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Use caution when selling timeshare condominium units

Some companies charge upfront fees to buy it from you. In reality, they may just be an advertising company.

April 25, 2011|by Cara Restelli, KY3 News | crestelli@ky3.com

The recession has hit timeshare owners hard.  Many are now trying to sell their vacation homes, but have instead been confronted with scammers trying to steal their investment.  The problem has become so widespread, the florida Attorney General has an entire website dedicated to timeshare resale fraud.  Unfortunately, Marcia Baker found it too late.

Baker has enjoyed the one week a year she gets to spend at Branson's Big Cedar Lodge, but the yearly cost has forced her to try and sell her timeshare there.  "It's gone up to $950 a year."

Like countless other timeshare owners, the recession has hit her hard, so Marcia posted her timeshare for sale online.  Then, the phone started ringing.  "You start getting phone calls from people who say they have a buyer.  Then they want upfront fees.  They say they want attorney fees, escrow closing fees and title search fees and doc checks and stuff like that," she said.

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A real estate broker herself, Marcia knows those fees are supposed to be collected at closing, but after numerous calls from potential buyers saying they need to charge the fees upfront, Marcia began to think that's how timeshare resale works.  "After about 10-15 calls I'm thinking this must be right so I allowed them to charge my credit card $1994," she said.

It turns out Marcia wasn't selling her timeshare to the company but signing up for an advertising program to maximize exposure to potential buyers.  After 6 months of delays and no buyers, she finally called her credit card company and had the charges reversed.  "These people are just con artists.  They get online and see who has time shares for sale and they call them and set up make believe deals," she said.

Most of the companies that contacted Marcia are out of Florida - which is why the state has set up a site dedicated to warning consumers about timeshare resale fraud.  It says before paying anything, check out the company with the attorney general and Better Business Bureau first.  Question what the upfront fees are for and what their refund policy is with regards to the fees.  And get signed contract and read it carefully before making any payment.  "You're taught to be a trusting person, at least I was," she said.

It was a tough lesson for Marcia to learn, but it's one she's willing to teach others.  "more people are trying to sell them so I'm pretty sure I'm not the only fool," she said.

A red flag that a company may not be legitimate is if the company isn't telling you their name, the company name or what they are selling.  If you're still worried, consider listing your property for sale with a licensed real estate broker in the area where your time share is located.

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