If you bought your time share the usual way — on vacation, while your guard was down, after a high-pressure sales pitch — you may well regret your decision. You may have expected a much more affordable and easy-to-use vacation than what you actually got.
If you’re still within the rescission period — which ranges from three to 10 days, depending on the state where you purchased — you can unwind the deal. Sites such as the Timeshare Users Group, or TUG, can walk you through the process.
If your disillusionment came later, though, you have a few options to consider.
Fix the financing
Borrowing from the developer to buy time shares is a common but expensive choice, since you could pay 14 percent or more even with good credit. Plus, you won’t be able to sell or donate your time share until that developer loan is paid in full. If you’re a homeowner, consider paying off the debt with a fixed-rate home equity loan or a variable-rate home equity line of credit instead. If you’re not a homeowner, you may be able to swing a personal loan from your local credit union or social lending sites.
Learn to trade
If you can afford your time share but just aren’t using it — or aren’t using it enough — you may be able to exchange it for time at other resorts. This is usually one of the heavily emphasized selling points in a time share pitch, but trading is typically more complicated and difficult than the salespeople will admit.
Learning the ropes can take a little time and effort, but it can really pay off, says Sandra Jordan, a time share owner since 1980 who has traveled in Mexico and the Caribbean thanks to exchanges.
Time share developers have internal exchanges for affiliated properties, but you can use independent networks such as RCI or Interval International to widen your net. The key to success is “depositing” your available time share into the exchange network at least a year in advance, Jordan says.
Rent it out
You can advertise for renters on eBay, Craigslist, RedWeek.com and TUG, among other sites. Many owners find they can recoup enough money from a rental to pay or at least significantly offset their annual maintenance fee, says Brian Rogers, TUG owner and operator.
You can list your time share for sale on the same sites that offer rentals. But you should understand that you won’t get anything close to what you paid the developer regardless of where you list, Rogers says.
“If you throw out the really high-end resorts, an owner can expect to get 0 percent to 20 percent of their retail purchase price when selling on the resale market,” Rogers says. “The really nice resorts — Hiltons, Marriotts, Starwoods, etc. — usually retain some value, but even those can be had for much less resale.”
Resales at one premium Hawaiian resort have ranged from $500 to $13,000 recently, Rogers says.
Resale prices are scary
“Some of these time shares may well have sold new for $50,000 to $80,000,” Rogers says. Time shares at less-desirable resorts may sell for as little as $1, and owners may have to offer incentives such as paying a year’s maintenance fee.
If you do decide to sell, avoid anybody who wants to charge you an upfront fee even if they tell you they have a buyer lined up, Rogers says. These are almost always scammers eager to prey on desperate owners.
You may be able to deed the time share back to the developer if there’s no outstanding loan balance or other fees owed. You can find out if that’s possible with a call to the developer. Another option is trying to find a charity that will accept your deed as a donation, but some may charge you hundreds or even thousands of dollars to take it off your hands — and your tax deduction is limited to the fair market value of your time share, which could be close to zero if you can’t manage to sell it yourself.