(Last of a series)
In a recent column, I wrote that my wife and I had purchased a timeshare 20 years ago. We looked forward to using the variety of resorts offered by the program but could never make it work.
Schedules of four busy children and two working spouses simply did not allow us enough lead time to book a large unit during the weeks we could actually get away. We sold it three years later after never using it and felt lucky to get as much cash back as we did.
And, although the Internet is now able to reach immeasurably more potential buyers, there remains a glut of resale timeshares that sell for pennies on the dollar. The market for them is small. While there is a select group of bargain-basement shoppers, rising annual maintenance fees make resale even more difficult. In fact, the Internet probably would have reduced the price we eventually received because of the ability of a potential buyer to view and bargain with others like us with units for sale.
Trevor Hein of The Timeshare Exit Team said our experience would never happen today for just that reason.
"Timeshares are selling for $1 on Ebay," Hein said. "While a few of them like Marriott and Disney do have value, many people have to pay out of pocket just to get rid of them. Most people are far better off putting the money they would have spent on a timeshare in the bank and staying in the hotel of their choice at the exact time they want to go."
Here's what happened in our case. While the years have changed, the resale market has not.
The company that sold us our $11,000 timeshare said it would "help us sell" our stake if there ever came a time when we decided timesharing was not for us. It turned out that "help us sell" meant providing a short list of companies specializing in the field of timeshare resales. I checked with the State Department of Licensing and it suggested I attempt to sell the timeshare myself before listing with a resale company. (Remember, this is before Internet marketing became common).
I tried two newspaper ads for two different Thursday-through-Sunday slots and drew two calls. I then exposed the timeshare one weekend in three different papers and received no replies
I called former customers of two timeshare resale companies and got mixed responses. I chose a San Diego-area company that guaranteed a refund of my $445 up-front fee if the timeshare were sold outside of its own marketing efforts, which consisted mainly of newspaper ads and late-night cable television spots.
I sent in my $445 in April listing the timeshare for $1,000 less than I paid for it (in addition to three "banked" weeks we did not use). The price came at the suggestion of the agent who said "you definitely have to be competitive."
I got no response for three months and called the company asking about possible inquiries. A few weeks later, I got a list of four "potential buyers to date that have shown an interest" and their hometowns. One woman, in Wheelersburg, Ohio, had queried twice. I attempted to telephone her to ascertain her interest and found there was no woman listed at that address.
In December, I lowered the asking price to $9,000. I got a call from a Langley, B.C., man who decided to pass on my timeshare. In March, I took out another newspaper and quickly got two serious buyers. We sold the annual week plus the "banked" weeks we did not use for a total of $9,000 - and felt lucky to get it.
The deal closed two weeks later and after pestering the condo resale company for weeks to refund my $445, I got the refund in May, 13 months after listing with it. I had to send them copies of closing documents, copies of the newspaper ad and the bill for the ad before they would even consider the refund.
Still, I considered myself lucky-luckier than most.
Tom Kelly's new novel "Cold Crossover" is now available in print at bookstores everywhere and in both print and Ebook form from a variety of digital outlets. Follow real estate agent and former basketball coach Ernie Creekmore as investigates the disappearance of his star player on a late-night boat. Check out the national reviews and put "Cold Crossover" on your list.