It’s that time of year again when everyone gets sick of the cold weather that winter has to offer and they start to day dream of warmer times and locations. For those of us you that plan ahead, winter can be one of the busiest times of year for vacation planning. Most vacation rentals open up their schedule around the first of the year and in most cases its first come, first serve to try to get your favorite cabin, condo, or camping spot. In the midst of all this vacation planning madness it can be tempting to start looking into “investing” in a timeshare.
If you’re not familiar with timeshare properties, these are properties that are typically resort style condominium units that you can buy rights to use. In exchange for your investment you are given a set amount of time (typically one week) each year that you get to use the property.
It’s easy to get sucked into timeshare sales pitches, some of the top time share companies in the nation will travel from city to city offering free dinners, discounted vacations, and other gifts and prizes for just attending the seminar, once they get you there they will lay out a very convincing sales pitch by illustrating things that time shares will do for you and your family such as:
- Create Family Memories
- Locations from Myrtle Beach to Snowy Colorado
- A Wise Investment for the Future
It’s important to understand though that the sales reps at these seminars work on a commission so sometimes you’ll get sales reps that will either tell you half-truths or just flat out lie to you about what you’re getting in to. Most timeshare owners that are dissatisfied with their purchase are unhappy because of lies that were told to them during the sales process.
Some of the most common lies include:
- Timeshares can save you money
- Timeshares are a financial investment
- Timeshares can easily be rented or sold at anytime
- Exchanging a timeshare is possible at any time, any place
- The timeshare offer is only good for today
As you consider investing your money in something like a time share it’s important to pull the emotional side of things out of the equation. It’s easy to let yourself think that if you don’t move forward with an investment like this you’re a bad spouse or parent because you don’t care about investing in memories with your family but it’s important to understand that you can still have amazing family vacations and oftentimes for less than the cost of a time share.
You see, what most people don’t understand about time shares is the fact that when you purchase a time share, once the initial investment is paid off, you still have the maintenance fees for as long as you “own” the property. These fees can oftentimes cost anywhere from $1200 – $2000 per year which is more than a nice annual family vacation would cost.
Something that most people don’t understand about timeshare properties is that they aren’t necessarily designed to just replace hotel expenses as they are pitched, the system itself is designed for people who might like to own a second home but maybe not be able to afford a full vacation home or similar resort facilities. So if you’re not at the point in your life where you have the additional income to pay a second mortgage, then timeshares are definitely not for you.
Some of the reasons we recommend NOT “investing” in a timeshare are:
First, it’s not an investment. The term investment would imply that you’re going to be able to sell it, ideally for a profit, at a later date and you can’t give the things away once you own them. All you are doing essentially is pre paying your hotel bill for the next 20 years in advance and those of us that know anything about money know that you’d be much better off putting that money in an investment and the investment would produce enough for you to be able to pay your hotel bill.
People like the idea of a condo and having a place that they can go. They’d probably even like to use a condo as a family thing being a place that they can go to, a traditional location that they can go to every summer. But it’s important to understand that people have done that for years without time shares. You can still go to the lake, but rent the lake house or beach condo for a couple weeks instead of tying yourself down to a lifetime maintenance fee.
The problem is that you are locked in, and while some of the time share people give you the ability to trade back and forth but even then they’re telling you where you can stay even after you’ve “pre paid” your hotel you are just stuck in these things. In a recent survey of people who had gone through the process of purchasing a timeshare they had about a 98% dissatisfaction rate.
Second, they are almost impossible to get rid of. If you are able to sell your property you will never get the initial $5,000 – $50,000 that you originally invested. Usually at best you’ll be able to find someone willing to take over your annual fees. We did a search in the completed listings section of eBay recently and out of the hundreds of people who
What if you’ve Already Invested in a Timeshare?
If you’ve already invested in a timeshare property then there are several options for you. The first option is to simply enjoy it. By simply remembering why you purchased it in the first place and make sure you get your use out of it each year. However, if you’re like the vast majority of timeshare owners that are trying to get rid of their properties then below is some information for you.
Beware of Companies That Approach You about Selling Your Timeshare
Unfortunately, timeshare owners have become a large target for scam artists. They realize that in this down economy people are desperate to get rid of their timeshare properties and would be open to having help in selling these properties. What typically happens is a person will call you knowing that you are a time share owner, they will then say that they can help you sell it or that they might even have a buyer already lined up but that you need to pay them for their services in advance.
Once you’ve paid them for their services they will most likely say that the sale fell through but that they will continue to search out buyers. Usually months or even years will go by without these companies ever delivering an interested buyer or refunding your money.
Another Option Is Donating
While some timeshares can maintain or increase in value over time, the vast majority of them decrease in value down beyond what you might be paying in annual fees. Now these timeshares can be almost impossible to get out of in fact a lot of the time you will see them selling for $100.00 or less on eBay because people just want to get out of the expensive annual fees. One way that people have found to get out of these timeshares is to donate them to charities.
Now it’s important to understand that this isn’t a guaranteed way out of your time share but it’s a way that you can get rid of your time share and have a nice tax deduction. In fact you will be able to get the full appraised market value of your time share as a write off even though the timeshare itself will probably sell for much, much less when the charity that you donate it to turns around to sell it.
Now there are some guidelines, you can’t donate properties that current have a mortgage on them or if you’re behind on your maintenance fees. When it comes to these types of donations a representative from the National Associates for Cancer Research called these types of donations a “win win” because the donor is reliever of the responsibilities of paying costly ongoing maintenance fees for a time share that they no long want and the charities are able to fund their programs. Now it’s important to point out that this isn’t a fast process. It can take up to three months to get the paperwork put together and process your time share so if you’re thinking of a tax deduction you’ll want to act sooner rather than later.