Ask RedWeek / January, 2019

Are timeshare exit companies legit?

I keep getting calls from timeshare "exit companies" so I can learn about ways to get out of my timeshare. Are these companies legit? If not, what steps do you recommend I consider when I'm ready to move on from my timeshare travel?

This question is all too timely, since timeshare exit scams continue to tarnish the industry's reputation and victimize thousands of owners. This type of unsolicited call is just one of many schemes that fraudulent outfits use to ensnare owners who are vulnerable to "get out of your timeshare" pitches. For the price of a free lunch at a midtown hotel, these companies also ask owners to pay several thousand dollars for their exit services, many if not all of which are illusory. RedWeek has attended several of these boilerplate operations from companies who insist they "legit." That's a red flag, right off the bat.

In addition to attending presentations from scammers, RedWeek also attends numerous sales presentations from brand-name developers and third-party travel clubs so we can keep track of what is happening to consumers in the marketplace. The scammer presentations are usually a hard-sell timeshare pitch in reverse, designed to get owners out of contracts — instead of into them. In most cases, the scammers do nothing more than pocket the upfront fee, then they disappear, change their name and create a new website to launch the scam all over again.

As a consumer-focused company, RedWeek has also written many stories to help timeshare owners avoid getting scammed by so-called "exit, transfer or cancellation" companies that offer contract cancellation services (supposedly) for owners who are desperate to dump their timeshares. Unfortunately, despite our educational efforts, these scams continue to proliferate, usually preying on older owners who are ending their travel years and eager to get out of their contracts and maintenance fees.

The Orlando Sentinel, the hometown daily newspaper for most of the major timeshare developers, just ran a long story on the industry's legal efforts to shut down exit companies that are pocketing multi-thousand-dollar upfront fees from owners who fall for their cancellation pitches — but get no relief from their timeshare obligations. RedWeek assisted with the story by providing the Sentinel with background information on secondary market issues.

This is just the latest news story, in major national publications, on the traumas that owners endure when they go outside legitimate channels to divest their timeshares Most of the time, owners don't know they've been had until long after they've already paid for exit services that never materialize.

Exit companies, who advertise heavily on Internet and radio platforms, promote the idea that timeshare owners are victims of one-sided contracts that obligate them, for life, to keep paying for their travel contracts. They offer vague legal advice and sometimes work with lawyers who paper developers with demand letters to cancel contracts. Some exit companies even offer "guaranteed" refunds that, in many cases, are impossible to collect.

In addition to participating in a new "responsible exit" program with ARDA, the American Resort Development Association, several US developers are independently filing lawsuits to crack down on exit companies that, the developers allege, are interfering with customer contracts and offering phony exit services. Developers are also encouraging state and federal prosecutors to pursue companies that take advantage of timeshare owners on the secondary market.

You Can Pursue More Legitimate Exit Options

If you need to get out of your timeshare, you do have better options available to you:

  • Owners can post their timeshares for rent or sale (simultaneously) on RedWeek for six months for under $100. That's an ideal way to test the rental and resale market for your ownership.
  • Owners can also list their intervals for sale or rent with real estate brokers who specialize in timeshares. (Most of the legitimate resale brokers list their clients' properties on RedWeek.com.) But brokers won't take all timeshares — they tend to focus on properties sold by the major timeshare brands, and have high commissions.
  • Owners at older legacy resorts, where a local timeshare board manages the resort, should always contact their resort manager to research options for rent or resale.
  • Owners at brand-name timeshare chains — Wyndham, Hilton, Disney, Marriott, Diamond, etc. — should call their owner services department to investigate exit options. Most of the majors will readily take back a deeded week at high-destination, high-value resorts. Some, such as Marriott, will buy back your timeshare for 10-15 percent of the original value. But none of these outcomes are guaranteed. They are always dependent on what you own, where you own, and whether you've paid off the mortgage on your timeshare.

RedWeek gets many calls and emails from owners seeking help in selling their timeshare. We help when and where we can. We also keep improving our site to make rental and resale transactions safe and secure for all parties. But the onus is always on owners — or their relatives — to do their homework so they make smart decisions about their travel and timeshare issues.

16 Comments

  • Avatar for eva51
    eva51
    Jan 08, 2019 (2 weeks ago)

    If I do nothing and die, does this obligate my heirs.

  • Avatar for clarec11
    clarec11
    Jan 08, 2019 (2 weeks ago)

    Has anyone ever tried to sell or get out of a timeshare with Pueblo Bonito in Las Cabos Mexico?

  • Avatar for thomasc538
    thomasc538
    Jan 08, 2019 (2 weeks ago)

    Thanks. Nice to see a company that has no ax to grind telling it like it is. As an older couple, we have enjoyed our Marriott time share for many years. However, there comes a time when we just can't travel as much as we would like. Your insights regarding this subject are very much appreciated.

  • Avatar for dougl156
    dougl156
    Jan 08, 2019 (2 weeks ago)

    Thanks for an objective view of the timeshare exit conundrum. An article on (tax deductible) donation of the ownership of one's timeshare to a non profit organization for resale or fund raising purposes might be useful.

  • Avatar for cindyb700
    cindyb700
    Jan 09, 2019 (2 weeks ago)

    I hold my mother's power of attorney am finding it very difficult to sell her 4 properties! As she is in the advanced stages of Azheimer's, she can no longer travel. I have resorted to renting the weeks whenever possible, but the maintenance fees are still a major drain on the money that she has to pay for her care. It is frightening!

  • Avatar for jeff_reports
    jeff_reports
    RedWeek Team
    Jan 09, 2019 (2 weeks ago)

    Responding to eva51: To the best of our knowledge, according to lawyers who handle exit issues, heirs are in no way obligated to assume responsibility for their parents' timeshare contracts. That's always an individual choice. Best to check with your timeshare company, or resort HOA, on this issue. Also check with your accountant or personal attorney.

  • Avatar for lancec13
    lancec13
    Jan 09, 2019 (2 weeks ago)

    Responding to clarec11: Many have tried to get out of Pueblo Bonito. It is likely a Right-to-use or membership rather than deeded property. It can usually be done by simply stopping payments since you do not own anything. The resort might start hounding you with collection calls and letters but those can usually be ignored.

    The other option is to list your unit for sale or giveaway here on RedWeek or other legitimate timeshare resale web sites. Just be realistic in what your asking price is. Most units in Mexico have a zero resale value.

  • Avatar for bobsr
    bobsr
    Jan 11, 2019 (1 week ago)

    I want to place for every time I place for 14,99 wheb I go to finish it show much more money how do I solve that

  • Avatar for phyl21
    phyl21
    RedWeek Team
    Jan 11, 2019 (1 week ago) • Updated Jan 11, 2019 12:50 PM

    Robert H.: Please click on the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of any page if you have questions about your account or making a payment.

  • Avatar for kathyb819
    kathyb819
    Jan 22, 2019 (Yesterday)

    I have timeshare at Carmel Highlands that I need to rent or sell. I’m a recent widow

  • Avatar for joanm528
    joanm528
    Jan 22, 2019 (Yesterday) • Updated Jan 22, 2019 01:54 PM

    I am not sure what to do next regarding my Manhattan Club membership. I have been an owner over 20 yrs. When my husband died in 2012 I simply could not reserve a room and I gave up, plus have not paid my fees. I got threatening letters from them which I ignored. I own a studio every other year. I am now 3 fees in the rears. I have health issues and would like to get out without costing me anything, help. JoanM

  • Avatar for phyl21
    phyl21
    RedWeek Team
    Jan 22, 2019 (Yesterday)

    Kathy B.: If you need assistance with renting or selling your timeshare, please click on the blue "Contact Us" link at the bottom of any page. You can also call 866-971-1737 between 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday to speak with a representative.

  • Avatar for sophiav6
    sophiav6
    Jan 22, 2019 (Yesterday)

    My options are completely open in regards to where to vacation. I would like to see what is available for particular dates. Is there any way to search by date?

  • Avatar for phyl21
    phyl21
    RedWeek Team
    Jan 22, 2019 (Yesterday)

    Sophia V.: On the search page (https://www.redweek.com) enter a location. It can be as broad as North America. Once the results come up, use the tabs at the top of the list to filter your results by date, unit size, price, etc. If you have further questions, please use the "Contact Us' link at the bottom of any page.

  • Avatar for terryc314
    terryc314
    Jan 22, 2019 (Yesterday)

    I have 3 timeshares I want to sell in 2020. Let me know how to post them for sale on Redweek?

  • Avatar for phyl21
    phyl21
    RedWeek Team
    Jan 22, 2019 (Yesterday)

    Terry C.: You can go to this page to get started: Sell My Timeshare (https://www.redweek.com/sell-my-timeshare)