee the day to day management and upkeep of the resort, freeing owners of maintenance, repairs and landlord concerns and responsibilities. According to the American Resort Development Association, a leading trade organization of resort developers: -- About 8.9 million U.S. households own some form of recreational property. -- About 5.4 million households worldwide now own a vacation interval from over 150 countries. -- 1999 Worldwide Sales Volume: $6.72 billion (estimate) -- 71.1 percent of U.S. households say they have some chance of purchasing recreational property within the next 10 years. -- Over 5,000 vacation ownership resorts now exist worldwide in over 150 countries. -- U.S. Sales Volume in 1999 is estimate at $3.7 billion. -- There are over 1,600 resorts in the United States with over 2 million timeshare owners. -- Florida has the highest percent of U.S. timeshare resorts with 24%, followed by California 7.3% South Carolina 7.1% Colorado 5.6% Hawaii 5.1% North Carolina 4.2% Texas 3.8% -- Top Five Reasons for Purchase include: 1) Quality Accommodations 2) Exchange 3) Good Value 4) Resort, Amenities, Unit 5) Company Credibility -- Average U.S. buyer Age 35 to 55 Average Median Income $71,000 64% with college degree 31% with graduate degree 85% are married with children


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