Considering a Timeshare? JUST SAY NO!
by Steve Thomas
Getting out of a timeshare is nearly impossible, and there is a new scammer hitting the airwaves with various “solutions” to get out of your timeshare—guaranteed (well maybe not).
I just returned from my annual golf vacation with my wife, sister-in-law, and brother in-law. For the past several years we have taken advantage of their timeshare ownership and it has been wonderful. Upon my return, I came across several articles warning about timeshare ownership and the relatively new wave of scammers who claim they can “get you out” of your timeshare or their services are free. My brother-in-law and I have had some long discussions about timeshare ownership and I am not sure he would repeat his purchases again if he could turn back the clock.
Never-ending maintenance fees that continue to rise year after year, the potential that his children may not want the timeshares when he passes, etc. These are all headaches that anyone owning a timeshare can relate to. Like every other type of “investment” they have their pros and cons, but many people find out too late that the long list of cons severely outweighs what they thought were the pros of timeshare ownership. In this post I will highlight a few of the best items from the recent articles I have been reading.
The Timeshare Sales Experience
First of all, raise your hand if you really like high pressure sales pitches! Anyone raise their hand? Probably not—meaning you certainly do NOT want to attend a timeshare sales presentation. I have attended several during my golfing vacations (because they offered free or discounted golf) and after being in the sales business for over 30 years, I can tell you that these folks are the best trained and use every sales tactic I have ever heard of—a presenter even cried during one pitch I attended. Take away waterboarding and these people could do well at Guantanamo.
Timeshare contracts—and sales practices that are used to get people to sign up for something—are some of the most egregious sales tactics and practices in use by anyone today. They are so bad that numerous federal and state actions have been proposed to nullify many existing contract’s provisions. Provisions that keep buyers on the hook for thousands of dollars in yearly fees because they’re glued to a contract they can’t walk away from—even after years of paying for something they aren’t able to use.
Most of these vacation destinations are gorgeous locations that everyone hears about and wants to visit. Places like Florida, California, Las Vegas, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the Bahamas, etc., where you can stay in a spacious condominium-type unit in a beautiful resort. You can have the time of your life, or so the pitch goes, for JUST a one-time payment somewhere between $10,000 – $25,000, which can of course be financed. All that is owed after the large one-time payment is a very modest annual maintenance fee, which is way less than it would cost you to rent a similar condo or stay at a hotel in the area for a week.
That last statement is almost always false if you actually do the research. It is typically far cheaper to pay as you go, but you are never given that chance during the short, high pressure sales pitch. What a deal this is to guarantee a lifetime of wonderful vacations—sign here!
A Typical Scenario
Here is what a typical scenario for most people can look like: for the first few years your family uses the timeshare, but then the kids grow up, or your health deteriorates, or you just don’t feel like traveling, and then there are no more family vacations.
Since you are not using the timeshare the maintenance bills stop right? Nope, the yearly maintenance bills keep on coming, adding up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars over the years. So you make a decision—I want out!
First, you try to sell your timeshare, but discover that because of the ongoing maintenance fees, there is almost no market for your timeshare. Then, when you read the fine print of your contract you find you can’t even GIVE it back.
In my opinion, the most unethical feature of most timeshare contracts is that they last in perpetuity—i.e. forever! There is NO way out and even your heirs may have to jump through hoops to not end up saddled with the timeshare contract and the associated fees. I think you would be hard pressed to find any other contract with these provisions.
Beware of the Scammers
Here in the Chicagoland area, I hear radio ads for several firms making the claim that they can get you out of your timeshare. Of course, it would be natural for someone who has been trying to unload their timeshare to get excited about one of these offers. Although I have not dealt with any of these firms personally, here is an example from the articles I reviewed about why you need to be careful if you decide to go this route.
In 2017, an individual in Virginia purchased a timeshare at the Villa del Palmar in Cancun, Mexico, for approximately $15,000. In March of this year, this individual received a $25,000 offer from an organization in Mexico to buy the timeshare and was later contacted by a purported law firm to finalize the transaction. The owner was asked to wire several thousand dollars in fees and closing costs. Bottom line—the owner lost the fees as there was never any buyer or any real law firm.
A quick Google search for “getting out of my timeshare” yielded 28 million+ results. This is not to say that some of these listing may not be legitimate, but extreme caution should be used and remember—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
So Are There Any Positives to a Timeshare Purchase?
One of the articles I read, basically tongue-in-cheek, wrote that the only redeeming positive of a potential timeshare was the free, or discounted, vacation package that you received once you sat through a “90-minute, no obligation” sales presentation—that seemed like it lasted for 9 hours.
Remember, as I mentioned above, these are extremely high-pressure sales events put on by some of the slickest and most well-trained salespeople who will use every trick in the book to get you to say “YES.” So if you are the kind of person who has a hard time saying “NO” when you are pushed over and over to buy, my recommendation is that you pass on the presentation.
If you do get sucked in (possibly for the free golf 😊) just remember you are not a prisoner and are always free to just stand up and walk out. Believe me, this will not hurt anyone’s feelings—these salespeople have seen this hundreds of times before. If they start to cry—that’s your cue!