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Reselling a Timeshare Is No Picnic

SmarterTravel

My recent report noted that vacation clubs are little more than minor variations on the timeshare theme. And, for either vacation clubs or timeshares, one of the biggest problems many owners face is how to sell an unwanted interval for anything even close to the price they originally paid. The earlier report prompted two almost identical reader questions:

“How can I sell a timeshare I no longer want to use?”

The short answer: “probably at a loss.” Yes, you can sell, but you’re not likely to come even close to what you originally paid. Moreover, lots of apparently attractive offers to resell timeshares are borderline to outright scams.

In search of more detailed information on reselling, I visited the website for the Timeshare User’s Group (TUG), a valuable resource for any present owner or prospective buyer. The selling recommendations I list are based, in part, on information from the TUG website.

Never pay big up-front resale fees

Almost every offer to sell your timeshare for a big up-front fee is a scam, and the up-front fees are not trivial. Although some may start around $100, many can be thousands of dollars. Whether the promoter says the fee is for “advertising,” “appraisal,” “marketing,” “market analysis,” or any other impressive-sounding name, the likely outcome is that once you send in your fee you probably won’t hear anything positive&#8212or, in many cases, anything at all. Out of hundreds of messages from members, says TUG, only two reported any success with a fee-up-front reseller.

The promotions may sound enticing. Some “guarantee” to sell your unwanted interval; some claim that they have a list of “qualified buyers,” often from Europe or Asia, who are looking for timeshares to buy. Some offer a “money back” guarantee or say your up-front fee is “refundable.” Good luck getting it!

The only exception to the “no fee” rule is the minor cost&#8212in the $10 to $30 range&#8212for posting a “sale” notice on one of the many exchange/trade websites. In fact, TUG carries such listings on its own site.

Value your timeshare realistically

Beyond paying an upfront fee, the next biggest mistake timeshare sellers make is putting too high a price tag on the intervals they’re trying to sell. Forget what you paid, because you won’t get it back&#8212or come even close. Timeshares are like new cars: The minute you leave the developer’s office, the value drops sharply.

Instead, base your price on asking prices for similar intervals. That’s easy enough to check: My “favorites” list includes some two-dozen timeshare resale websites, and I suspect there are far more that I don’t have. You can also check out the asking prices on multimarket sale/trade websites such as eBay or craigslist. Google “timeshare” plus the base location of your timeshare. Call the base resort and ask about recent sales.

As with so much of the travel industry, your best bet is to set your price at or near the low end for comparable intervals. If you see a listing with four or five comparable intervals, and yours is near the top, your chances of getting a “bite” are pretty slim.

Some owners I know have agreed to relinquish their timeshares back to the developer without receiving anything. That was the only way to avoid further cash-draining maintenance and other recurring fees.

Realistically, you may even have to pay to get out of a bad timeshare deal. If you financed your timeshare purchase, you might find yourself “upside down” on the deal: still owing more on the loan than the best price you can get.

Present your timeshare honestly

Provide an honest description of the property and exchange options. Don’t claim “beachfront” if the beach is a block away. Don’t understate maintenance and other fees. If possible, include photos.

Promote in efficient media

Based on reports from members, TUG lists several resellers that have performed relatively well. Among the most active are RedWeek, MyResortNetwork.com, and TransAction Realty. The TUG website includes links to another 16 sites that have received favorable user reviews.

As mentioned, the big multimarket sell/trade sites such as eBay and craigslist include timeshare resale postings. You could also consider placing small classified ads in your local paper or the paper in your interval’s primary location, but in today’s marketplace, posting online gives you a lot more bang for the buck.

Don’t bother trying to get a realtor to handle a timeshare resale. The commission would be far too small to interest even the hungriest agent.

Don’t fall for a “second generation” scam

Sadly, there’s no end to avarice among scammers. I’ve heard several reports of people who fell victim twice: once to an original scammer who took money with a promise to resell but didn’t, and again to a second who promised to help them get their money back from the first. Don’t pay an up-front fee for someone to sell your timeshare&#8212and especially don’t pay another fee to try to get the first one back.

Take a look at TUG

SmarterTravel.com has nothing to do with TUG and I’m not shilling for it. But it’s the most useful site I’ve encountered for current owners, prospective buyers, or hopeful sellers of timeshares. Much of the information is open to anyone, but some detail stuff and the buy/sell listings require annual membership of $15 for the first year, $10 in subsequent years.

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