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Mailbag Monday: Unloading a Timeshare

iStock_000015800852SmallAbout 10 years ago, we bought a resort-type timeshare. Our circumstances were quite different then, but we have only used it twice in the 10 years we’ve had it. It is paid off but we have the yearly assessment fees. We want to sell it, but I am leery of any of the sites I have seen on the web. Do you have any recommendations for companies that might purchase this from us? We do not want to pay any up front fees, if this can be avoided.

— Gina

If I had a FAQs section, this question would definitely be in it — that’s how frequently it lands in my mailbox. Timeshares are a bit notorious in this way: They’re easy to get into, hard to get out of, and many people — particularly after the recession — are in the same boat as you. It’s just one line item that would be easy to wipe out of your budget and free up some cash, but unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

Let’s get one other piece of bad news out of the way first: You are probably going to lose money here. Timeshares tend to depreciate just like cars, especially in a bad economy when more and more people are trying to unload them and less and less people are in the market for a vacation. But your first point of contact should be the resort management company. Call them up and find out if they have a buy back program — many do. You’ll get less than you paid for it, but it will be out of your hands and those assessment fees will be out of your budget. If they won’t buy it back, ask them if they can recommend a resale company or broker you can use to sell the timeshare to someone else. Just be sure you don’t pay anyone an upfront fee for this service — you’re correct that you should pay only when and if the timeshare sells. As you suspected, there are a lot of scams in this area right now.

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