Buying holiday time

Timeshares are a form of ownership or right to use a particular property such as a holiday villa, apartment or cabin for a set period of time. You can buy timeshares in Australia or overseas but be aware they are a long term commitment and can be difficult to sell.

Here are some tips on what to look out for when buying and selling timeshares.

Buying timeshares

How timeshares work

There are two types of timeshare programs.

  • Programs that give you the use of a specific property for a given time period such as one week.
  • Points-based programs that let you buy points that you can redeem at certain resorts or holiday accommodation in various locations.

Timeshare programs are also known as 'vacation ownership' or 'timeshare intervals' and can vary in price.  Most people buy 1 to 2 weeks per year, but can buy more.

With points-based programs, the number of days you can use will depend on how many points you have. Some points-based timeshares let you redeem points for other travel services.

It may cost you more to buy time or use points in peak periods such as school holidays or around public holidays. Most timeshares have a calendar, suggesting the best times to buy and any special offers.

Swapping or banking time

Smart tip

You can use an exchange company to trade your holiday week for a week in another local or international resort.

If you buy a timeshare but don't plan to use the property within the specified period, you may be able to rent your timeshare to others. You can also 'swap' or 'bank' your timeshare through timeshare websites.


Timeshare schemes are a type of investment known as a managed fund. Generally this means that the scheme operator must hold an Australian financial services (AFS) licence and must give you a product disclosure statement.

Before you buy into a timeshare program or scheme, check ASIC Connect's Professional Registers to find out if the company managing your investment holds an AFS licence.


You will be required to pay an annual maintenance fee toward the upkeep of the property. You may also have to pay a membership fee each year.

Borrowing money to buy timeshares

Banks don't generally lend money to buy into timeshare programs. However you may be offered credit by a timeshare operator or a credit provider associated with the timeshare operator.

If you plan to borrow money for a timeshare, check the credit provider is licensed by searching ASIC Connect's Professional Registers.

Make sure you understand all the terms of the credit contract before you sign it.

Timeshare seminars

If you're thinking about going to a timeshare seminar remember that:

  • You don't have to sign on the dotted line on the day
  • You have the right to a 7-day cooling-off period after you sign. The cooling-off period is 14 days if the operator is not a member of the Australian Timeshare and Holiday Ownership Council (ATHOC)

The product disclosure statement and application form that the timeshare operator gives you should tell you the cooling-off period that applies. You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement that you have received the cooling-off statement.

If you don't want to go ahead with the purchase, make sure you tell the company in writing before the end of the cooling-off period.

See avoiding sales pressure for tips on how to deal with salespeople.

Case study: Jane and Riley change their minds about a timeshare

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Jane and Riley received a phone call from a timeshare operator offering them a free family holiday. They were told that all they needed to do was go to a short presentation on timeshares, with no obligation to buy. They attended the 4-hour presentation and decided to sign up for the timeshare program.

A few days later, Jane and Riley looked at the figures again. They realised that for a one-week holiday each year, they'd be paying an initial amount of $22,000; and on top of that they'd have to pay $500 a year in maintenance fees as well as a $100 yearly membership fee.

They worked out that over 10 years it would cost them $28,000, which was more than they had intended to spend on holidays in that time. As they were still within the cooling-off period, they were able to go back to the timeshare operator and cancel the contract. 

Selling timeshares

Selling your timeshare may not be as easy as you think. Here are some things to consider before putting your timeshare up for sale:

  • Don't expect a profit - There are often a lot of timeshares available for sale, so you may not get as high a price as you'd like. 
  • Be creative in how you market it - Developers who sell timeshares spend lots of money on advertising, so you may need to think of innovative ways to compete with their marketing.
  • Get the price right - Check how much timeshares are selling for at the time you put yours on the market, so you know what a reasonable sale price is.

Dealing with problems

Timeshare operators must be members of an external dispute resolution scheme. If you have a dispute that involves a timeshare operator, see how to complain.

Timeshares best suit people who want to make a long-term commitment to the accommodation provided by the timeshare operator. If you are looking for an investment that will give you a return, consider other options. Timeshares are a long-term lifestyle choice, so make sure you think carefully before signing up. 

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Last updated: 01 Aug 2016