The impressive glossy brochure on sturdy cardstock arrives in the mail. You’ve been invited to spend three nights at a luscious resort for a modest price. You’re intrigued. Booking a similar vacation yourself would cost a pretty penny. You call the toll-free number, pick your dates, and begin to daydream about this blissful upcoming vacation. The agent mentions the ninety-minute presentation you will be required to attend but she also throws in a $100 gift card to spend as you please on your vacation.
The well-orchestrated sales presentation dazzles. You picture yourself returning year after year to your special place. There is a momentary gasp of sticker shock when the sales rep reveals the price, but she quickly and expertly explains the value of the purchase. She also mentions discounts that are only available if you act today. Forms are signed, the credit card is handed over, and you are now the proud owner of a deeded property. Welcome to timeshare vacations.
For many, timeshare ownership is a good use of their vacation dollars. I have friends who return to the same resort every year and bring along their children and grandchildren. Others enjoy sampling the different resorts the company has to offer. Lavish accommodations in beautiful settings with ample recreational and dining options can make for a refreshing break from the hum drum of work and home life.
For others, the experience is not quite so stunning. The resort does not live up to expectations. Exchanging to another resort is a hassle and often has a fee attached. The yearly maintenance fee keeps rising. Vacationing habits change and now you are stuck with a vacation week you are paying for but no longer use. I recently worked with a client who was decidedly in this second group. How do you get out of a timeshare you no longer want?
It is important to understand what you are getting yourself into when you sign the paperwork for a timeshare. You are now a part owner of the resort. As with any property ownership you have maintenance responsibilities. The resort company will bill you for your share. This will be several hundred to several thousand dollars a year, depending on what level of vacation you purchase. The resort company does not want to lose this income stream and does not make it easy to relinquish your timeshare. If you financed your purchase through the timeshare company they have an additional incentive to keep you paying. I shared with our clients several options to get out of their timeshare.
There may be a friend or family member who wants it. You can give it away and sign the property over to them. There are companies that will help you with the paperwork for a fee. Your friend will be tickled with your gift, they take over the maintenance fee, and you are released from a burden.
You can write a letter to the resort company and ask to be released from your timeshare. This is an unlikely prospect for less desirable resorts, but a letter takes little effort and might just do the trick. If your resort is in high demand, they may be willing to release you so they can resell it. This will probably involve an exit fee of some sort.
You may be able to sell your timeshare, but be warned, it’s doubtful you will get anywhere close to what you paid for it. Multiple timeshare sales websites list many timeshares for a dollar. Highly desirable properties may get you more, but it is definitely a buyers’ market. If you decide to sell, be sure to work with a reputable company. Scammers abound in this space. Responsibleexit.com lists vetted companies that can help you. The website is run by the American Resort Development Association and seeks to guide buyers and sellers through the process.
Renting your timeshare won’t relieve you of the burden of ownership but may help soften the financial blow. The same websites that allow you to list a timeshare for sale also have rental sections.
The riskiest option is to simply stop paying the maintenance fee. Eventually, this will result in foreclosure, and raises the possibility of harassing phone calls and letters for you to pay the bill, being turned over to a collection agency, legal fees, and damage to your credit rating. This is NOT recommended.
Finally, you may need to hire a timeshare exit company. For a few thousand dollars they can legally separate you from your timeshare obligation. This process may take a year or more to complete and you should keep paying your maintenance fee until your case is settled. Again, beware of the scammers. Make sure you work with a reputable company that expects payment after the task is completed and not before.
The challenges of getting out of a timeshare are never part of the sales presentation to get you into a timeshare vacation. And for many happy timeshare owners there is no thought of ever getting out. But if your timeshare has outlived its usefulness try these options to remove the burden.