Many people ask “what is fractional ownership?” and the closely related question “Is it timeshare? In this article I will attempt to answer these questions. This article is concerned exclusively with the fractional ownership of leisure/luxury assets. However most of the principles would apply equally to the fractional ownership of a practical item (e.g. for business).
Definition of Fractional Ownership
In its broadest definition, fractional ownership is any arrangement where a group of people (numbering from 2 to 10 or more) share the ownership of an asset and also share certain rights to use the asset. The use of the word “ownership” in the definition therefore excludes timeshare arrangements, where there is no ownership of the underlying asset. Unfortunately however, some so-called fractional ownership schemes are closer to timeshare than they are to true fractional ownership. When investigating whether to purchase a fraction it is essential to know what your relationship to the asset purchased is. The best arrangement is to be identified as the legal joint owner of the asset (or in the case of multiple assets, the owning organization).
Types of Fractional Ownership
The most cost-effective form is where a group of individuals decide to purchase an asset jointly. They then decide on the exact asset to be purchased, draw up ownership documents (perhaps with the help of a legal firm) and purchase and manage the asset themselves. This avoids the sometimes substantial profit-margin that developers charge when selling fractional properties. This approach does have disadvantages, e.g. the amount of paperwork involved and the possibility of falling out with your fellow fraction owners (over cleaning, maintenance etc.)
Second in terms of cost-effectiveness would be a developer or owner-led scheme, where the individual fractions were being sold directly from the developer/owner (but where there were no expensive additional services bundled with the purchase). There will have to be a profit-margin associated with this type of arrangement, since the developer/owner is incurring additional legal and administrative costs. If fractions can be sold individually (without all the fractions of an asset being sold) then they are also taking the risk of having unsold fractions tying up their capital.
The above schemes blur into the next category, which I will call clubs. These are sometimes called Ownership Clubs, Private Residence Clubs, Destination Clubs etc. etc. Where they differ from simple developer/owner-led schemes is in the level of luxury/services provided and (sometimes) in the level of ownership. None of these terms have a particular legal meaning so it is up to the purchaser to investigate issues of ownership, booking arrangements, exit arrangements etc. At the extreme end of this group there are some similarities with Timeshare -so be warned!
How Much is it Costing Me?
Here I don’t mean in absolute terms, I mean how much is it costing in excess of the amount that I would have paid for the asset as a whole. Always try and do a comparison with a similar asset purchased outright to gain an idea of what the developer/owner’s additional costs and profits are. At the very least it might help you to negotiate a better price if you do decide to buy! You can and should do a similar comparison on the management fees (and pay special attention to any rights to vary them in the future).
True fractional ownership isn’t timeshare, but some of the schemes marketed as fractional ownership are. Be warned and do your homework if thinking about purchasing. if thinking about purchasing.