Time-share owners looking to sell or rent their weeks are finally getting some low-cost help.
Several companies have set up websites to help time-share owners unload unwanted weeks without paying speculative fees up front or huge commissions on the back end.
''We're trying to do something right for the owners," said Greg Brown, the developer of Timesharegateway.com. ''It's kind of a win-win for everyone."
Brown and Joe Bernard, who co-owns Bidshares.com, got into the business out of personal frustration. They or a family member discovered that selling a time-share is difficult and but costly.
Most resellers charge either an up-front fee to run a sales ad in their publication or a website or take a hefty cut of the final sale price to broker the transaction.
Brown and Bernard say the unfairness of those up-front speculative fees are what prompted them to get into the business. They felt it was unfair for sellers to be charged anything unless they received some actual help in making a sale.
''The only rule of thumb here is don't pay an up-front fee to sell your time-share," said Bernard. ''Nine times out of 10, you're going to lose that money."
At Timeshare Gateway, Brown charges nothing to let time-share owners list their weeks to sell or rent. For every potential buyer or renter that responds to the listing, the owner pays $4.95 to pursue the lead, but the fees are capped at $24.75.
''If our ads are working, then we're doing our job and we deserve to be paid," Brown said. ''That's an approach that hasn't shown itself out there yet."
With Bidshares, owners pay nothing to put their units up for auction. They pay a fee only if a sale or rental is completed successfully. The fee is $50 for a sale and 5 percent of the winning bid (a minimum of $25) on a rental.
The Timeshare Users Group (www.tug2.net) is another option. The very helpful website charges an annual membership fee of $10 ($15 the first year) and $10 for a three-month classified ad. One ad is free for members.
With Bidshares, Timeshare Gateway, and TUG, buyers pay no fees at all to the company bringing the two parties together. It's a great way to hunt for rentals or purchase a time-share.
At Bidshares, you can search by country, state, or company, like Marriott or Disney. Bidshares recently had an opening bid of $15,000 for a floating one-bedroom week at the Marriott Custom House Tower in Boston. At the Cape Winds Resort in Hyannis, a one-bedroom in mid-October had a bid of $750 and a reserve of $3,850.
At Timeshare Gateway, a week's rental at the Seasons Resort at Sugarbush in Warren, Vt., next June is being offered for $875. The website is also listing weeks over the Christmas holidays at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort on Maui for $7,000.
Time-shares can be a great way to travel and see the world, and they are particularly attractive for those who like to return to the same spot year after year. But the annual maintenance fees can be burdensome.
Selling a time-share is not easy. It is not a real estate investment that appreciates over time. Instead, buying one is more like buying a new automobile. As soon as you drive it off the lot, it loses value.
Bernard said the only exception has been South African time-shares, but even those are losing value now. He said all time-shares in South Africa were originally traded as if they were all in the peak red season. Until the error was corrected, Bernard said many consumers bid up the price of off-season time-shares and used them to trade for peak-season units elsewhere around the world.
Contact Bruce Mohl at firstname.lastname@example.org.