A reader can't afford to keep her timeshare, but she can't afford to sell it, either.

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Question: I have a timeshare with interest rate over 14 percent. I can’t sell it for anywhere near the balance I owe. But I cannot keep up with payments and maintenance fees, either. What can I do?

— Bernadette in New Jersey

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Timeshares should be called “debt shares,” because that’s essentially what they are. You buy a vacation home and share the cost with many other owners, and you each have a set amount of time to enjoy the property.

That sounds good in theory. You spend one week per year in a vacation home you couldn’t otherwise afford, and it’s not sitting empty when you’re back home.

In reality, timeshares cost much more than the initial cash outlay. Bernadette references “maintenance fees,” and they can be hefty. That’s on top of the mortgage and property taxes, so it’s not uncommon for buyer’s remorse to set in quickly. Fortunately, selling a timeshare is much harder than buying one. Let’s break it down for Bernadette and others who are suffering in these trying timeshares…

Watch out for “re-sellers”

The easiest way to sell a timeshare is also one of the costliest. An entire business model has sprung up around helping desperate timeshare owners sell their obligations. Fortunately, the FBI has been investigating unscrupulous operators for years now.

How do you tell the fair from the frauds? The Federal Trade Commission suggests you do the following…

  • Check the Better Business Bureau in your state to see if the re-seller has been reviewed or rated.
  • “Ask if the reseller’s agents are licensed to sell real estate where the timeshare is located. If so, verify it with the state real estate commission.”
  • Ask about the re-sellers fees. Does he get paid after the sale? In advance? Flat fee or percentage?
  • Review any contract carefully to make sure it explicitly lists what the re-seller will do for you, and what he won’t.

If a re-seller promises you’ll recoup all your money, walk away. That almost never happens.

List it yourself

Timeshare owners have taken matters into their own hands. Check out these sites for selling on your own…

However, I must tell you: Don’t expect many offers. It’s simply not a seller’s market. Still, it takes only one interested customer to unload your timeshare, so it’s worth exploring.

Rent instead of sell

Some timeshare owners aggressively advertise their weeks, while others rely on friends and family. Either way, if you can bring in enough money to cover your expenses, you’re literally buying time until you can unload your timeshare.

If none of these options work, Bernadette, I suggest you call Debt.com for a free debt analysis at 1-800-810-0989. Our certified credit counselors can’t help you sell a timeshare, but they may be able to help you find the money — especially if you have other debts weighing you down.

Have a debt question? Can’t find what you need to know? We can! Submit any debt or finance question you have, and we’ll tap a pro who will respond as quickly as possible.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for Debt.com. I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only Debt.com, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched Debt.com. I’m glad you’re here.

Published by Debt.com, LLC