For years now, money expert Clark Howard’s advice on timeshares has been consistent and straight to the point: “Do NOT buy a timeshare EVER.”
But if you either ignored Clark’s advice (or simply weren’t exposed to it) and have found yourself saddled with a timeshare you no longer want, all hope is not lost.
Here are some suggestions on how you might be able to get out of it once and for all — without getting ripped off.
What to Do if You No Longer Want Your Timeshare
If you’ve found yourself in the position of no longer wanting to pay the fees associated with your timeshare — or if you simply no longer care to use it — you are not alone.
Many thousands of people who have bought timeshares from Wyndham, RCI, Interval International, Marriott Vacation Club and other companies are in the same boat.
“Timeshares are a defective product,” Clark says. “They don’t work. They violate all the rules of economics. For example, when selling a condo once, there are high expenses in the transaction for commissions, marketing, sales, paperwork transfer etc. It’s not cheap. If you sell that same condo 50 times over, you incur those same expenses with each sale. The money you pay for a timeshare week all goes to these expenses, nothing for the actual value of the property. That’s why when you buy a timeshare, the next day it’s worth less than zero — because, basically, there are no buyers.”
If you are in the unfortunate position of needing to unload a timeshare, here are your options:
Sell Your Timeshare (If You Can)
The Timeshare Users Group (TUG) is an indispensable site for any timeshare owner, a community of other timeshare owners who share experiences and advice with one another.
Their #1 piece of advice is that you should never pay any upfront fees when you’re trying to sell your timeshare. There are a lot of companies out there separating timeshare owners from even more of their money by charging exorbitant fees with the promise that they’ll help them sell. Don’t fall for it.
Even the Federal Trade Commission says, “If you want to sell your deeded timeshare, and a company approaches you offering to resell your timeshare, go into skeptic mode.”
The FTC recommends that if you are even considering using a third party like this, you “contact the state Attorney General and local consumer protection agencies in the state where the reseller is located. Ask if any complaints are on file. You also can search online for complaints.”
If you’re ready to sell on your own, you should keep in mind that you are highly unlikely to come anywhere close to recouping your investment and you should set your expectations accordingly.
TUG has produced a great video on figuring out what your timeshare is worth on the retail market:
Once you’ve gotten an idea of the actual value of your timeshare, you’ll need to advertise. TUG has its own Timeshare Marketplace and it is probably the most active site for selling and buying timeshares that you’ll find.
Once you find a buyer, it’s up to you and that party to agree on the terms of the sale. From TUG:
“It’s best to have a contract with your buyer that specifies what the buyer gets in addition to ownership (e.g., use of this year’s week?) and what you get (payment amount and terms) and when. Although you should consider the possibility of engaging an attorney to assist you, the cost to do so might be prohibitive, depending on the price of your transaction.”
If you decide to forgo the attorney option and do the transaction yourself, TimeSharing Today has resale kits for $30. They include a purchase contract, contract terms and conditions, and a finance agreement.
Give Your Timeshare Back
Another potential option for freeing yourself from your timeshare obligation forever is to give the timeshare back to the company that sold it to you.
“This is what’s called a Timeshare Deedback,” writes TUG member Mark Perry.
Perry points out that your timeshare must be paid off in full and that you can’t owe any back taxes or fees to the resort. Even then, the company can still refuse to “take back” your timeshare, but it’s worth asking in the case that you’ve determined selling is not an option for you.
This method worked for Clark Consumer Action Center volunteer Ronnie, who had a timeshare in the North Georgia Mountains. Hear Ronnie tell his story here:
He had attended a presentation on getting rid of timeshares — but the company giving the advice was asking for $10,000 to help.
“They made a presentation on how to get rid of a timeshare and offered to buy me a meal and my wife a meal,” Ronnie says. “I listened to the way they presented it and was watching everybody getting angry that it was costing $10,000 to get out of it.”
That’s when Ronnie got crafty.
“When they left the table I took my camera and took a picture of the technique and the method of doing it, and I followed it myself. My son and I wrote the letter [to the timeshare company] and I made the phone call and they were very pleasant about letting me get out.”
Based on his experience, Ronnie has a piece of advice:
“I would tell [people] to call the timeshare itself, just like I did, and to tell them that there are no heirs. They know they can’t get the money from the people and they’ll let you out.”
List Your Timeshare for $1 or Give It Away
If you can’t sell your timeshare for any appreciable amount and you are unable to do a Timeshare Deedback, you may be able to find someone to simply take over your timeshare for you. Obviously, you will lose money on this deal but at least you won’t be obligated to pay the taxes and fees on the timeshare going forward.
The TUGBBS Bargain Bin is a forum set up specifically for people who are looking to give their timeshares away — and for people who might be willing to take them.
Donate Your Timeshare to Charity
According to TUG, “Donation sadly is an absolutely terrible idea for timeshare owners looking to just ‘get out’ of what they feel is a debt vs an asset, and not just because most if not all ‘Charities’ demand a huge upfront fee!”
They point out that if you expect you could get a significant tax benefit from donating your timeshare to charity, you could be sadly mistaken.
If you have further questions, or would like to speak to someone about your particular circumstance, please contact our Consumer Action Center at 404-892-8227, Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. ET and Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET.