If you own a campground membership, timeshare, recreational real estate or undeveloped property, beware of people who offer to help you sell your membership or property for an advance fee. Most of these resale programs are scams.
The Consumer Protection Division has heard from other states about bogus resale offers and has recently been informed that such con artists are contacting Maryland consumers. Typically, consumers receive phone calls or mailings from companies offering to sell their memberships, timeshares and recreational property, and asking for a deposit or an advance fee ranging anywhere from $400 to$2,500.
Here are some excerpts from three mailings that Maryland consumers received and reported to the Division:
- Because of the tremendous response from our nationwide campaign, several buyers have contacted us with an interest in purchasing land like yours...
- If you're in a position to sell for cash now, please call us within 72 hours on our toll- free number...
- Remember, the sale is guaranteed or we will buy it. If you wish to finalize, please send us a fee of $595...
If you respond to one of those mailings, you may think you're paying a real estate broker to represent you and that buyers have already expressed an interest in your property. However, many consumers learn later that at best the company offers only advertising and no realtors' services - or any other service.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, bogus timeshare resale companies will promise to sell a timeshare for a price equal to or higher than the amount you paid, and may claim to have extensive lists of sales agents and potential buyers. If these companies really had the buyers they claim, they wouldn't need to collect an advance fee from consumers because they would have no problem brokering the sale.
The company may also claim the market for resale's is "hot" and tout high success rates in reselling, when in reality there may be no secondary market for the type of property you'd like to sell. One consumer became suspicious because the salesperson claimed that the company was having great success selling properties- when the consumer's unimproved building lot had been on the market for over three years without an offer.
Similarly, consumers contacting the Division have uniformly reported that they have been unsuccessful in their attempts to resell their campground memberships.
Take Some Precautions
If someone contacts you, offering to resell your campground membership, timeshare, recreational property or undeveloped property, take some precautions:
- Never pay an advance fee. Try to find a company that offers to take a fee only after the sale is executed. If there is truly a resale market, such arrangements should be possible.
- Never submit to pressure to make a quick decision. Legitimate businesses don't expect people to make important decisions on the spot.
- Get references from consumers who have used the company's services.
- Call the real estate licensing board in the state where the property is located to make sure the company is licensed to broker real estate transactions.
- Call the Consumer Protection Division (410-528-8662) to see if any complaints have been filed against the company.
Your Selling Options
If you would like to resell your campground membership, timeshare, recreational property or undeveloped property, you can try selling it yourself by placing ads in newspapers or magazines that potential buyers would read. You can also contact a real estate agent who is familiar with the area and properties there. Get referrals from others who have used the agent's services and were satisfied. Also, you can contact an organization that will try to exchange your timeshare with someone else who has a unit you might like better.
A Thought for The Future
The next time someone tries to sell you any type of recreational real estate, don't believe claims about how easy reselling it would be. There is virtually no resale market for timeshares and campground memberships.