real estate

Should You Keep a Timeshare?

Don't confuse your vacation rights with a tax break or an investment.

Terry Reilly, 71, made his living in the commodities markets. After retiring a few years ago, he was deep into day trading. But timeshares? That's a market he can't fathom.

In 2003, Reilly and his wife, Arlene, paid $10,000 for one week a year at one of several resorts in the western U.S. They also got access through an exchange network to some properties in Florida, where the Reillys winter. The problem, grumbles Terry, is that "if you want Florida, there's a 20-year wait for December."

Two decades may be hyperbole, but the Reillys definitely stumbled upon one of the rubs with timeshares. They discovered the other two when they looked into selling: You may not get back what you paid, and the loss isn't deductible. "If you make money, you pay Uncle Sam, and if you lose, tough luck," says Terry.

A timeshare's value comes from using it. Consider: After five years of $500 maintenance fees, the Reillys will have spent $12,500, less than they'd have spent to rent a suite each year at one posh resort hotel in Arizona. If they decide to sell anyway, the Reillys should regard the many solicitations they get with caution, since hefty, up-front fees are often involved. Better to use online resale sites, including the timeshare users' group www.tug2net.com, www.redweek.com and www.myresortnetwork.com.

Do you have a money problem we can solve? E-mail us at solved@kiplinger.com.

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