Ways to Escape the Timeshare Trap


As the economy contracts and more people look for ways to save money wherever they can, many are discovering that the disadvantages of the timeshare they purchased when times were flush are an even a greater burden as the economy rolls into a downturn.

Unloading a timeshare property, especially as a recession looms, can seem like an impossible feat. While it's certainly not an easy task, there are ways to sell or get rid of a timeshare for those determined to do so.

The first issue you'll encounter is determined by whether you still owe money on a timeshare loan. If you do, you aren't going to be able to sell the property. No matter how much you hope and wish that someone will take over the loan for you, it isn't going to happen. If you want to get rid of the property, you'll have to first figure out a way to pay off the debt.

The next step is to determine if you want to try to recoup some of your money, and if so, how much. Unfortunately, you are going to end up losing a lot of money, especially if you bought the timeshare directly from the resort. Many Web sites estimate that timeshares resold on the secondary market will sell for 50% or less of the original price; and with the economy in poor condition, you should not be surprised to have to sell for a loss of more than an 80% on the original value.

With so many more people trying to sell timeshares vs. those looking to buy, coming to accept that you will lose a lot of money is a major factor between a quick sale and having the timeshare remain unsold.

Here are six possible ways to unload your timeshare.

Donate to charity: If you have reached a point at which your main goal is to get rid of the timeshare and the fees that go along with it, you might consider donating your timeshare to charity.

Unfortunately, donating is not as simple as it might seem. Charities that do accept timeshare donations are well versed in knowing which properties they can resell and which ones they will have a difficult time reselling. If a charity believes it'll have a problem reselling your property, it likely won't accept the donation. After all, the charity has just as much interest as you do in being stuck with maintenance fees.

Donating to a charity is worth a try if you need to unload. Doing so has its advantages because a lot of the work involved in getting rid of the property is turned over to the charity, meaning you avoid the hassle. Many times the donation will also qualify as a tax deductible donation, but don't expect to be able to deduct the full value of the timeshare off your taxes. In this case, you will only be able to deduct what the charity sells the timeshare for which will likely be a fraction of that price.

Find a real estate agent: One of the first rules when selling a timeshare is that you don't want to give money upfront to someone to sell the property. There are a lot of people out there that prey on folks in desperate need to get rid of their timeshare. These people know exactly what you want to hear, and they will make a lot of promises that they will not keep to get you to part with your money upfront. If they require an upfront fee to sell your timeshare, you should pass.

Instead, try to find a real estate agent that gets paid on commission when the sale closes. It's important to realize that many real estate agents don't like marketing timeshares because they are so difficult to sell. In order to get someone to represent you, you may have to give the agent a big incentive like a set fee (rather than a percentage of the sale) or a greater-than-normal percentage of the price once the sale closes. Be flexible and make it worth the agent's time to sell your timeshare.

Use the Internet: There are a number of sites on the Internet that specialize in selling timeshares. Most charge a fee to list a timeshare for sale, but your best chance of selling your timeshare doesn't cost a dime. The Tug Timeshare User Group has a large base of members that are all interested in timeshares. If you want to sell your timeshare, this may be your best online opportunity to do so. The listings are free.

Sell on eBay: Another option is to list your timeshare on eBay.com. The auction Web site features a how-to section on selling timeshares.

eBay is also a great place to research what your timeshare may truly be worth. Search for timeshares at your resort or a similar resort to see what they have been selling for. This research will give you a good idea of what you can expect to receive for your unit. Also spend some time going through the listings of those timeshares that have sold and make notes of what you liked in the listing. There are a lot of timeshares on the market, so making your auction stand out will help to sell it.

List in local papers: The people that will be most interested in buying a timeshare will be those that visit the area where the timeshare is located. The best chance of reaching these vacationers is to advertise in the local tourist magazine or newspaper. Along the same lines, putting up notices where the timeshare is located and in areas where tourists are likely to frequent can be a good way to generate some sale leads.

Give it back: One big shock some timeshare owners face comes when they hit the point at which they just want to get rid of their timeshare and don't care if they get any money for it. Many have found that the timeshare resort often won't even take the timeshare back for free. Why? The timeshare resort knows it'll have just as much trouble selling the unit as you, and it would rather continue to collect your maintenance fees than take back the timeshare.

Still, trying to hand back a timeshare property for a complete loss can be worth a try when owning the property becomes onerous. There are some things you can do to make the timeshare resort more willing to take it back.

If the timeshare resort refuses to take your unit back when you first offer, explain to them it will be in their best financial interest to do so. They may play hardball, and you may have to do the same. While you shouldn't do anything illegal, you do have the right to use every legal persuasion. You need to convince the business that it's not in their best interest to have you continue to pay the fees.

If the resort has bulletin boards, post fliers advertising your unit at a deeply discounted price. Resorts don't like to see these ads because it makes the resort look like its units are worth much less than what they are charging. Sit out on the public street in front of the resort with a huge sign advertising your unit (or pay someone to do it).

Again, it's hard for a resort to make sales when potential customers see that they can get the units for a lot less. Because it's a business, a resort may be willing to concede and take back your property if you become enough of a pain that the resort determines it stands to lose more money in lost sales than it will make off your fees.

While it is not easy to sell a timeshare, it's also not impossible.

It will take time, determination and a willingness to realize that you will lose money (mark it up as a financial lesson), but with a bit of hard work you can get those maintenance payments off your budget and free up the money for more important financial needs.

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