Pitfalls in the Timeshare Resale Market

Physician's Money Digest, July 2007, Volume 14, Issue 7

While timeshare ownership is regarded as a valuable vacationing strategy and not an investment, it remains important to safeguard your time and money when entering the complicated resale market.

The industry continues to grow; but those consumers who choose to sell the rights to their resort find themselves in the midst of broker scams and a saturated market. Despite this difficult resale market, owners are desperate to avoid paying increasing maintenance fees and expensive taxes on property ownership that is no longer of any use to them.

According to a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, financial indicators "reveal a 9.1% year-over-year increase in net sales of timeshare resorts in active sales," with the average price of a timeshare week selling for $17,797.

Avoid Broker Scams

If you think this sounds promising for sellers looking to recover some of their initial costs, think again. Realistically, some owners recover only hundreds—not thousands—of dollars. This is especially true if they purchased their timeshare directly from a developer.

A wide range of scams attempt to lure sellers into paying upfront fees to have someone else sell their timeshare for them. Once they have been paid, these companies do very little to promote the sale of your timeshare. "We don’t know of any company whatsoever that will help you sell a timeshare by charging an upfront fee," says Caroline Lindholm, president of the Greater New York Timeshare Owners' Group.

Companies such as Timeshare Relief and Timeshare Solutions charge upwards of $3500 for taking units with no outstanding mortgages or fees. "While they seem to be clever enough to not technically violate any laws, [these companies] engage in what we consider to be despicable tactics," Lindholm says. "If you can figure out that your timeshare is valuable, then it is easy enough to sell it yourself."

Tackle the Marketplace

The best place to begin when selling your own timeshare is at your resort, which may have a buyback program already in place. When selling, it is best to research the market by looking through online postings. This will help you find the right price for your resale. You may also want to consider renting out your timeshare to offset the annual maintenance fee while you’re waiting to sell.

Even when selling a timeshare without a broker, escrow services may be an appropriate choice to help file all of the necessary paperwork. In general, when utilizing outside services, be smart. Always get everything in writing.

When selling your timeshare yourself, Lindholm suggests the following Web sites for advertising units:

  • bidshares.com
  • redweek.com

These sites, as well as the auction site eBay, charge only minimal posting and/or membership fees. They also safeguard consumers from commercial scams while offering sellers the demand they seek for their timeshares on widely-viewed bulletin boards.

Nonprofit organizations such as Donate for a Cause (donateforacause.org) may be the answer for frustrated sellers. When donating, however, valuable timeshares may not always sell for what they are worth, which reduces the benefit to the charity and the size of the deduction on your tax return.

If all else fails and you cannot give away your timeshare, Lindholm says that paying to have someone take it may be a viable last resort.