Buying or Selling a Timeshare? Read This First

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If you've ever thought about buying a timeshare, read this article first. Because getting out of these things is a whole lot harder than getting into them.

I’ve never owned a new car because I can’t stand the thought of buying something that’s going to drop in value by thousands of dollars the instant I own it.

But from what I learned while researching this story, buying a new car could be a smart purchase compared with a timeshare. Why? Because timeshares can depreciate even faster.

This story started with an email from a viewer. Here’s the gist: “I’m trying to get rid of my timeshare. The only help I see is those places that want to charge me hundreds of dollars just to list it. We’re barely making our home mortgage payments now. Can you help?”

To see how I answered this question, check out the following TV news story called “4 Tips to Sell a Timeshare Fast”, then meet me on the other side for more.

While that story was about how to sell a timeshare, if you’re considering a timeshare purchase, you should also be interested. Why? Because when you visit some of the sites that list timeshares and see how much they’re selling for versus the original cost of that timeshare or something similar, you might change your mind. And even if you don’t, these sites might convince you to bypass the timeshare developer “showroom” and markup by buying one pre-owned from a private party.

For additional information, read this story about selling timeshares from the Timeshare Users Group. It’s got a lot of great information, including something they put in bold and in red: “Never pay an up-front fee in an effort to sell your Timeshare!” It also tells you how to market your timeshare, what to do if you owe more on your timeshare than it’s worth, and how to transfer the title when you find a buyer. Another place for information on selling timeshares is eBay’s guide to timeshare sales. Both articles should prove interesting to prospective buyers too, since you’ll want to know what an exit strategy might look like.

One of the things you saw emphasized in my news story, and you’ll also find in honest articles about selling timeshares, is that you really need to approach a sale with low expectations. Many timeshares don’t have much of an active aftermarket, which means there aren’t a lot of buyers. Fewer buyers translates into lower values. So if you’re a seller and borrowed most of the money to buy your timeshare, you might have to pay off part or all of your loan to get out of it — not a pretty picture. That should also tell potential buyers something: This isn’t a purchase you’d want to finance, especially if there’s any chance you may have to sell down the road.

According to the Timeshare Users Group, here are some sites where you can sell or buy timeshares without a big upfront fee:

What I took away from this story — and what you should too

The more I researched the whole idea of selling timeshares, the more leery I personally became of the whole concept. Sure, it sounds cool to own an annual week in a fancy seaside or mountain resort. But after paying thousands upfront, you also often have to pay major annual fees whether you use it or not. Then, there’s the problem I uncovered in this story: Selling your timeshare, at least for what you paid for it, could be tough, even impossible.

But that’s not all. When I set out to shoot this story, the first thing I did was attempt to find a timeshare reseller who would talk to me on camera. That shouldn’t have been difficult since I live in Fort Lauderdale, FL. But despite hours of phone calls, I couldn’t.

I found one guy who advertised himself as a preowned timeshare specialist, but when I called him, he said he no longer did it, nor would he even talk about it on TV. What he told me, however, was that he couldn’t make a living selling preowned timeshares because most weren’t worth enough to provide him with a large enough commission. Then he bent my ear for nearly an hour berating the people who developed and sold timeshare properties, the state laws that allowed unsuspecting consumers to be hoodwinked by high-pressure salesmen into radically overpaying for them, and even websites promising to market your timeshare only after receiving hundreds of dollars in upfront fees.

The only other person I was able to speak with was the owner of one of the websites the former salesman was talking about — one that charges a $300 upfront marketing fee. This guy also wouldn’t talk on camera. When I asked him why, he said he didn’t trust the media to tell a positive story (go figure) and that he couldn’t really defend sites like his anyway because they don’t work. In other words, a man who makes his living charging people to list their timeshares on his site admitted to a reporter that very few of his customers actually sell them that way.

In case you’re not familiar with consumer news reporting, let me tell you: These are not good signs. When business owners in any industry are unwilling to talk about their businesses on camera, those are ones I wouldn’t want to approach as a consumer.

Bottom line? While some buildings, locations and time slots will prove more marketable than others, timeshares are a lot easier to buy than sell.

I’ll stop short of saying you should never buy a new timeshare because the world is a big place, people’s appetites vary widely and there are always exceptions to every rule. In fact, I’m sure there are timeshares that have gone up in value. But personally, if I ever decide to buy a timeshare, I’ll make sure I never intend to sell it and I won’t expect much if I do. I certainly won’t finance it, and I will try to buy it pre-owned from a website like those above rather than paying top dollar to a developer.

Stacy Johnson

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