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Why Private Residence Clubs Are Becoming a Popular Alternative to Vacation Homes

"We’d rather arrive to our wine chilled, pantry stocked, and our dining reservations and tee times already booked."

Timbers Kiawah Courtesy of Timbers Kiawah

From beachfront villas in a UNESCO World Heritage Site to ski cabins in Switzerland, vacation homes hold an undeniable allure. But the hassle and upkeep involved in caring for a year-round vacation home has led some prospective buyers to look for an alternative. And while timeshares were once the preferred method for vacationers, private residence clubs—where buyers can purchase deeded real estate in a private club—have been gaining popularity in recent years. Although fractional ownership at private residence clubs costs much more than a timeshare, it offers additional privacy and exclusivity—not to mention a round-the-clock staff that can book restaurant reservations, schedule spa treatments, and assist with any questions or needs.

When looking for a new vacation home that would match their family’s interests and needs, John and Connie Watson from Cincinnati were drawn to Timbers Kiawah on Kiawah Island in South Carolina. Though the couple had been vacationing on Kiawah Island since 1991 (and had even built a vacation home there in 2004), they liked the idea of a vacation home they only had to care for during the weeks they were actually there.

“Kiawah has done an excellent job of protecting the natural beauty and wildlife,” Connie Watson says. “The amenities have been a good fit for our family, and the staff go out of their way to make sure our stay is relaxing and enjoyable.” Indeed, having a dedicated onsite staff is one reason many buyers are drawn to private residence clubs instead of year-round vacation homes or timeshares.

A penthouse at Timbers Kiawah

Penthouse at Timbers Kiawah  Courtesy of Timbers Kiawah

“Keeping up with maintenance and spending some our vacation prepping for our stay [in the old vacation home they owned] and then departure was a pain. When we found out Timbers was building a residence club, we felt that it was the perfect fit for our family,” John says. The couple recommends considering a fractional if buyers plan to spend three to four weeks per year in their second home. They added that the sheer convenience factor of owning a fractional cannot be understated. “We’d rather arrive to our wine chilled, pantry stocked, and our dining reservations and tee times already booked,” Connie says.

That personalized experience is something David Burden, the founder and executive chairman of Timbers Resorts, says was paramount for his team while they were building Timbers Kiawah. “We wanted to create a personalized experience for like-minded residents to enjoy their time vacationing and not worry about maintaining a second home year-round. They have all the luxuries of a five-star resort but also have the space of a standalone home—without the headache of year-round maintenance, which can quickly become a part-time job for many traditional homeowners.”

Designed as legacy destinations that take advantage of their surroundings (whether beachfront address or mountaintop ski villages), private residence clubs give buyers an easy, hassle-free way to enjoy vacation.

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