Ask Stacy: How Can I Dump a Timeshare?

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This week’s question is one I’ve gotten before. It’s about timeshares:

Do you have any advice on getting rid of a timeshare that the company falsely advertised to someone? — Janine

This is really two questions: how to dump a timeshare, and what to do if you feel you’ve been ripped off.

Let’s start with a video we produced about timeshares last year. Check it out, then read on for more.

How NOT to sell a timeshare

The most important thing to know about selling a timeshare: Never pay an upfront fee. The Federal Trade Commission recently announced 191 actions to “stop fraudulent operations hawking timeshare property resale services.” What fraudulent resale services commonly do is say they already have a buyer for your unit. All you have to do is pay an upfront fee ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Don’t bite. Odds are, that buyer doesn’t exist.

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

You should 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. If you 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. While you might start your sale by talking to the developer you bought from, don’t be surprised if they tell you they won’t help you.

For additional information, read this story about selling timeshares from the Timeshare Users Group. It has a lot of great information, including 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.

How NOT to buy a timeshare

I’ve done several stories on timeshares over the years and I’m not a fan. Timeshares are a product that’s too often foisted on the gullible with high-pressure sales tactics. And when it’s time to sell, there’s often no way to do it, especially if there’s a loan involved.

Like a new car, timeshares depreciate radically the moment they’re purchased. But at least a car dealer will buy back their car at some price. Buy a timeshare at retail from a dealer and odds are good you’ll be left twisting in the wind.

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. But if I ever 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 definitely buy it used from a website like those above for pennies on the dollar rather than paying top dollar to a developer.

What to do if you’ve been ripped off

Janine says her timeshare purchase was based on false advertising. If this is true, she has additional options:

If I could prove I’d been hoodwinked by a timeshare developer, or anyone else, I’d start by talking to a lawyer. Initial consultations are typically free. If the lawyer thought I had a good case, I’d go to the company that ripped me off, lay out my case and allow them to refund my money. I’d also mention that if they refuse, I’ll be complaining to the agencies above and seeing them in court.

Will any of this reunite Janine with her money? The odds aren’t good, and even if she’s able to win in court, the cost in time, money and aggravation will be high.

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