By Ellen Roseman Contributing Columnist, The Toronto Star June 18, 2019
If you buy a time-share property, you acquire the right to use a unit for a specific time — typically, a week or two once a year.
You may get a deed for your fractional interest in a resort condo. You may have a right to use the property, but no share ownership. Or you may simply buy points that can be used at properties all over the world.
It starts with an offer of a free stay and the means — even cash — to attend a quick presentation at the resort. If you agree, you may be trapped in a room with aggressive salespeople for hours until you finally cave in and sign up.
Many time-share owners are happy (I’ve met a few) with a prepaid vacation for life. But there are others who are desperate to escape a lifetime of financial obligations.
Tony Davies wants to get rid of his time-share after 20 years. He’s one of a few dozen readers who asked for help after I profiled a buyer with regrets in a recent column.
“I paid the fees religiously, but very rarely use it and my family has no interest in taking it over. I realize I will receive very little for it. Can you recommend a company that looks after these sales?” he said.
Time-share exit companies say they can take unwanted units off your hands. But according to a warning by the Better Business Bureau about a prominent reseller, you may wait up to three years and you won’t get your guaranteed refund if you find the deal unacceptable.
Other exit firms have been pursued by U.S. justice officials and time-share developers.
The Canadian Vacation Ownership Association (CVOA) works on behalf of the industry to promote “high standards of ethical conduct and professionalism.” It helps resolve complaints that involve its members and has a list of tips for time-share resellers.
CVOA president and CEO Ingrid Jarrett recommends a time-share reseller called RedWeek, based in Redding, Calif. It has an A+ rating from the BBB. Still, you can find complaints at Redweek’s discussion forum.
The Global Secondary Market Coalition is a new group trying to improve the credibility of time-share resellers, with new training, licensing and accreditation programs.
“We think it will be a game-changer for the industry,” said Gregory Crist, CEO of Association of Vacation Owners in the U.S. and a CVOA director.
As a service for both frustrated owners yearning for release and would-be buyers, I will share tips from the two blissful time-share owners who wrote to me.
Take your time. Don’t buy when given incomplete facts and rushed into signing papers, says Karen Riehm, who bought an oceanfront condo at Costa del Sol in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Fla., a tiny enclave north of Fort Lauderdale.
“In our case, we approached the agent who represented the property. He gave us the relevant documents to study and lots of time to consider our decision, as well as handy hints about this type of ownership.
“My husband and I bought two weeks. Each year, the suite was upgraded and kept in wonderful condition. We liked it so well, we bought a third week when we retired.
“We considered the purchase price as an investment and the annual fee was far less than the rental costs for a similar property (if such could be found). When we felt it necessary to sell, other owners and their friends and relatives were lined up to buy our unit.”
Gord Smith and his wife consider their three time-share properties in Costa Rica among their best investments.
“We have two contracts with the Westin Golf Resort & Spa in Playa Conchal,” he said. “If we wanted out, the resort would be happy to wave goodbye. They’d like nothing better than if all the time-share owners packed up and left. We’re costing them revenue.”
Here are his cautionary suggestions:
My advice: There’s a glut of time-share properties, so choose wisely. Don’t get trapped in an illiquid investment with an unreliable, unsafe resale market.