Buyer Beware When Purchasing Timeshares…But Beware of What?

Current controversy over certain Virginia timeshares is a perfect lesson in why timeshare buyers must know and understand what they are purchasing.

When it comes to real estate transactions, we’ve all heard the phrase “caveat emptor,” which translates, of course, to the prudent warning, “buyer beware.” But what does “buyer beware,” really mean when you are talking about timeshares? What exactly, should you beware of?

Last Thursday night’s meeting of the Amherst County (Virginia) Planning Commission gives us insight into how problems arise in a few timeshare communities—the types of problems that could give a timeshare purchaser reason to be cautious.

Amherst County, located in southwestern Virginia, proudly bills itself as, “Virginia’s most civilized wilderness.” Presently that civilization includes no timeshare properties in Amherst or the surrounding counties, which is just the way residents like it. Drive the winding Slapp Creek Road up Banks Mountain and in the yards of many homeowners you will see signs urging, “No Timeshares Here!”

These yard signs reflect local reaction to the construction by Hopkins Brothers Realty of a vacation cabin in an area known as Pedlar Camp—which was fine with the neighbors as long as they believed the lovely home was a single-family residence. Hopkins Brothers however, has plans to construct three other cabins at Pedlar Camp and to market fractional ownership for each of the cabins in four-week blocks sold to thirteen different owners. Ten of the first thirteen deeded ownerships are already sold.

Amherst County has no code ordinances either permitting or prohibiting timeshare development, but according to County Attorney Tom Shrader, the permit to build the first cabin was properly issued. The News & Advance (a Lynchburg daily newspaper) quotes Grant Massie, Amherst County Director of Planning and Zoning, saying, “…What it comes down to, from my perspective, is how you define a single family home.”

The ten investors understand (hopefully) that they can never rent their vacation time at Pedlar Creek to anyone else. Nor will they be able to swap their weeks for time at other resorts, although according to the website for the property ( “…owners will be assisted in trading time among one another…

A Pedlar Creek timeshare investment may turn out to be ideal for anyone who wants to regularly enjoy time in a charming vacation home in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. On the other hand, buyer beware because these cabins do not represent “timeshare” in the traditional sense of the word, and they do not include the options for swapping or renting that many timeshare owners have come to expect. Just as importantly, recognize that these properties are being constructed in an area where local residents object, meaning there may be many battles ahead over zoning and related ordinances.

So are Pedlar Camp and other properties like it, good timeshare investments?

Only time and your personal vacation desires will tell. But before you sign your name on any document, BUYER BEWARE. Make sure you thoroughly understand the terms under which you are making your purchase.