$39,000 to own a place at the beach

    We could all use a vacation right about now, a place we can flee to with the family to get away from all the relentless bad financial news.  Well, there is a way to buy a place on the remote and relaxing Bald Head Island for as little as $39,000 and use it forever.  
    Timeshares have not always been the most popular form of ownership, but perhaps their time is coming.  The perceived negatives of timeshares include the scheduling you have to do to make sure you can secure the weeks you want,

You can actually rent a timeshare that is on the market and take it for a test drive before you consider buying it.

the fact that someone else has used (you hope not abused) the home the prior week, and the general feeling that you are a co-owner with perfect strangers.  The upside, of course, is that the cost is a fraction of what you would pay if you owned the place outright.  This is why timeshares are often referred to as "fractional ownership."
    In researching another piece I intend to write about the drop in prices inside golf communities in the southern U.S., I landed on a web site devoted to real estate for sale on Bald Head Island, which is 20-minute ferry ride from Southport, NC, and features nice beaches and a links-type golf course.  I zipped to the cheapest listings on the site, which turned out to be four timeshare condos in the Marsh Harbour Inn, each just 1 BR, 1 BA but with views of the marina and the ocean.  For $39,000, you receive a deed for four weeks a year in the condo, one week per season.  You also have the option to rent out the weeks you don't use, but having been to Bald Head in November, I can testify you won't have an easy time renting it in the winter.  Better to just hunker down and start that novel you have been meaning to write.

    The units are currently being renovated in a Caribbean style and should be available by the first of the year.  Larger timeshare units are available at appreciably higher prices.  As with all real estate purchases, do your homework and read the fine print, boring though it may be.  There are subtle and not-so-subtle differences among timeshare programs.  The nice thing about these types of timeshares, though, is that you can actually rent for a week a timeshare that is on the market and take it for a test drive.  

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