By Jill Potvin Schoff

The idea of buying only a piece of a vacation residence makes a LOT of sense. Why buy 100 percent of something you’ll only use a few times a year? It’s this logic that was behind the creation of timeshares back in the 1970s. In the 1990s the concept was taken one step further and “fractional” real estate was born.

So what’s the difference between fractional real estate and timeshares? In the simplest terms, fractionals can be seen as a step up from timeshare. You get “more” of everything. More time, more space, more services, and more luxury. Of course the downside is, there is more cost – but not as much as you might think.

More Time
Fractional vacation ownership is generally sold in shares of 1/12 to 1/4, giving owners between 4 and 12 weeks a year at their residence. These weeks are generally spread throughout the year, so owners get a chance to enjoy all the various seasons have to offer. Each fractional property’s “use plan” is different. Some properties offer “fixed” weeks so you have the same weeks each year, others have “rotating” weeks. Some offer a combination of both. Timeshares, such as the Marriott timeshare program, are usually sold as one week that has to be used during the same season each year.

More Space
Fractional vacation homes are often stand-alone homes, cabins, cottages or villas, which gives a level of privacy that can’t be matched. And even when the residences are hotel suites or condos, they are generally more spacious. The typical fractional has 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. This allows you to bring plenty of family and friends along with you on vacation – and gives everyone some breathing room so that a week-long vacation doesn’t start to feel cramped. Timeshares typically have fewer bedrooms and the square footage of the living room, kitchen, etc. is generally smaller. The Marriott timeshare program, for instance, offers 2 bedrooms and one bath.

More Services
This is an area where fractional home ownership really shines. Fractional properties generally offer full concierge services. They will make arrangements to pick you up at the airport, secure tickets to special events for you, stock your refrigerator with your favorite food, arrange tours of nearby attractions, make dinner reservations… the list goes on. At a timeshare resort, all these details are generally left up to you. Fractional residences generally have storage facilities as well, so you can leave bulky things like sports equipment there year round.

More Luxury
Fractional residences have amenities and décor similar to that of luxury hotels. The typical fractional has amenities like flat-screen TVs, granite countertops and high-end appliances in the kitchen, and whirlpool baths. And most fractional residences are located at first-class vacation resorts, giving owners immediate access to the resort’s golf courses, spas, beaches, or ski slopes.

You Get What You Pay For
Yes, fractional home ownership costs more than your typical timeshare. But not as much as you might think. When you break it down into cost per week, it’s equal or sometimes even less expensive than a high-end timeshare. And the range of fractional pricing is extremely broad — from $50,000 all the way up to $1 million or more – so it can suit a range of budgets and tastes. When you consider the added time, space and amenities, it may end up being just what you’re looking for.

Jill Potvin Schoff writes for Luxury Fractional Guide, the Internet’s largest directory of fractional properties with over 250 listings worldwide. Click here to view their Fractional Property Listings.