There are any number of reasons why a timeshare owner may want to terminate or walk away from his or her obligation. Timeshare points are rigid, and a consumer busy with social, family, and career obligations may not be able to use their allotted weeks. Other owners often find themselves unable to travel due to health concerns. Still more simply can’t keep up with the major financial burden of timeshare ownership, which include assessments and steadily-rising maintenance fees, all on top of interest payments.
When a timeshare consumer is ready to exit their obligation, a litany of possible avenues suddenly seem to open up. Should you rent out your timeshare? Turn to a timeshare redemption or resale company? Retain an attorney and go to the resort? Or try to resell your timeshare directly on the secondary market?
Seeking both relief and, perhaps, a small chunk of change, many consumers first turn to the resale market, only to have a somewhat rude awakening: The timeshare industry and its actors have made it quite difficult to resell a timeshare on the secondary market.
First, it’s important to realize that the resort developers can probably “resell” your timeshare better than anyone else can, particularly if they have an on-site sales staff. They control the property, and are the actors responsible for granting access to it. Because, you see, in the modern timeshare system, that is what consumers are buying, almost exclusively – points, which grant access to certain resorts at certain times, all based on a “right to use” model. There is virtually no tangible real estate ownership in the current “vacation ownership” system, as we’ve argued again and again.
Because of this, you won’t be selling a tangible piece of property on the aftermarket, but your interest. And no one will be as interested in your sale as the resort developer itself, which may see the opportunity for another sale in reacquiring your interest As a result, timeshare developers have long made a concerted – and public – effort to suppress a healthy timeshare aftermarket, for the sake of their own short term bottom line.
This includes, in some cases, a fierce “right of refusal” on all secondary market sales. One resort company’s public SEC filings spell it out clearly:
“…most of our vacation ownership interests provide us with a right of first refusal on the secondary market sales. We monitor sales that occur in the secondary market and exercise our right of first refusal when it is advantageous for us to do so, whether due to pricing, desire for the particular inventory, or other factors.”
This same annual report also noted that those who purchase vacation ownership interests on the secondary market ‘typically do not receive all the benefits that owners who purchase products directly from [the company] receive.” The report continues:
“While a purchaser on the secondary market will receive all of the entitlements that are tied to the underlying vacation ownership interest, the purchaser is not entitled to receive certain incidental benefits. For example, owners who purchase our products on the secondary market have restricted access to our internal exchange program and are not entitled to trade their usage rights for [rewards points]. Therefore, those owners are only entitled to use the inventory that underlies the vacation ownership interests they purchased.”
Consistent, industry-wide actions on the part of developers have rendered the timeshare “resale” market a neutered space, one that is all but devoid of value for the consumer.
It is this unconscionable suppression that has led to countless timeshare interests listed on eBay for as little as $1, with no takers. It is this defanged and confounding aftermarket that has enabled and empowered the rise of pernicious timeshare resale scams, which every summer travel season swindle numerous consumers just looking for any offer or alternative to continuing to pay their hefty interest and rising maintenance fees.
We maintain that a healthy resale market should be part and parcel of the full economic cycle of the timeshare industry, for the benefit of developers and consumers alike. Until that day comes, retaining an attorney and pursuing direct negotiation with your resort may be the most viable solution for many consumers who feel “trapped” by their timeshare obligation.
Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 50 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.