The timeshare industry is worth approximately $10.5 billion, which is more than Major League Baseball or the entire music industry. While this may make them seem like a good investment, the reality is that timeshares can become very problematic in the long run. Not only do they have terrible resale value, one that often ends up costing the owner, but it’s nearly impossible to legally get rid of a timeshare thanks to the tricky wording in the contract.
This, combined with the actual cost of the timeshare plus regular maintenance and special assessment fees, makes timeshares a money pit for many people. For many timeshare owners, the best option is to get rid of it. Doing so legally can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. In fact, there are several ways to get out of your timeshare contract legally.
The Problem with Timeshares
According to the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), around $10 million (or 3%) of Americans own a timeshare, many of whom make at least $100,000 a year. The average timeshare costs $22,942 per interval which, for most people, is a week. With another $1,000 or so in annual maintenance fees, this makes for an expensive seven days of vacation time.
There are a few major problems with timeshares.
For one thing, they almost always lose value in the secondary market. Plus, since timeshares don’t generate any income, they’re not actually an investment. Instead, they start decreasing in value once the contract is signed.
For another, most timeshare contracts come with a perpetuity clause, which prevents the owner from backing out of it once they’ve signed their name on the dotted line. Since very few timeshare developers or resorts are willing to cancel the contract, timeshares soon become a financial burden from which they can’t escape.
In fact, around 85% of timeshare owners regret their purchase later on. Common reasons for this include:
- The property or facilities deteriorate in value over time
- Lifetime financial commitment that could extend to any heirs
- Lack of use of the timeshare on the predetermined week
- High-pressure tactics and unbreakable contracts
How to Get Out of Your Timeshare – Legally
Buyer’s remorse is common, especially when it comes to timeshares. For those who want to get rid of their timeshare legally, here are the best ways to do it.
Call the Resort Directly and try to Negotiate
In some cases, developers or resorts are willing to work with the timeshare owner to help them exit their timeshare contract in a safe, legal way. Other times, they may be willing to renegotiate the contract.
Contact the resort directly to ask about getting rid of the timeshare but be prepared for the resort’s representatives to say no. Them saying no doesn’t have to be the end of it, however. With persistence, it may be possible to talk them into releasing you from the contract without repercussions such as legal action or foreclosure on the property.
Read the Contract to See if There’s a Rescission Period or Deedback Clause
Some timeshares come with a rescission period or retraction clause that allows you to annul the contract within the first few days of signing it. The time frame will be very limited. Check the contract for any kind of timeshare cancellation clause to see if this is an option. Otherwise, canceling will be difficult.
Though less common, some timeshares have a deedback program or clause. This allows you, the timeshare owner, to return the timeshare to the resort it came from. However, this does not release you from any financial obligations, such as the property’s cost and any ongoing maintenance or special assessment fees.
With either option, it may be necessary to provide written notice. It may also be wise to get an attorney to make sure this process goes smoothly.
Use a Timeshare Exit Company
Timeshare exit companies are meant to release timeshare owners from their contracts completely. The exit team usually charges between $4,000 and $10,000 to help develop an exit strategy, depending on the complexity of the contract. It can take up to 18 months to get rid of a timeshare this way.
Not all timeshare exit companies are legitimate, so keep an eye out for things like limited reviews, upfront fees or any pending lawsuits.
Fortunately, there are some highly-rated, reputable timeshare exit companies out there, including:
- TimeShatter: A newer company, TimeShatter has successfully helped over 2,500 clients get out of their timeshare and save an average of $10,000. The company employs experts with more than a decade of experience and has overall positive reviews.
- Seaside Consultants: Since its inception in 2014, Seaside Consultants has implemented proven strategies to help customers get rid of their timeshares. This company offers free consultations and is committed to helping those with delinquencies or accounts in collections or foreclosures. Seaside has positive reviews and an A- BBB rating.
- Lonestar Transfer: With a free consultation and a satisfaction guarantee or your money back, Lonestar Transfer works with people who still owe on their timeshare as well as with those who’ve paid it off. The company offers a money-back guarantee and has an A+ BBB rating.
- Vacation Ownership Consultants: Vacation Ownership Consultants has a near 100% success rate at helping clients get out of their timeshare legally. They have overwhelmingly positive reviews online for winning their cases. The BBB rating is A+ and the reviews are excellent.
- EZ Exit Now: A faith-based timeshare exit company, EZ Exit Now helps clients get out of their timeshare obligation or their money back. The company also supports the U.S. Armed Services. EZ Exit Now has an A+ BBB rating and positive reviews.
Walk Away — or File Bankruptcy
Walking away may be an option if the timeshare owner is elderly and incapable of paying for and using the property. Otherwise, the developer may harass the owner via phone or email, or hire a collection agency. They may even take legal action and try to sue the owner for the money they’re owed.
As a last resort, consider filing for bankruptcy. This could seriously damage your credit score for up to 7 years, but it may be the best option. Consult an attorney or speak with the developer to try to negotiate the contract first.
Try to Rent it Out to Someone Else
Many timeshare resorts allow owners to rent their timeshare out to others, either directly or through a broker. Before choosing this option, look over the contract to make sure there isn’t any rule against renting out the property.
Pros for Timeshare Owners
- Although renting it out probably won’t make you any money, it may cover annual fees or maintenance costs.
- Renting through a broker means less hassle for you since the broker will handle most of the paperwork and fine details.
- The renter may be interested in purchasing the timeshare after the initial rental period.
Pros for Families Interested in Renting Someone Else’s Timeshare
- Timeshare rentals are often more affordable and offer more amenities and space than hotels.
- The owner may be more willing to negotiate on the terms and price.
- The renter usually works with an agent or the owner themselves rather than a resort.
- Renters don’t need to attend a timeshare presentation to experience the property.
- You don’t have to worry about being locked in a contract that will be difficult to unload in the future.
There are many timeshare marketplaces out there, such as Timeshare Users Group and RedWeek. These marketplaces connect timeshare owners with prospective renters who want the resort experience but aren’t ready for the long-term commitment. There are also Facebook groups that perform the same role.
Rent Through Brokers
Another option is to rent the timeshare through a licensed broker or real estate agent. Here are some reputable online timeshare marketplaces to consider:
Some – not all – brokers charge a commission fee (usually around 15%) plus advertising fees. However, they handle the entire rental process, which makes it easier for the timeshare owner.
Offer It on the Resale Market
Sites like RedWeek.com, Craigslist and even eBay allow owners to resell their timeshare. Some sites charge a small fee, while others are free to use. Run a search online for different timeshare resale companies and review their reputation and terms and conditions before choosing one.
Ultimately, selling a timeshare yourself or through an established company can help you recover some of the losses on the loan.
Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Making It Harder to Get Rid of Timeshares?
Due to COVID-19, travel is at an all-time low. In fact, air travel was down 60% in 2020 according to a report. With fewer people traveling, there’s also less interest in renting or buying timeshares.
Plus, with layoffs and a high unemployment rate, many people are unwilling to make major purchases like real estate. Not only that, but most people simply don’t have the disposable income needed to pay for a timeshare or the ongoing fees that come with it.
Prior to the pandemic, there was an annual increase in timeshare purchases of about 5%. As a result, many developers built up more timeshares with the idea of profiting from this growth.
Now, however, with so much economic uncertainty and global travel restrictions, it’s become more difficult to find buyers for timeshares. This makes it difficult (but not impossible) to get rid of an existing timeshare as well.
Can You Give Back a Timeshare?
If you need to get rid of your timeshare, the resort or developer you obtained it from may be willing to take it back. Check the contract for a rescission clause or a deedback or buyback program before contacting the developer.
Keep in mind that the developer will likely require you to pay all financial obligations upfront, which could mean a major financial loss. That said, getting rid of a timeshare can be a huge financial relief as well.
What Happens to Your Timeshare When You Die?
A timeshare is a lifelong commitment, so it becomes part of the original owner’s estate when they die. If the owner had a will, their beneficiary or beneficiaries will receive the timeshare as part of their inheritance. Otherwise, the timeshare will go to the next-of-kin.
A few things happen at this point. First, if there is a balance on the timeshare or if there are any unpaid maintenance fees, other assets from the estate may be used to pay back what is owed. If the balance is not paid, the developer may choose to foreclose on or take back the timeshare during probate.
Probate is a legal process that involves handling all aspects of the departed’s estate, including settling any debts and distributing assets. The process itself can take months or years to complete, depending on the complexity of the estate.
Probate may be avoidable if the timeshare owner named a beneficiary in their will or if they placed the timeshare in a revocable trust.
Otherwise, the executor of the will or estate will be responsible for the timeshare during probate. Once probate ends and the estate has been settled, all financial and contractual obligation for the timeshare goes to the beneficiary.
If you’re in this situation, it’s definitely worth consulting a law firm to make sure you know all of your options.
What Happens if a Relative Dies and Leaves You a Timeshare?
If you’ve received a timeshare, the first thing to do is determine the type of timeshare it is. The most common types of timeshares are:
- Deeded timeshare (aka fee simple): For this timeshare, the owner buys a unit for a specific week and holds the deed for that week. In most cases, the deeded timeshare is a contract in perpetuity, meaning it lasts forever or until the owner decides to sell it.
- Leasehold timeshare: Unlike deeded timeshares, leasehold timeshares have an expiration date that is agreed upon in the contract. These contracts can be renewed if desired. Leasehold timeshares come with the same financial obligations and ownership rights as any other type of timeshare.
- Right-to-use (RTU) timeshare: These timeshares do not come with a deed. Instead, the owner has the right to the timeshare for the duration of a contract. Most contracts are between 30 and 99 years in length. The owner may get rid of the timeshare by selling it.
Once you know the type of timeshare, carefully read over the agreement. If necessary, get an attorney to explain the terms of the contract and prevent unexpected financial penalties or legal recourse from being taken against you.
Next, speak with the timeshare developer and inform them of what has happened. They may be unaware that the original owner passed away. In some cases, they may be willing to negotiate with you on the contract. Even if they don’t, it’s still important to understand the inheritance laws for your state. Consult an attorney for specifics.
In the meantime, make payments on the timeshare even if you don’t want it. If you don’t, the developer may begin legal proceedings against you, which could lead to long-term financial problems and hurt your credit score, making it difficult to get a credit card.
If you don’t want an inherited timeshare, it may be possible to reject it. In that case, it will go to the next-of-kin. If they also refuse it, the timeshare will likely be foreclosed upon. Assets from the original owner’s estate will then be used to pay off any remaining debt, but the foreclosure will not cause any credit damage or other long-term repercussions to the heirs.
Whether you want the timeshare or not, be proactive and deal with it immediately. The sooner you handle it, the lower the risk of legal or financial complications down the line.
What to Do if You’ve Inherited a Timeshare You Don’t Want
If you’ve inherited an unwanted timeshare, there are a few things you can do.
Ask the executor of the estate to abandon the timeshare. Every state has its own rules, but there is usually a brief waiting period. During this time, the resort or developer could file a claim against the estate. If they don’t, the claim will be barred.
If the developer does file a claim, then be prepared for any remaining debt from the timeshare to be taken out of the estate’s other assets during probate. Alternatively, expect to pay any fees or penalties that have accrued yourself.
Once all is said and done, the developer may foreclose on the timeshare. This won’t impact your credit score.
Another option is to sell the timeshare once probate ends and it’s officially yours.
What is a Timeshare and How Do They Work?
A timeshare is a shared property – usually a vacation home or other form of real estate – in which multiple individuals own a fraction. There are two main types of contracts: shared deeded and shared leased contracts.
- Shared deeded contract: The property is divided between every owner with the idea that each owner has a predetermined week or set of weeks in which they can use it. Since shared deeded contracts are often week-based and there are 52 weeks in the year, there could be up to 52 owners of a single timeshare. Each owner gets the deed to the property during their specific interval.
- Shared leased contract: Although similar to shared deeded contracts, shared leased contracts do not come with a deed since owners lease the property. These contracts usually have an expiration date, unlike shared deeded contracts.
Some timeshare programs have fixed week programs. This means the owner has the timeshare one week a year that is always at the same time. Other programs have floating weeks, which lets the owner reserve the timeshare on a first-come, first-serve basis each year. In both options, the owner typically only has access to their timeshare.
Another timeshare program is the points system. This essentially means the timeshare is worth a specific number of points that can be used to access other properties the developer owns. For example, you may be able to use the points from your timeshare to stay at a Walt Disney resort. However, if your timeshare isn’t worth enough points, you may need to pay extra to stay at another location.
What Happens if You Stop Paying for Your Timeshare?
A timeshare may not be an investment, but it is still a very real form of debt. If you quit paying for your timeshare, the developer will do whatever it can to get the money they’re owed. This often starts out with phone calls and letters in the mail, but it can quickly escalate. If you don’t pay, the account could be sent to collections or the developer may foreclose on the property. In some cases, the developer may take other legal action against you.
What Happens if Your Timeshare is in Foreclosure?
Since a timeshare contract is a legal, binding document, you are responsible for it as long as it’s in your name. If the developer forecloses on the timeshare, your credit will take a major hit, which could result in:
- higher than average interest rates on loans (auto, mortgage and personal)
- lower lines of credit
- increase in insurance premiums
- difficulty qualifying for a mortgage or other things that rely on credit
The good news is you can rebuild your credit score over time. Still, if possible, avoid foreclosure by transferring ownership of the timeshare or getting rid of it legally.
Why are Timeshares a Bad Idea?
There are many reasons why a timeshare is a bad idea, but here are the main ones:
- Unlike other assets like real estate, timeshares do not gain value over time.
- The resale value on timeshares is extremely low. Many owners only get around 10 cents on the dollar.
- Annual maintenance fees are around $1,000 on average, but they can increase to more than $3,000 for higher-end properties.
- Properties impacted by natural disasters or that have deteriorated may require a special assessment, which could cost several thousand dollars.
- Missed payments could result in the account being sent to collections or foreclosure. This could negatively impact your credit score for up to 7 years.
- It’s extremely difficult to get out of a timeshare legally. Even if you find a buyer or reputable timeshare exit company, chances are you’ll still see a financial loss.
Is it ever a good idea to buy a timeshare? Probably not. But watch this video for more information:
How Do Timeshares Work?
Typically, multiple people have joint ownership over a property like a vacation rental or condominium located in a resort. Each owner has access to that property for a certain period – usually one or two weeks – as determined in their contract. Most contracts are in perpetuity, meaning the owner must sell or gift the timeshare to get rid of the timeshare. And you’ll usually also have to pay closing costs.
Who Sells Timeshares?
Timeshare developers and resorts like RCI, Westgate Resorts and Disney Vacation Club sell timeshares.
Many timeshare resorts use the names of well-known hotels and will offer the option to exchange your time for points to use at another property. For example, you could get calls from:
- Holiday Inn Club Vacations
- Marriott Vacations Worldwide
- Hilton Grand Vacations
- Diamond Resorts
Another way to get a timeshare is to find a reputable online marketplace like RedWeek.com or to contact an owner directly.
Can I Refuse to Inherit a Timeshare?
If the original owner has died and left their timeshare to you, you may be able to refuse it as you would any other part of your inheritance. The timeshare may still be foreclosed upon, however, but this shouldn’t hurt your credit.
Can I Donate my Timeshare to Charity?
Charities like Helping Hands Across America and Donate for a Cause may accept a timeshare. Donating a timeshare to a charity may also provide you with certain tax benefits.
Why is it So Hard to Get Out of a Timeshare?
A timeshare is a legally binding contract. Most of these contracts are written in perpetuity, meaning you as the owner are responsible for it for the remainder of your life. When you pass away, any beneficiaries will then become responsible for it. Some timeshares do come with a recission or deedback clause, but these can be tricky and are often options for the first few days only.