Here's an important fact about timeshares: It can be a lot easier to buy one than sell one.
Unfortunately, most of the ways to unload an unwanted timeshare come with downsides. You can get rid of them, though.
ASK THE RESORT TO TAKE IT BACK: If your timeshare is paid for and you are current on the dues, some developers will take back the shares. Club Wyndham and Diamond Resorts, with dozens of locations in the United States and overseas, have formal relinquishment programs but they come with many conditions.
SELL YOUR TIMESHARE: Desperation has fueled a blockbuster business — legal and otherwise — in resales. A common scam is telling owners that a buyer is ready to purchase if the owner will just pay closing costs or other fees. The owner pays, but the sale doesn't go through and there's no way to get the money back. Florida's Office of the Attorney General gives these tips to avoid getting scammed:
• Deal with a reputable resale company. Check on MyFloridaLegal.com to see if it is or has been under investigation. You can also call the office's fraud hotline — toll-free in Florida 1-866-9-NO-SCAM or outside Florida (850) 414-3990.
• Before making payments or providing credit card info, get a written contract fully describing the services to be provided. Be sure you understand the terms, including any fees; whether you can still rent or sell the share on your own; how long the contract will be in effect; and who is responsible for documenting and closing any sale.
• Be aware that some resale companies require upfront fees that are non-refundable. They can range to hundreds of dollars.
• Be suspicious of any request to pay fees by wire transfer, certified bank check, cashier's check or money order. These forms of payment leave you little recourse if you have problems.
You can also try to sell your timeshare with the help of a licensed real estate agent where the resort is located. Alternatively, you can try to sell "by owner'' on Craigslist, eBay or by putting an ad in a newsletter or magazine. But even if your share is in a sought-after resort, you'll be lucky to get more than 15 or 20 percent of what you paid.
WALK AWAY OR DECLARE BANKRUPTCY: This is not advised. If you fail to make loan payments or stay current on fees, the resort can foreclose or turn your account over to a collection agency. Either way, your credit score will take a big hit. A bankruptcy filing can suspend collection activity and ultimately erase the debt, but that's a solution of last resort.
Information from the financial advice website NerdWallet was used in this report. Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.