Many people dream of owning a vacation home. But often concerns about maintaining it, renting it out in the off-season, or even justifying the expense when it’s only to be used for a couple weeks of the year keep them from making the dream a reality.

Now condo hotels, an innovative type of vacation home ownership, provide a welcome solution to all these problems. Also known as condotels or aparthotels, condo hotels have been growing in popularity as a hassle-free approach to owning a luxurious second home in a great vacation destination like Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, the Caribbean and Dubai.

Condo hotel buyers purchase an actual condominium unit in an upscale hotel or resort. The property functions as a full-service hotel, and owners have access to all facilities, amenities and services just like hotel guests.

They receive a deed to their unit and can use their vacation home when they want. When not in residence, they can place their unit into the hotel’s rental program and share in the revenue it generates. Like most real estate investments, the owner can also sell his condo hotel unit at any time and may make a profit on its appreciated value.

Young professionals, baby boomers and seniors alike are just beginning to discover the benefits of owning a condo hotel unit. They appreciate the hassle-free nature of condo hotels as a second home in which a professional management company handles everything from property maintenance to finding hotel guests to rent the units. They also consider condo hotels a means to diversify their investments.

Condo hotels differ from timeshares in a number of ways. With timeshares, buyers pay only for the right to use the property for a set amount of time each year, usually a single week. They don’t own the title to the property, and they do not receive any rent revenue for the weeks they’re not in residence.

Condo hotel owners can use their condos when they want throughout the year, within the guidelines of the individual development. They receive a percentage of any revenue their unit generates when they’re not there and the unit is rented out to hotel guests.

Timeshares traditionally diminish in value over time, rather than appreciate. While the history of condo hotel resales is rather limited, they are seen as an appreciating asset.

How do condo hotels differ from owning a traditional single family house or condominium? Consumers who purchase a regular condominium pay property taxes, insurance and maintenance fees, but typically don’t have access to hotel-type amenities.

Condo hotels, on the other hand, are not your standard second home. They are beautifully furnished suites in some of the most prestigious hotels and resorts around the world.

The properties often feature four- or five-star amenities, ranging from full-service spas and fitness centers to fully-equipped business centers and fine-dining restaurants. They also come with exceptional hotel services like concierge, valet and room service.

With condo hotels, owners reap the rewards of condo ownership while enjoying the privileges of a full-service hotel.

Most condo hotels are operated by big-brand management companies such as Hyatt, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood, Hilton, Trump, InterContinental and Rosewood. Typically they are luxury hotels located on prime land, overlooking the ocean or a golf course, near popular theme parks, or in the heart of a booming downtown.

Condo hotel units range from studios and full-size apartments to luxurious penthouses and villas. Prices for these homes range from $250,000 to over one million for top properties.

What makes the condo hotel concept so appealing? When owners are not using their condo hotel unit, they have the option of placing it into the hotel’s rental program. They receive 40%-60% of the revenue their unit generates (it varies by property), with the balance going to the hotel operator. The revenue generated helps offset the costs of owning a holiday home.

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