How to legally get out of your timeshare property

Real estate, Money

The resort was beautiful, the amenities were abundant, and the location couldn’t be beat. At the time you bought it, your timeshare felt like a sound investment in guaranteed vacation getaways.

But maybe the cost and hassle of air travel have turned your vacations into “staycations.” Or maybe you’re chafing under that annual bill in timeshare maintenance fees that increase by the year. Or maybe you simply aren’t using the property as much as you expected, and the cost-to-benefit ratio has turned solidly negative.

If you’ve signed a timeshare agreement, there are valid avenues for backing out of the deal. It all begins by taking a long, hard look at your contract.

Check the cancellation period

Most timeshare contracts offer a grace period during which you’re free to terminate the agreement. If you’ve recently purchased your timeshare, you may still fall within the window for a no-strings-attached cancellation without breaching your contract.

If you’ve passed the grace period but believe you were taken in by unfair and deceptive sales practices, you may be best served by hiring a qualified attorney to help you break your contract.

Your timeshare ownership: leased or deeded?

If your timeshare is deeded, you’re bound to the contract as an exclusive owner, while a leased timeshare names you as the contracted owner for a set number of years. A deeded timeshare gives you the option to sell it to a third party. If you have a leased timeshare, you may have to continue paying your annual fees until the lease expires.

Offer your timeshare as a rental

The majority of timeshare buyers own a specific site on a property for a particular week or month during the year. If you know you aren’t going to be using your timeshare during your designated dates, consider renting it out as an extended-stay vacation rental. It’s possible the rental fees you earn will cover your timeshare’s annual maintenance fees.

Just remember that regardless of whether you use the timeshare or rent it to a third party, you remain responsible for maintenance costs and other fees outlined in your initial timeshare agreement.

Consult the timeshare’s property manager

Some timeshare companies offer services for owners interested in selling their timeshare, from listing the property for you to matching you up with an interested party. The service may come at a cost—one that will come out of your final sale price—but handing over the sale process to someone else may be worth the fee.

In some cases, a buyer’s annual fees may have escalated to a point where the timeshare is losing value, or the cost of going to another resort would be markedly less expensive. If high annual fees are the issue, ask your timeshare property management company for permission to deed your timeshare back to the organization. In a “timeshare deedback,” you effectively agree to give your timeshare back to the resort. You’ll get no money in return, but you will be out from under the annual fees. Though of course, you’ll lose any equity you had built up in the property.

Prepare to sell

If you possess a deeded timeshare and decide to sell through a realtor, find a timeshare real estate agent at the Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Association. Listings should be made with a timeshare specialist, ideally someone who knows your particular resort.

If you opt to sell by owner, consider posting your property on a reputable site like RedWeek or TUG (the Timeshare Users Group). Both sites offer a consumer-friendly source of information for those interested in buying, selling, or renting timeshares. For a nominal fee, you can offer your timeshare for rent or list it for sale, as well as view up-to-date area sales data, so you can have a realistic sense of what your property might bring in today’s market.

Beyond RedWeek and TUG, you can also place classified ads for your timeshare on sites such as Craigslist and eBay.

Never pay upfront fees

Do a thorough vetting of any company that offers to “help” sell your timeshare. Ignore the siren call of fast money for your contract; many of these companies charge high sales fees, and do little more than post Internet advertisements for your timeshare.

More troublesome, many timeshare re-sellers will insist that you pay an upfront fee to unload your timeshare, referring to it as a marketing charge or listing fee. Some re-sellers may claim it’s a required cost to do an appraisal, a title search, or another routine real estate action. Whatever the fee is labeled, it’s a popular and practiced scam.

Know that any re-seller will charge a fee for their services, and this fee is often a percentage of the sale. Also understand that even if by signing over a power of attorney giving someone else the right to sell a timeshare on your behalf, you still remain the property’s legal owner and are financially responsible for it until the timeshare’s date of sale.

Give it away

RedWeek and TUG also provide the option to list a timeshare you’re willing to give away gratis. By finding a taker, you’ll at least save yourself the annual maintenance fees. You can also gift it to a family member or friend. Play your cards right, and they’ll probably even extend an invitation.