Ask RedWeek / September, 2016

What is the best way to get rid of my timeshare?

I have owned a timeshare for years but now need to move on. I have talked to my timeshare company, but they want to charge $2,000 for a contract buyout. We think that's a rip-off. So my question is, what else can I do? I know I could hire a lawyer, work with an exit company, or donate to a charity, but I don't know if those are good ideas. I have already complained to state regulators, too, but they are not doing anything to help me get out of my timeshare obligation.

RedWeek contacted numerous industry officials to get good answers to these questions, which were posed to us by timeshare owner David Barron. Here are some options we encountered after researching Barron's questions. The overall consensus — from developers, attorneys, resale realtors and owner advocates — was, take your time, do your research and, most of all, don't fall for a sales pitch from a company that "guarantees" to get you out of your contract.

Contact Your Timeshare Company

While there is no automatic formula for owners to get out of their timeshare contracts, there is one unanimous recommended starting point: contact your home resort owner services. Find out if the developer or HOA has a resale program or a "deed-back/surrender" option for owners who need to get out of their timeshares and have no outstanding mortgages. Most major brands have below-radar (unpublicized) programs to help owners with hardships, and some have outright surrender programs where owners are allowed to walk away from their timeshares after paying some upfront fee (usually equivalent to two-years' maintenance fees).

Only one major timeshare company, Wyndham, has created a public comprehensive exit program, called Ovation, that enables owners to terminate their timeshares. Companies that don't have in-house programs to recycle timeshares will typically refer owners to a licensed resale broker who specializes in timeshare resales.

Do Your Homework to Find out Your Timeshare's Realistic Value on the Resale Market

Many timeshare owners assume their timeshares have an inherent value, like real estate, that can be sold on the resale market (like a used car). Unfortunately, that is not always true, especially for older legacy timeshares or others where the supply exceeds demand. RedWeek's own panel of experts recommends that owners do as much research as possible to determine the realistic resale value of their intervals. There are several ways to do that, beyond just searching blindly on the internet (where you will run into companies that guarantee high prices for timeshares that may never sell). One generally reliable method is to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Association (LTRBA), a group of about 64 brokers who specialize in selling and renting timeshares — they will typically give you a free estimate. RedWeek offers a free tool called What's My Timeshare Worth, which will give you active and historic resale (and rental) prices for any resort, so you can do your own poking around and estimating. RedWeek also offers a full-service resale program, which includes a professional valuation and pricing guidance.

Regardless of which service you use, owners who want to cancel their contract, for whatever reason, will benefit by seeking out professional advice about the value of their timeshare. That information will influence your decision to sell, rent, or (maybe) abandon your interval. Also, be prepared to swallow the pain that your timeshare is not worth what you paid for it.

List Your Timeshare for Sale or Rent

After doing your homework on your timeshare's resale value, consider posting your timeshare for sale or rent it out to recover some of your expenses. RedWeek provides these services to its 2.3 million subscribers — with both DIY and full-service options available. Many licensed timeshare brokers will provide this service as well.

LTRBA brokers tend to handle only high-value, brand-name timeshares that can be resold on the resale market (such as Disney, Marriott, Vistana, Hyatt, Wyndham and Hilton), usually for a fraction of their original price. These brokers typically charge $1,000 or more to handle a transaction, but they also take care of all the paperwork. RedWeek's full-service resale program, in comparison, is available to all owners, regardless of where they own, uses LTRBA licensed brokers, and provides the same professional services as a brokerage (it currently costs $125 for a 12-month posting, plus $399 or 3% commission when it sells). RedWeek also offers a DIY resale option for owners who want to save some money, and are comfortable coordinating their own closing.

Most timeshares don't sell quickly, so be prepared to wait many months for a sale. At the same time, high-value, high-season timeshares do tend to rent fairly quickly. So, bottom line, renting your timeshare is a good way to buy yourself time while figuring out your exit plan.

Consult an Attorney who Specializes in Timeshare Contracts

There is a considerable cottage industry of lawyers who assist owners trying to get out of their contracts. They have experience dealing with timeshare developers and HOAs, and have a broad perspective on what's possible because they interact with many owners. Legitimate timeshare attorneys will advise you whether you may have legitimate legal claims to cancel a contract (or even attempt to get your money back). They know how to contact your resort with demand letters and handle the negotiations on your behalf. One additional advantage of hiring an attorney is that, once your lawyer has contacted your resort, the HOA can no longer communicate directly with an owner. From there on out, all resort-to-owner and creditor communications go to your lawyer. Timeshare attorneys we've contacted tend to charge an upfront fee ($3,000 or more) to handle an owner's contract cancellation. In 95 percent or more of all cases, the lawyers try to arrange a simple settlement with the timeshare company to terminate your contract. However, when the facts support it, the lawyers actually file lawsuits to litigate contract issues. The threat of litigation triggers settlement talks.

Two caveats about timeshare lawyers: First, they cannot offer guarantees, so it is possible an owner could pay an upfront fee and still not get out of his or her contract. Second, it is not easy for the average timeshare owner to determine legitimate lawyers from those who just take advantage of unsophisticated owners. Major timeshare companies, moreover, are highly suspicious if not outright hostile to timeshare exit attorneys. So before you hire an attorney, do your research and demand references. Consult more than one firm. Walk away from outfits that guarantee outcomes. A good way to review an attorney's credibility is to check out actual lawsuits that they have handled. Legitimate law firms will post their cases on their own websites.

Hang Up on Unsolicited Callers Offering a Guaranteed Exit

There is also a group of unscrupulous and unreliable so-called "exit" or "transfer" companies that call timeshare owners out of the blue, offering to get them out of their timeshares. Most of these companies are scammers who promise to advertise and sell your timeshare — usually guaranteeing a sale at a good price, saying they already have a buyer waiting. These companies nearly always aim to secure an upfront nonrefundable fee of several thousand dollars. Down the road, nothing happens, and the timeshare owner is right back where they started, but poorer. So when you are contacted by a company you've never heard of or didn't solicit, hang up. (And even if it's a company you HAVE heard of, hang up, research and contact them directly — scammers will even pose as reputable companies like RedWeek to get your money.)

Don't Bother Giving Your Timeshare to a Charity

Some of the clever, but criminal, companies that prey on timeshare owners with transfer schemes also offer "donate to charity" scams. Donating a timeshare may sound like a reasonable solution for a longtime owner, but it generally does not work, because legitimate charities don't want to accept the obligation of having to pay your maintenance fee year after year. In effect, they won't accept a contract that puts a financial burden, instead of a benefit, on the charity. So the warning is: don't deal with a third party that says it will negotiate your charitable donation (again, for a multi-thousand-dollar upfront fee). If you are in direct contact with a charitable organization, they may agree to take your timeshare, but you may still have to pay them for the privilege of taking it off your hands.

File Complaints with Regulators and Law Enforcement

Many state and federal agencies investigate consumer scams and frauds affecting timeshare owners and they encourage consumers to file complaints. Usually, these agencies focus on criminal schemes, such as the timeshare transfer companies or charity scammers that defraud timeshare owners who want to get out of their contracts (by demanding upfront fees for services never rendered). None of these law enforcement agencies, however, actually help owners terminate their contracts. They do not negotiate on owners' behalf with timeshare companies or HOAs. Rarely, a major regulatory agency will launch a civil or criminal case against a timeshare company on behalf of thousands of owners who may have been bilked. The most recent example involves the Manhattan Club, which is under investigation by the New York Attorney General's Office. Now in its third year, the case is nowhere near concluding — and worse, for owners, there is no certainty that a resolution of the case will result in restitution or cancelled contracts. In the meantime, their maintenance fees continue to climb.

Stop Making Payments and Just Walk Away

RedWeek does not recommend this course of action, but for owners who just want out, and cannot find any other solution, your last resort to getting out of a timeshare contract is the obvious one: just stop making payments on your timeshare. Let it go into default and foreclosure, if necessary. Lawyers rightly advise that this is a risky strategy, since you cannot control how the company will respond to your default. Some go after owners aggressively with collection efforts. Others, particularly legacy resorts with tight budgets, will just take back the defaulted unit and try to resell it to a new owner who will pay the maintenance fees.

Many timeshare owners don't like the walk-away option because they fear it will wreck their credit. This is a realistic issue for younger owners who still expect to buy new mortgages or cars in the near future. But it is not a realistic threat for older timeshare owners, in their 80s, whose only major expenses may be birthday presents for grandchildren. The default option also is not pretty. Depending on the policies of the developer or HOA, owners who abandon their contracts may be subjected to creditor harassment, threatening letters, and foreclosure proceedings (which could cost money). But at the end of this draconian, but perhaps practical option, the owner is done. The developer or HOA will take back the timeshare and attempt to recycle and resell it, at high retail prices, to a brand new buyer.

Have you used one of these, or other methods to get rid of your timeshare? Let us know by commenting below.

RedWeek would like to thank all of the people who contributed research to this story, but several chose to remain anonymous. Those we can thank by name include Dave Cortese, owner of Magical Realty in Florida and vice president of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Assn.; Adam Schwartz, vice president of Wyndham Resorts; Peter Roth, vice president of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA); Jake Bercu, treasurer of the Tahoe Beach and Ski Club HOA; Greg Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA); and timeshare owner David Barron.

Additional Resources

About the author

This answer was provided by RedWeek's Chief Correspondent, Jeff Weir. Jeff is a California-based journalist who has covered California, Congress, and the White House. He also has roots in Silicon Valley, where he directed public relations and marketing programs for high-tech companies. He is also a timeshare owner and member of RedWeek.com.

Leave a comment

    19 Comments

  • Avatar for ed359
    ed359
    Sep 13, 2016 (1 year ago)

    Maintenance fees on my Bermuda timeshare had escalated to obscene levels. I contacted an "exit" team and was told they'd guarantee my getting out for a fee exactly the same as my 2-week maintenance. I then contacted a lawyer who read their contract and pointed out that after I'd paid the exit team's fee the timeshare could add additional exit charges which would make the cost even higher. He suggested, instead, I write the timeshare owner and ask to be let out. To my surprise, they agreed. Their charge, a year's maintenance plus a few additions, was high but worth it, I felt. I am now timeshare-free and much happier.

  • Avatar for dinaha4
    dinaha4
    Sep 13, 2016 (1 year ago)

    I own 3 Deeds with Bluegreen. I am a bronze member. I want to get out but the 2 lawyers I have contacted are expensive. I know everyone complains that their timeshare company has lied to them or misled them. They are common complaints. I do love Timeshare but since I have become an owner I have learned how to purchase resort stays economically. To get to the point. I went to an owner update. We refused to buy so the manager offered us 20,000 points at 99 cents a point, normally $3.15 a point. We were encouraged to buy more points to put us in a higher bracket so that we could rent out points and have more privileges. We were urged to do so while we could buy points at 99 cents. However, after we got home we found out the manager charged us 99 cents for 10,000 points and full price for the other 10,000 points. Bluegreen refused to make it right. On another occasion, we went to Ormond Beach/Daytona. We are premier owners and received a deplorable room. The furniture was all beaten up. All of the handles fell off of the stove. The beds were terribly stained and very uncomfortable. There was pizza all over the floor. There were mounds of grime under the cabinets on the floor..my granddaughter stepped on an earring and punctured her foot. The countertops and cabinets were made of cheap Formica and we're all beaten up and cracked. There was poop on the bathroom counter doors. The lights constantly flashed on and off. I told management the light sockets were hanging off the wall and I had 2 children with me. They never fixed them. The air conditioning did not cool the room. The room was so unsanitary and inappropriate for a Timeshare Premier owner. We have photos and a video. Sure we were given our points back but why would you be placed in a room like that and not moved to another room. So I appreciated your commentary and if you have any input I would appreciate it. We have had some good experiences with Bluegreen and they are making improvements but we sure are paying a bundle along with all types of fees and rising maintenance fees. If I could learn to make the system work for me by renting, I would keep it but I do not have enough points. I am stuck. I can't let it go because we have plans to remodel our home. So we can't have our credit messed up.

  • Avatar for sandrap324
    sandrap324
    Sep 13, 2016 (1 year ago)

    I need help. I have a small timeshare at CHRISTIE LODGE (CO) which I have not used for years, as I have a terminal illness and in a rest home. I pay my annual fees religiously. I have been scammed once already. I have no one to leave it to. I have offered it on Craig's List with no one contacting me. I list it for free and I'll pay the first year maintenance fees of $500. Foreclosure will provably hurt my income to pay the nursing home. I have tried to work with the resort's HOA, however they want thousands of dollars to let me out of the contract. I listed it with Redweek, paid my upfront fee, yet nothing. I'm helpless and can not find help. Any suggestions?

  • Avatar for brianh362
    brianh362
    Sep 13, 2016 (1 year ago)

    Orange lake resort in Florida allowed us to give it back..it was totally paid off cost us nothing....

  • Avatar for vincents124
    vincents124
    Sep 14, 2016 (1 year ago)

    If your timeshare has a deed whereby you pay taxes to a township(eg.Riverside California) by not paying the tax the timeshare is repossessed by the township and put up for resale at auction. Marriott is such a timeshare . I contemplate this option but found out they were rebuking them back.

  • Avatar for jeannee17
    jeannee17
    Sep 14, 2016 (1 year ago)

    I wrote to the company with no success to the Manager of the Timeshare in St. Maarten. I phoned and I finally received a reply. I had surgery that resulted in blood clots and long recovery, and final disability and retirement from work. I told this to the Timeshare Managing Unit. I said simply we had paid the maintenance fees for 3 years without using the timeshare. We had hoped our health would recover, but my husband's health worsened and mine will never improve so AS MUCH AS WE LOVED OUR TIME for 18 YEARS WITH ROYAL ISLANDER, WE JUST MUST TURN IT BACK OVER TO THE COMPANY SO THEY MAY SELL IT TO A COUPLE THAT LOVE IT AS MUCH AS WE DID. I waited and the gentleman was very accommodating. I am sure the Unit was resold quickly. We did not pay another penny, nor any legal fees. Just Signed the letter relinquishing all our rights, and interest in the Timeshare Unit 5204 on Week 23. By the way, We paid $5995 for the Unit initially and for 18 years Loved every week every minute of our vacations. So we got 18 years worth of happiness for $5995 plus the airfare.

  • Avatar for joa102
    joa102
    Sep 14, 2016 (1 year ago)

    I used Wyndham's Ovation program, and it was fairly simple and straight forward. It only took a few weeks to process. My objective was not a resale, but to get out of high maintenance fees. It cost me absolutely nothing to transfer title to Wyndham. Thanks, Jo Ann

  • Avatar for tony623
    tony623
    Sep 14, 2016 (1 year ago)

    I have abandoned 2 timeshare. I just quit paying my dues. Initially they harass you but eventually they give up. It has been a long time now and have not heard from them.

  • Avatar for carolb618
    carolb618
    Sep 14, 2016 (1 year ago)

    what do you do if we own a timeshare , which is basically a club we brought into 2006 in Mexico , we have paid maintenance for each year except this year. Have called and told the Las VEGAS PEOPLE WHICH COLLECT MONEIES that we DO NOT WANT TO GO TO MEXICO any more ! We do not have a Deed for property , we have been called by Mexican government from time to time to ask if we were satisfied with the company , we could exchange thru HSI but have not got any good deals , no vacancies where we want to go . So it gets frustrating we are retired and need to forget about the money they keep wanting .

  • Avatar for richardk479
    richardk479
    Sep 14, 2016 (1 year ago)

    Thank you to RedWeek's Chief Correspondent, Jeff Weir, who did a fantastic job reviewing the subject of timeshare sales & transfers that covered a lot of my questions with reasonable intelligent answers.

  • Avatar for rebeccag103
    rebeccag103
    Sep 14, 2016 (1 year ago)

    We have finally resorted to the "stop making payments and Just Walk Away" option. We paid twice to have our condo listed for sale, spending over $1000, but never even got a bite. We investigated the value of our week and found that it was worthless, being at an undesirable time of year at that resort. We were told that the value was so low, that no one would want it, even we gave it away! We sent the resort a letter, surrendering our rights and the deed, which they ignored and continued to charge us. We never stayed, even once at the resort. Thus, we never cost them one copper penny in cleaning or anything else. We paid our dues for several years, and got absolutely nothing in return. So we STOPPED. Since then, every once and while they turn us over to a collections agency that calls non-stop, day and night for several weeks or months. We have stopped answering any unknown numbers. The collection agency has offered us a deal a couple of times, wanting several thousand dollars, that we did not have, and that again we felt we would be giving in exchange for exactly NOTHING! So here we are, several years into this standoff, and I'm sure the calls will start again soon. So far, nothing has showed up on our credit. Thanks for the chance to vent!

  • Avatar for candis25
    candis25
    Sep 20, 2016 (1 year ago)

    brianh362 Were you current on everything when Orange Lake let you out of the contract or behind ie: maintenance fees, mortgage? Also did they give you anything in writing about how they report to credit bureaus?

  • Avatar for cherelleb
    cherelleb
    Dec 09, 2016 (1 year ago)

    I would like to be done with timeshare. It has been falsely advertised since I purchased it. What can I do?

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  • Avatar for johnt967
    johnt967
    Dec 10, 2016 (1 year ago)

    I have not tried any of the examples listed. I have 14000 points with Shell Vacatons Club, which is now owned by Whydamn. I prefer to sell, but maybe renting is a better way to go. My home club is the Beachboy in Kauai. My annual maintenance fees are $3200.

  • Avatar for lorenm11
    lorenm11
    Jan 17, 2017 (10 months ago)

    Has anyone just walked away from paying maintenance dues at the Sunset Royal in Cancun, Mexico? I am unable to keep up the dues and use the timeshare since my husband has passed away. Just wondering what that company does if I were to do that!

  • Avatar for angelag325
    angelag325
    Mar 02, 2017 (9 months ago) • Last edit by on Mar 02, 2017 09:35 AM.

    I have a company call R&T Marketing Solutions LLC that has contacted me about renting or selling my timeshare. They have a website but have nothing else about them. Have you ever heard of this company? website:rtmarketingsolutions.com . They were charging us $500 for their services. Our timeshare is with Westgate.

  • Avatar for bechirk
    bechirk
    Sep 21, 2017 (2 months ago) • Last edit by on Sep 21, 2017 10:32 AM.

    We own a timeshare at the Westgate Town center in Florida. We are citizen of Tunisia and as every owner, we were not told the truth when we bought this timeshare. Now the Tunisian money has lost more than 40 percent of its value. Plane tickets (3 tickets ) cost more than 3 thousand US dollars. We tried to sell it through a company in Florida and we paid five hundred dollars, nothing. We complained to the westgate, nothing. Now we are asked to pay the maintenance fee (2,300.00) for two years. We just cannot afford it anymore. We want to get rid of it at no cost. What will happen if we go away and stop paying the maintenance? We do not live in the USA.

  • Avatar for willik
    willik
    Nov 05, 2017 (1 month ago)

    I am 77 and to old to worry.