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How to get out of the timeshare trap

How to get out of the timeshare trap

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To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Chuck Bentley

Dear Chuck,

My husband and I purchased a timeshare years ago. We used it for a time, but, we are ready to be rid of it. Are there any good options that you know of?

Tired of Time Sharing

Dear Tired of Time Sharing,

Not only are you tired of your timeshare, so are millions of others! It is an ironic fact that a timeshare purchase, meant to fulfill a dream vacation, often ends up becoming a nightmare.

Buying a timeshare is often an emotional purchase, not a logical one. Presentations emphasize the benefits while neglecting to make clear the real costs to consumers. Sadly, purchasers are often unaware of the long-term financial burden they have signed up for.

Of the approximately 9.6 million households who own some type of timeshare, about 85% wish they did not. Ouch! That is a clear warning sign to future purchasers as well as a sad fact for the current owners.

What is a Timeshare?

According to Timeshare Users Group:

A timeshare is a program in which a group of people shares use of a property by dividing among themselves the rights to use a property for specific time periods. Although the property is usually a residential project such as a condominium, developers have applied the timesharing concept to other types of properties, such as houseboats, campgrounds, and recreational vehicle parks. Virtually all timeshares are resort or vacation properties.

There are different types of programs and ways to swap your timeshare with other owners. Many developers have used high-pressure sales tactics, contributing to the bad impression of timesharing. In an attempt to counteract this, they’ve come up with new names to improve the image: Vacation Ownership or Fractional Ownership.

Pros:

  • Possibly more affordable than a vacation home
  • Guaranteed vacation destination
  • If trading is allowed you can travel to new places
  • You may be able to rent out your time if unable to use it
  • Possible opportunity to share with others or donate to a worthy cause

Cons:

  • Food, alcohol and pressure may be used in sales presentations
  • No control over increased annual fees or maintenance costs
  • Maintenance fees alone can exceed $600/year
  • Travel costs may increase significantly
  • Depreciates quickly
  • Financing the purchase is usually done at high interest rates
  • Often difficult to exit the contract
  • No tax advantage in selling at a loss

When timeshare owners lose interest, can’t afford the costs, or become too old or sick to travel they seek a way out of their contracts. But, the majority of owners don’t know their timeshares are basically worth nothing. Those desperate to be free of their properties seek ways to escape the financial burden. Thus, the rise of exit companies, complaints and scams.

How to Exit your Timeshare Contract

If you seek to exit a timeshare, ask God to grant you the desire of your heart. Communicate honorably with the developer and thank God for His mercy if they allow you freedom from the contract.

  • Cancel a contract during the Rescission Period - typically 3 to 15 days from purchase.
  • Contact the developer or management company directly and express your need to sell back the property. If they don’t do buybacks, ask to surrender it. Some won’t take back timeshares. Others will require fees to do so. Others will try to upgrade your ownership. Don’t! Make the call and firmly state your desire to exit. You don’t have to pay a company to do this for you.
  • Sell it. Check out Timeshare Users Group or RedWeek.
  • Protect yourself. According to the FTC, you should be skeptical of companies that:

o   Claim the market in your area is “hot” and that they’re swamped with buyer requests.

o   Claim they have buyers ready to purchase and promise to sell it within a certain time period.

o   Promise you’ll get returns on your resale.

o   Require payment of fees upfront despite a “money-back guarantee.”

o   Don’t provide a contract or the one that is provided does not accurately reflect your conversation.

  • As a last resort, consult an attorney or timeshare exit company.

Beware even of the so-called Timeshare Exit companies. Timeshare owners looking to sell their timeshare may pay an exit company and never see results. The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers of an increase in Missouri-based timeshare exit company scams, citing over 700 complaints from consumers across the nation. The American Resort Development Association, ARDA, has highlighted various red flags consumers need to watch out for when looking to exit their timeshare.

These timeshare exit company guarantees do not always result in successful timeshare exits. Research timeshare exit companies before agreeing to do business with them. Report problems or complaints about your timeshare or an exit company to the Federal Trade Commission, your attorney general, or the Better Business Bureau.

Reframe Your Perspective

Before entering any contractual agreement, pray for wisdom and discernment. Be sober-minded, remembering that you are a steward of God’s resources. If you sense you are tempted to buy a timeshare, wait 30 days to avoid an emotional decision or high pressure from a salesman. Understand all the costs and contract details fully.  Remember to exercise self-control; there are always other ways to have a nice vacation that will not turn into a long term financial drain.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1: 5-8 ESV)

I truly hope you are able to escape your timeshare contract and all the associated hassles of the process!

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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