Many timeshare owners desperate to unload bad investment after real estate bubble burst

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - If someone made the offer for you to get a vacation home for free, or for just a dollar, you'd jump on the deal, right?

Well, in this economy some timeshare owners are resorting to just that, giving their vacation homes away.

But in some cases, they still can't get rid of them.

Among them is Irene Smalls. She's had her New York City timeshare on the market for nearly a decade. She paid $20,000 to use it for one week a year. But she's not come close to breaking even after trying to sell it.

"I've been getting these really low ball offers," Smalls said.

That's because so many timeshares are currently for sale.

One well-known timeshare resale site,, says "for sale by owner" listings have increased more than 120% over the past year.

Timeshare Users Group has seen the same trend.

"When you have an industry that has far more sellers than buyers it's automatically going to depress the sale price," said Timeshare Users Group's Brian Rogers.

Timeshare buyers pay up front for the rights to use the same hotel, resort, or condo year after year.

Some say they were led to believe their investment would even increase in value. But the reality is very different.

In this economy, many can no longer afford the required maintenance fees. And they're forced to sell at incredibly low prices.

"You're finding people who have already tried or already discounted their timeshare up to 99% off and in many cases giving it away for free," said Rogers.

Former Orlando timeshare owner John Chase sold his timeshare for one dollar.

He could no longer afford the resort's annual maintenance fees. And if he didn't pay, it would've affected his credit record.

"It was a big relief to sell it even at a dollar," said Chase.

The American Resort and Development Association would not appear on-camera. But it told us timeshares are "not a real estate investment" and "its value comes from using and enjoying it."

Timeshare consultant Lisa Ann Schreier says most timeshares don't increase in value. Instead, you're paying in advance for a place to stay.

"If you have to use the word investment, think of it as an investment in your future vacations," said Schreier.

If that sounds like a fit for you and you don't mind the maintenance fees, you can pick-up a timeshare very cheaply.

But don't expect to do that with Irene Smalls's timeshare. She's going to hold onto her unit hoping the market improves.

"My interest is recouping as much of my money as I possibly can," she said.

If you're having a hard time selling your timeshare unit, experts say consider these alternatives:

* Renting it out

* Asking the resort to buy it back --- or if they have a resale program

* Listing it with a real estate broker

However, you should never pay someone from a company who calls you out of the blue and claims they've got a buyer lined-up for your unit. They sometimes ask you to send them the closing costs in advance. But it's usually a scam.

Copyright 2012 WXIX. All rights reserved.