Timeshares and the pitches that sell them are a common occurrence at busy and desirable vacation locales from the Caribbean to the Hawaiian Islands. These pitches usually start with the offer of something free, followed by a high pressure sales presentation that can lead to a spontaneous purchasing decision that some regret sooner or later. Whether the yearly costs are much higher than expected or the property isn't being used, owners have several options to unload a timeshare.
Exchange Resort Locations
If the decision to unload the timeshare is based on non-use as opposed to affordability, research other resorts within the program that offer exchanges for vacation stays. The process of exchanging vacation weeks between properties can be far more complicated than what was explained in the sales pitch. If you're not getting what you want from the resort, consider a third-party service like DAE that facilitates vacation exchanges through multiple timeshare networks. Generally speaking, starting the exchange process as early as possible presents the widest range of exchange options.
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Rent the Property
While this won't get rid of the property, renting out a timeshare can help to cover maintenance fees for years when the property won't be used, or serve as a money-saving option until the property is disposed of. Success in renting out a timeshare largely is a function of the popularity of the resort and the dates that are available. For example, offering a holiday week at a resort near Disney World likely will draw more interest and higher fees than an off-season week at a ski resort.
Sell the Timeshare
Owners can sell their timeshares on their own, use a licensed real estate agent or broker, or list properties online at sites like eBay or RedWeek. Resale and buyback programs offered by larger timeshare companies like Marriott and Hilton may also offer a solution. Much like renting out a timeshare, selling properties at busy resorts that are available during the high season will present the best chance for a sale. Sellers should be aware that the supply of timeshares has been greater than the level of demand for years, due in part to aging ownership and the disposal of properties during the recession in 2008. Depressed prices across the timeshare resale market have resulted in steep losses for original timeshare buyers.
Donate or Walk Away
Timeshare properties can be donated to charities, but the organization that accepts the property may require a payment to offset yearly maintenance fees and other expenses. This payment can be thousands of dollars and put the owner in the same bind that motivated the donation in the first place. If none of the other options for disposing a timeshare have worked, walking away from the obligation may be the only choice. This option should be considered as a last resort, as walking away will be treated in a similar fashion as defaulting on a mortgage, minus the formal foreclosure proceedings. Owners who walk away from a timeshare can expect a negative impact on their credit reports, "phantom income" taxes due to the IRS for any forgiven debts related to the property, and being chased by a collection agency for the total of money owed under the terms of the contract as well as all applicable penalties.