Is a Free Timeshare a Gift or a Problem? When someone gifts you a timeshare, there are a lot of problems that come along with it.

Q: I found a lady on Facebook from my town who owns three timeshares. She is retiring in 2019. She can’t sell one of her timeshare units and she doesn’t use it either. She wants to give it to me. She said I can use a transfer company, pay them a fee and then I’d get to use the timeshare. She paid the fees through next year, and I’d be able to start using it sometime next year.  

My question is, since I can not afford to buy a timeshare and I would use it for vacations is this worth it to me? I’m scared but would love it if I could take my grandkids on vacation.

A: Let’s start with the old adage, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” And, before you start seriously thinking about taking your kids on vacation, you should separate out the issue of vacation and this particular timeshare.

The only reason that you have found this timeshare unit for “free” is that the owner has been unable to sell it. And, the only reason she wants to get rid of it is that the fees and expenses of keeping it outweigh any money she would make by renting it or having one of her family members use it. If it was a great deal, she’d never give it away.

Most timeshare developers charge an upfront fee to buy the unit. In addition to the purchase price, you may also have monthly maintenance expenses, property taxes, association dues and special assessments to keep up the property, and those fees are non-negotiable. Add them up, and you might quickly see that all of these expenses outweigh the benefit you get from receiving the timeshare (essentially as a gift) and not having to pay the upfront cost

Have you seen this timeshare unit? Do you know anything about the property? Our guess is that you haven’t seen it and without seeing it, there’s no way to know what the unit looks like, what condition it is in, what the location of the unit is, and whether the amenities will suit you.

You also need to think through the financial responsibilities, including maintenance expenses, taxes and other fees. And if you don’t use it or no longer want it, what happens when you, too, try to sell it? Will you be able to give it away?

Make sure you crunch the numbers: take a look at what the annual expenses are for the timeshare and what it would cost you to simply stay at a hotel or vacation rental for your next vacation. Young parents with kids might get the best benefit out of a timeshare if they love the building, love the location and intend to go back to the same location year after year.

Older owners may also benefit from a timeshare, but here again, it only works if you want to go to the same place every year. If you don’t think you’d want to go there more than once or twice, this deal probably isn’t right for you.

If you knew that you could easily rent out the unit and could cover all of your yearly expenses and more, the deal might work. But if that was the case, we suspect the owner of the timeshare would have kept it or other people would want to buy it.