real estate

High-End Vacation Homes for Less

Don't want to pay full price for a vacation home you'll use only part of the year? A new twist in timeshares gives you deeded ownership of a portion of a property, and you only pay for your share. Plus: See our slide show.

Ever dreamed of living a million-dollar lifestyle -- for a fraction of the cost? The latest twist in timeshares, so-called "fractional ownership," gives you deeded ownership of a portion of a luxury home for perhaps 10% or 15% of the cost, and without the headaches of maintenance.

Traditional timeshares are merely a contract granting you use of a property on certain weeks of the year. With a fractional (also known as a residence club), however, you actually own an interest. You can sell it or leave it in your will, just like any other deeded property.

The exclusive homes typically come with a yacht-load of luxury amenities such as swimming pools, health clubs, concierge services, grocery shopping and house cleaning. Most are built around resort destinations such as ski resorts, beaches, golf courses and spas. It's like living in a posh hotel.

You'll pay about $60,000 to $800,000 to use the house or condo, typically for four to 16 weeks per year. And annual maintenance fees run about $5,000 to $10,000. So instead of plunking down, say, $2 million to buy a posh pad at your favorite ski resort, you'd pay $300,000 -- and share it with a few other people. We've put together a slide show of ten fractional-ownership properties. TAKE THE TOUR.

Sure, that's a discount, but most fractionals are targeted to the wealthy. Still, it's one of the fastest-growing trends in vacation homes with sales totaling $1.5 billion last year, according to the American Resort Development Association.

Another timeshare twist

To experience a slice of paradise without an ownership interest, consider another new timeshare twist: destination clubs. You don't own a portion of the property but you get the right to use any of a portfolio of homes owned or operated by the club company for a few weeks each year.

The cost: a one-time fee ranging from $20,000 to $1.5 million, which is usually between 80% to 100% refundable if you decide to leave the program. You'll also pay annual dues from $1,500 to $30,000, depending on size and location of the home. Some popular destination clubs include Ciel Club, Quintess, Ultimate Resort and High Country Club.

NEXT: Take our tour of ten fractional-ownership vacation homes

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