Q. We have owned a timeshare week in Orlando for 19 years that we no longer use and wonder if you have any advice on how to unload it. It sleeps eight people, has two bathrooms, and is for a “floating” week, which means we can go at any time of year. But now we are of an age where we can’t travel anymore. We want to sell it, but we have fallen for a scam twice. Everyone wants money upfront to help you get out of your timeshare. We have tried most every avenue. We don’t know what would happen if we just stopped paying maintenance fees. We have good credit and wouldn’t want to ruin it. Any suggestions? - MARION SEARS, SHREWSBURY
A. I have gotten a lot of letters just like this and have tried to find solutions that might help you and others out of this predicament.
None are instant fixes. Some take patience. And while I realize you have expended considerable effort, it could require yet more. Remember, selling a timeshare is the same as selling any other piece of real estate. Supply and demand drive the market. So when supply is high and demand is low, you have to work much harder to make a deal. Many people are happy to just give away timeshares to avoid the obligations.
I asked timeshare specialist Lisa Ann Schreier about the idea of halting payments. Not a great idea, she says. Even if it doesn’t happen right away, most timeshare companies will eventually foreclose — and that could damage your credit.
Because your week can be used during peak times, Schreier suggested trying again to sell it, or, alternatively, rent it. “A high demand week in Orlando is not a tough thing to rent at all,” she said.
There are legitimate companies — although they can be hard to separate from shady ones —
And, as you’ve learned the hard way, Schreier warns that no timeshare owner should pay someone in advance to help dump a timeshare.
Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.