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Ask Dave

A Timeshare Quagmire

David's mother-in-law has six timeshares. She's tried to sell them and can't. She wants to give them away to her children, but the kids don't want them. How does she sell them?

QUESTION: David in Illinois has a mother-in-law with six timeshares, three in Florida and three in Hawaii. She's tried to sell them and hasn't been able to. She wants to give them away to her children, but the kids don't want them. How does she sell them? Dave lists some possible options.

ANSWER: Nobody buys timeshares. Basically, she's prepaid for the use of a condo one week or two weeks a year at a certain time and/or some points she can trade back and forth in lieu of that use for a use somewhere else. You prepaid your vacation condo rental 20 years in advance. There's no market for them. Nobody wants to buy them.

There are some listing services, and some ask for a fee to list it. I would no more pay that than fly to the moon, because they're not going to sell it. You never pay a commission for something to be sold prior to it being sold. I wouldn't list it that way.

There have been two possible uses for giving them away. I've heard of a few people selling them on eBay successfully. I've heard of some people donating them to a charity at the "market value." It's hard to establish a market value for them since there isn't really a market for them. You can write it off that way and create a tax deduction. Then the charity can auction the thing off as a fundraiser. You can also try Craigslist.

She may have paid $20,000 for each of these, and they may not bring $2,000 each. That's what she's facing. They're just a rip-off. They have a 97% cstomer dissatisfaction rate. It's almost impossible to find someone who likes their timeshare.

Sometimes, you can sell it to the builder, but usually not. Sometimes, you can bribe them into selling it for you by selling it so much cheaper than they're selling them for. Call the sales manager there and ask how much they make if they sell a timeshare. If it's $500, offer $1,000 commission. If the timeshares are selling for $22,000, sell yours for $8,000. Basically, you're giving them more commission and making the sale easy. They'll sometimes sell them for you that way.

It's not as easy as just taking a car and selling it or taking a legitimate piece of real estate and selling it. They're just a horrible product.