via Some timeshares not worth time, money, clarionledger.com
The timeshare industry is booming. In July, the American Resort Development Association reported that the industry had reached $8.6 billion in sales in 2015, capping six straight years of growth. The association reported that the number of timeshare units had grown to over 200,000 nationwide, with occupancy rates at nearly 80 percent.
Many Americans look to timeshares to help provide a place to get away for a few days in a great destination without the hassles of having to book a hotel reservation or maintain a vacation home year-round. The system works well for many people, but many timeshare owners have found a hidden downside to timeshare ownership when they decide to sell their property; selling a timeshare for a decent price can be difficult.
And, in some cases, owners can be targeted by scammers. Last week, the Federal Trade Commission charged the operators of a timeshare reselling scheme with bilking at least $15 million from owners by imposing hefty up-front fees based on false promises that they would sell or rent the properties.
A Florida company called Pro Timeshare Resales and its owners are accused of calling timeshare owners and claiming they had a buyer or renter ready, or that they could quickly sell the property. The company allegedly collected as much as $2,500 in advance to handle the transaction, and in some cases strung the owners along with additional false claims and requests for nonexistent “closing costs” or other fees. When dissatisfied customers asked for refunds, the FTC noted, the requests were “denied or ignored.”
The agency also charged the owners of the company with violating the Do Not Call Registry and the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and requested a federal court halt the operation and freeze the company’s assets.
If you find yourself interested in getting rid of your timeshare, most experts advise you to tread carefully to avoid scams and rip-offs. Here is some of the FTC’s advice on the subject:
- Don’t agree to anything on the phone or online until you’ve had a chance to check out the reseller. Contact the attorney general’s office and consumer protection agencies in the state where the reseller is located.
- Ask the salesperson for all information in writing. If they balk at this reasonable request, it could be a red flag.
- Ask if the reseller’s agents are licensed to sell real estate where your timeshare is located. If so, verify it with the state Real Estate Commission. Deal only with licensed real estate brokers and agents, and ask for references from satisfied clients.
- Ask how the reseller will advertise and promote the timeshare unit. Will you get progress reports? How often?
- Ask about fees and timing. Most reputable companies will take their fees after the sale. If you must pay a fee in advance, ask about refunds. Get refund policies and promises in writing.
- Don’t assume you’ll recoup your purchase price for your timeshare, especially if you’ve owned it for less than five years and the location is less than well-known.
The American Resort Development Association is also a good resource for timeshare owners and has a lot of advice and tips for timeshare buying and selling at www.arda.org, along with a list of recent known scams to avoid at www.arda.org/advisories/.