Vacation Abodes: Which Way to Go?

Vacation Abodes

The dead of winter makes those who hate cold yearn for a place to escape. And before too long it will be spring, then summer, and dreams of a cottage by the water may percolate.

Time Shares 2.0

A few weekends a year, or even one month, may not make it financially wise to invest in a residential retreat. Even buying a smaller, less expensive second home and you’ll still have maintenance expenses, home insurance, real estate taxes and misc. furnishing costs. A time-share may be smarter? It’s a niche that has dramatically changed from what many boomers remember from decades past. In fact, the main change in this segment of the vacation industry is greater flexibility. Whether changing the size of your unit from vacation to vacation, changing your destination, time of year you travel, or even how you vacation – resort, cruise, destination tour, or sporting event, the choices seem endless.

One of the major time share industry players, Marriott Vacation Club Destinations Program, offers a choice of different size villas—one, two and three bedrooms – at more than 66 resorts. Their destinations include appealing places such as Vegas, Hawaii, Orlando, Lake Tahoe, Spain, and Thailand.

The Marriott system is based on using points, which the time-share owner purchases up front, and the points guaranty an annual allotment of time at various destinations included in the program. The Vacation Club Destination Program continues in perpetuity. Annual costs include a maintenance fee and club dues. Hawaii is the most expensive destination and a two-bedroom for two weeks in February—the weeks don’t have to be used together—would require a total of 10,050 points. When pegged to a dollar value, the cost is $145,950, based on the current price per point of $13.90 (the numbers go up just like the stock market but rarely down). Owners can finance their investment and put down as little as 10 percent, and then pay for the vacation program over 10 years.

Other companies offer variations on this concept, such as RCI. The RCI program allows owners to swap their primary vacation dwelling for another location, and also allows methods to borrow, trade or save up vacation time allotments. Based in Carmel, Ind., RCI offers members a "weeks’ system", where they can deposit their weeks and trade them; or a point system that provides a set number of points per year based on where their primary resort is located. Overall, there is more flexibility with the points option because of greater inventory, according to a company spokesperson. The company also offers access to more than 4,300 affiliated resorts in more than 100 countries.

New Twist on Vacationing in a Community

If a longer stay in the same locale is more appealing, a condo, townhouse, villa or single-family home may be a better choice. In many cases, you can rent out your second home or hire a management company to rent it for you when you’re not using it. Generally, there are far fewer rules compared to time-share vacation programs, unless HOA guidelines are restrictive.

For vacationers who like the idea of becoming part of a community, meeting neighbors and sharing amenities—pool, golf course, tennis courts, gym, or ski slopes – a location within a development can add extra benefits. And more are popping up that cater to specific interests such as a healthful focus in tune with nature and wellness, which is the mantra at Summit Sky Ranch in Silverthorne, Colo. The Summit Sky Ranch includes more than 1,000 acres, with more than 60 percent permanently preserved. The White River Forest boundary is the backdrop, and the Denver suburbs about an hour away. The ranch offers both community and privacy for those living in this 240-home development, all sharing a community lifestyle termed "modern mountain," says Tricia McCaffrey Hyon, Senior Vice President of Sales at IMI World Wide Properties. A network of trails connect with the forest and mountains and a 20-acre lake is outfitted with a choice of boats. Inside the shared community facility there’s an observatory, yoga studio and much more. And staff members coordinate activities such as organic gardening, cooking and water sports.

"This is not about the opulent amenities of the past, and it’s not a gated community; we’ve even dedicated space at the entrance for a public park," Hyon says. And because so many owners and vacationers reverse commute or want to do some work while there, the development offers a conference room as well as the strongest area fiber optics. It also permits short-term and long-term rentals. "We want people’s assets to work," says Hyon. And because they want to make their house plans reflect today’s home owners’ needs, there are options for multigenerational households, those who want to live on a main level and some much smaller, the equivalent of small cabins. Lastly, home ownership prices include access to all amenities, akin to the all-inclusive vacations of the past.

(Photos, Summit Sky Ranch for houses and headshot of Hyon by Alexandra Kenall, photographer.)