Business - Timeshares

Dear Mr. Berko:

We foolishly bought two timeshares -- one in 1988 in Florida and a second timeshare in 1990 in Arizona. And what a headache they have been in the past 10 years. Our kids are grown, and they have zero interest in the properties while our grandchildren are busy with school activities, friends, summer camp and sports, and have no desire to travel from Michigan to Florida or Arizona. And now, neither do we. Though we enjoyed these properties years ago, they are now a big pain in the butt. The taxes and maintenance costs have quadrupled since we bought them and are headed higher. We have tried to sell these properties through various specialty brokers, but all they do is take our money without results. We can't even give the darn things away. There are two specialty firms that promise to take them off our hands, but we have to pay them between $3,000 and $4,000 to do so. One is called Timeshare Relief, and the other is called Transfer Smart. They promise that they can get us off the hook immediately, we'll never have to be concerned, and we will never get another bill for taxes or maintenance again. Please tell us what you know about them and if they can fulfill their promises to us. Or do you know of any way we can get these properties out of our name so we can get them out of our estate so that our children won't be burdened with the taxes and maintenance costs?

G.S., Troy, Mich.

Dear G.S.:

I would not be comfortable giving $3,000 or $4,000 to the likes of Timeshare Relief or Transfer Smart. In fact, I wouldn't be comfortable giving them the time of day. But I would be comfortable suggesting that you visit the Internet and read the negative responses from myriad mooks who engaged their services. I did a quick scan, and in less time than it takes to say "Peter picked a peck of pickled peppers," I knew that I wouldn't enter into any transaction with those folks and certainly none of the others who advertise their assistance on the Internet. Gadzooks, where do all these pikers, quicksalvers and quacks come from?

I asked my daughter, Hilary -- who is an attorney -- for advice, and she told me that timeshare contracts are way above her pay grade. But she did tell me that it's difficult for an attorney to provide a solution without reading the purchase contracts if you "signed in a prior century." Of course, you know that today's timeshare market is not as sanguine as it was a dozen years ago. In fact, lots of people will tell you that most timeshares are worth a little bit more than a plugged nickel. Frankly, I'd rather own waterfront property in Iran than a timeshare in Florida or Arizona.

I talked with two lawyers. One from Florida recommended that you advertise your timeshare on the Internet for $10. Early last year, one of his clients sold their timeshare for $625 to the first person who responded, and other buyers were waiting in line if the first contract fell through.

The Michigan attorney suggested that for $250, you could form a corporation in Michigan that is registered with the secretary of state, with its own bank account and mailing address. Then sell your two timeshares to the corporation, which also assumes the future tax and maintenance liabilities. Wash your hands, walk away and forget about it.

But whatever you do, it's important to seek the advice of a lawyer, which will certainly cost you less than the blood money you would fork over to one of those highbinders who could probably sweet talk the Devil himself into singing "Glory, glory, hallelujah" in a Baptist choir.

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Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at mjberko@yahoo.com. Visit Creators Syndicate Web site at www.creators.com.

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Published: Fri, Mar 26, 2010