Purchasing that timeshare seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately you, like many others, found that what was a good idea a decade ago or more no longer suits your needs. Even though you no longer want your timeshare, and possibly can’t use it, getting out of the contract is difficult, if not impossible. Don’t despair – there are ways to dispose of your timeshare legally, but they take time and effort.
Contact the Resort
Some resorts may have their own timeshare exit programs. While these programs are geared toward benefiting the resort, not the timeshare owner, the bottom line is that you can get the timeshare off your hands. Start by contacting the resort and see if you qualify for a timeshare exit program. Many resorts limit timeshare exit qualifications, but you won’t know whether you are eligible unless you ask.
Find a Buyer
The simplest way to legally get out of a timeshare is by finding a buyer for it, but that’s easier said than done. Keep in mind that you aren’t going to get anything near what you paid for the timeshare when you sell, and that unloading it primarily means you are no longer responsible for its costs. Some older timeshares literally have no value, yet annual fees remain high and continue rising. Some timeshare owners turn to eBay, Craigslist and similar sites to unload their timeshares.
You can work with a licensed real estate broker to sell your timeshare, but the nature of real estate commissions in this aspect of the industry means you could pay up to 30 percent of the sales price to your realtor. You’ll have to decide whether such a high commission is worth it.
Of course, you could just stop paying the timeshare fees, but that would ruin your credit rating and it’s not a wise idea. Collection agencies may soon start calling, as you are legally obligated to pay your timeshare fees as per your contract.
Rent the Timeshare
You might recoup some of your maintenance expenses by renting out your timeshare. Perhaps family or friends would like to use it, and you could ask them to pay the amount of the maintenance fee. If they don’t want to pay the entire amount, ask for a reasonable amount of money that you can put toward your fees.
You can also rent your timeshare on the open market, and for many people, that’s their best option. In recent years, the timeshare rental market has been quite healthy. Social media marketing is a good way to advertise a timeshare for rent or for sale.
Give It Away
If you can’t find a buyer, or just want to cut your losses as soon as possible, consider giving away your timeshare. You’re more likely to find someone willing to take the timeshare off your hands for nothing in return for paying the fees than a party who actually wants to purchase the timeshare. If you’re really desperate, you could even offer to pay the maintenance fees for a year or two in return for someone agreeing to take the timeshare.
Another option is giving the timeshare away to the developer. After all the money you’ve spent on the timeshare purchase and fees, just giving it back to the entity that sold it to you might prove painful, but it could end up the quickest way to rid yourself of an unwanted timeshare.
Deeded Timeshare Donation
If you have a deeded timeshare, one including a specific timeshare unit and vacation time on a deed, you may donate it to a charity. The charity can then resell it and keep any proceeds. Not all charities will accept a deeded timeshare.
A smaller, local charity probably does not have the time or expertise to navigate the timeshare sales maze, but a larger charity might accept your offer, and you can take a tax deduction for the amount for which it sells. National charities work with third-parties to sell such donations.
While most charities would want to sell a timeshare donation, others may want to keep the timeshare and use it as a fundraising item. Others may rent the timeshare to donors and keep the proceeds.
Timeshare Contract Loopholes
First, have a lawyer familiar with timeshares look over your contract for any timeshare contract loopholes enabling you to dispose of the timeshare. Timeshare developers spend enormous amounts of money on attorneys to ensure their contracts are virtually unbreakable, but there are always exceptions. Florida, the timeshare capital of the U.S., enacted legislation making it more difficult for timeshare owners to get out of contracts.
You do want to make sure the timeshare was purchased, not leased. If it turns out you leased the timeshare rather than bought it, you’ll have to find someone to assume the lease, since you cannot sell the timeshare. Your lawyer will inform you whether the contract includes a lease assumption.
Timeshare Exit Team
If your lawyer can’t find a loophole, your next step is finding and hiring a timeshare exit team. As the firm known as Timeshare Exit Team points out, there are 9.5 million timeshare owners in the U.S., and nearly three-quarters of them involve lifetime contracts with perpetuity commitments. In other words, there are lots of people who want out of their timeshares, and timeshare exit strategy has become an industry.
Look for a timeshare exit team with a good Better Business Bureau rating. Ask for recommendations from customers for whom the company has successfully completed a timeshare disposal. Much will depend on the type of contract you have. After the timeshare exit team reviews your documents, they will put together a custom timeshare exit strategy. In most cases, timeshare ownership is either transferred or the team negotiates to relieve you of your timeshare responsibilities.
Timeshare exit teams work directly with the resort marketing the timeshare, as well as with lawyers who play legal hardball to get you out of the contract. The downside is that timeshare exit may take up to 18 months, and you might pay between $4,000 to $5,000 to get out of your contract. The upside is that you are paying the team to perform complicated, stressful work you probably can’t manage on your own. Just make sure to do the math so that the timeshare exit team’s fees don’t exceed several years’ worth of maintenance fees.
What Not to Do
Perhaps you hear of a real estate agent or broker specializing in reselling timeshares. That may sound like the answer to your dilemma, but odds are it’s a scam. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that resellers have bilked timeshare owners out of millions of dollars in upfront fees paid to supposedly sell or rent these properties. Some resellers had the nerve to ask for more money in so-called “closing costs,” but no sale took place.
If an agent says they can sell your timeshare, remain skeptical if they claim they have lots of buyers eager to purchase timeshares and that you’ll make money on the resale. Never pay any fees upfront, even if there is a supposedly a money-back guarantee. As the FTC notes, “Consumer requests for refunds were routinely denied or ignored.”
A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt's work has appeared in dozens of publications, including PocketSense, Financial Advisor, Sapling, nj.com and The Nest.