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Equity Residence Club is your ticket to a great Bermudian address for a fraction of the price.

By Claire McCarthy

Fractional ownership at the Reefs Club means the ultimate in relaxation, minus the boring fractions.

After less than two hours on a direct flight from Boston, my companion and I had landed in Bermuda and our 20-something guide was giving us the grand tour.

Approximately the length of Martha’s Vineyard, Bermuda can be toured by taxi in about three hours. The island is only two miles across at its widest point so you’re never more than a mile away from the ocean. During our ride, we saw couples cuddling in swimming holes, golfers enjoying world-class courses, bicyclists pedaling along the old Bermuda Railway Trail, and riders cantering along beach trails. We drove through the arboretum with its ancient banyan trees and past botanical gardens, caves, the aquarium, and the zoo. Clearly, Bermuda is more than sand and sea.

The refurbished historic Royal Navy Dockyard (think of it as “Fanueil Hall meets the Charlestown Navy Yard”) now houses an upscale shopping mall, a craft market, an arts center, and restaurants.

It’s little wonder that so many tourists become repeat visitors. Some even consider buying property and dreaming of having neighbors the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Ross Perot, and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. But for a non-Bermudian, buying real estate on the island is not easy.

According to law, Bermudians are permitted to buy property on the island from any seller, but they can sell only to fellow Bermudians.

The restrictions only make owning in Bermuda that much more attractive. On the day we visited, only 10 homes were available to non-Bermudians. A condo away from the water listed at $1.8 million. The starting price for a house was $2.5 million.

Enter the concept of “vacation ownership,” also known as “fractional ownership.” The private, member-owned equity residence club is much like a private equity golf country club. Proponents position it as taking away the worries that often come with full ownership of a foreign second home. In addition, it reduces the financial burden through shared ownership.

At The Reefs Club, which offers two- and three-bedroom residences starting at $350,000, each club owner is conveyed a one-tenth undivided, deeded interest in one of the 19 fully furnished residences. All residents will share the same unobstructed view of the sea that has given bragging rights to its adjacent award-winning hotel.

David Dodwell bought The Reefs hotel 35 years ago and has created a vacation experience that entices guests to make repeat visits. Dodwell said the time was right to offer 190 families “who adore The Reefs as much as I do” the opportunity to own beachfront homes for a fraction of the price of whole home ownership. Occupancy is scheduled for spring 2009.

“It’s got the amenities of the hotel with the hominess of a house,” said membership director Chrissy Frith, emphasizing the convenience of the full kitchen and the oversized bedrooms. “Buying fractional is an asset versus getting a bill for a hotel stay.”

Buddy Rego, who represents The Reefs says, “It’s the only way to get a good address for $350,000.”

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