Two and a half years ago, those returning from a round of golf on the world-famous course could not help but notice some unusual visitors to the 850-acre estate – an army of workmen braving the often bleak moorland weather as they toiled away on a huddle of new homes. That work is now complete and the resulting “village”, named Glenmor, has been vigorously marketed as a golden opportunity for golf-lovers to buy a stake in the course.
Now the £18 million set-up costs of Glenmor are being recouped in a way that British holiday-home buyers may have imagined had all but disappeared: homes can only be bought on a “seasonal ownership” basis – that’s luxury timeshare to you and me. Specific weeks are apportioned and sold in particular seasons, sporting colourful names such as “Tranquil” and “Festive”, year on year, until 2058. Surprisingly, given the dubious reputation of timeshare, would-be buyers seem to have been queuing up to grab one of the slots at Glenmor and there is currently a 50-strong waiting list. The demand has doubtless been fuelled by the prospect of Gleneagles hosting the 40th Ryder Cup in 2014. It is fair to say that the management are a little sensitive about the much-derided timeshare tag, with its connotations of aggressive salesmen bamboozling hapless tourists in to buying into dodgy developments on the Spanish Costas. It is best not to mention the “t” word around them but the principles of timeshare and seasonal ownership do seem suspiciously alike.
Glenmor is minutes away from the Gleneagles hotel and its championship golf course. The houses themselves are grouped in small clusters and vary in size from two to four bedrooms. Built in generic “Scottish” style, they are intended to resemble a congregation of bothies. And to make them seem even more at home with their moorland environment, more than 10,000 heather plants have been brought in and dotted around the development.
Inside, Amanda Rosa, an award-winning interior designer, has not stinted on such 21st-century home comforts as sumptuous bathrooms and open-plan living rooms. She has drawn inspiration from the muted colours of the Perthshire countryside – soft purples, taupes and creams.
Richard and Irene Oliver are two of the first owners to take the plunge. It was a memorable 60th-birthday present for the couple. “We became aware of Glenmor about two years ago, when we received all the literature about seasonal ownership,” says Richard. “But at that point we decided it was not for us, because we do not like going to the same place time after time. And the summer weeks were horrendously expensive.”
However, on a future trip to Gleneagles, the Olivers looked around and after deliberating for all of five minutes, they changed their minds. Now they are the proud owners of Heathfield, a three-bedroom home, which is theirs for one week every January for the next 52 years. After that, the lease will revert to Gleneagles. “We are a four-hour drive away from heaven. It sounds naff, but it’s true,” says Richard, from Ormskirk, Lancashire.
Bob and Mary Hill, from Canterbury, tell a similar story. They went to look round Glenmor merely to be nosy, fell in love with it and signed on the line. “It offered us all the freedom and facilities in a relaxed environment,” says Bob, now 61. They bought the three-bedroom house for Bob’s 60th birthday and as a holiday home for their family. “Timeshare should not be treated as an investment, although, because of the unique nature of Glenmor, this one may appreciate in value, when original sales have ceased. But most timeshare depreciates in value the instant it is bought to 20 per cent or less of the original purchase price,” warns Sandy Grey, chairman of the Timeshare Consumers Association.
The association receives about 3,000 reported problems every year. “The number is increasing, partly as a result of unexpected increases in annual costs and partly as a result of tougher marketing techniques bordering on misrepresentation,” says Mr Grey.
Glenmor has adopted a gentler, more careful approach. It encourages customers to go away and think very carefully about their purchase before making a decision. Once they have signed, the Timeshare Act of 1992 applies, where UK citizens anywhere in the EU are provided with a 14-day cooling-off period during which they can cancel the agreement.
A two-bedroom home for a week in January will cost £7,500. But, if you want to stay for one week during Hogmanay, it could cost as much as £55,000 for a four-bedroom home. On top of this initial outlay, a maintenance charge of about £1,000 is payable annually for the next 50 years. This covers everything from bills for cleaning, electricity, gas, insurance and refuge collection, to the TV. It is also ploughed into a sinking fund for the future refurbishment of the properties, designed to prevent any financial shortfalls later on.
The general advice to anyone thinking about buying a timeshare is simple. Sandy Grey says: “Try before you buy. Don’t buy the first you see. Bargain hard – it’s a buyers market. Check annual costs, which are now starting to escalate faster than inflation. If you must have a school holiday week, you must own a school holiday week – booking systems that are ‘subject to availability’ cannot guarantee access to high-season weeks.”
- Further details from Gleneagles Seasonal Ownership (01764 694 321;www.gleneagles.com); and the Timeshare Consumers Association (01909 591 100; www.timeshare.org.uk).