Vacation Homes: Learning to Share
A year before retiring, Gloria and Randal Baker purchased a pair of one-eighth fractional shares at the Hearthstone Private Residence Club in McCall, Idaho. The Sacramento, Calif., couple planned to spend six of their 12 weeks at the community on Payette Lake and place the rest of their annual allotment into the Registry Collection, an exchange program that allows fractional-vacation-home owners to trade shares with owners at other properties. In their first year of ownership, while still employed, the Bakers used only a few weeks at Hearthstone, banking the remainder with the Registry Collection in anticipation of the day when they would have more time to travel.
The concept behind the Bakers’ flexibility is nothing new; since the 1970s, time-share owners have been swapping weeks through exchange companies such as Resort Condominiums International (RCI). But until recently, fractional-residence clubs—which began forming in the late 1990s and often are described as high-end time-shares—did not constitute a large enough network to make sharing programs feasible. “We launched the Registry Collection five years ago,” says Gordon Gurnik, executive vice president of research and development for RCI, parent of the Registry Collection. “Because of 9/11, the market was difficult in the beginning, but about 18 months ago, it really took off.”
Each member of the Registry Collection receives credits based on the location and type of his or her property, the number of nights banked, and the season in which those nights fall. Members can track their credits and book their vacations on the company’s web site. The program, which costs $250 per year plus $250 per exchange in North America, also affords access to Registry Collection concierges, who offer assistance with travel and event planning.
For a residence club to be considered for the Registry Collection, it must meet minimum standards for location, service, and amenities. After approving a property’s initial application, the Registry Collection conducts site inspections. “We have a list of about 50 items that we inspect—everything from cleanliness to the number of rings it takes for the concierge to answer the phone,” says Gurnik.
The program’s network includes more than 100 properties in locations ranging from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., to Durban, South Africa. About one-third of the Registry Collection’s properties joined the network within the last year, and members completed about five times as many property exchanges in 2006 than in 2005. “People have come to understand how much flexibility fractional ownership offers,” says Gurnik. “They no longer see it as a backup plan to second-home ownership.”
The Bakers considered buying a second home, but they did not want to be restricted to one location or worry about maintaining another residence. “Our main house is fairly large and requires a lot of work—we didn’t want to double the upkeep by buying a second home,” explains Gloria. She says that she and her husband have exchanged properties four times in the year since they retired, visiting, among other clubs, Pronghorn in Oregon and Poet’s Cove in British Columbia. “Swapping has been easy for us,” she says. “You can book your reservation up to 90 days ahead of time, and for the most part, we’ve been able to stay at the places we want at the times we want.”
Options for the Bakers and other Registry Collection members soon will expand: In addition to new properties in North America, the Registry Collection plans to add affiliates in Europe, Asia, and South Africa.
The Registry Collection