When time-shares are offered for resale at steep discounts to developers' prices, you have to wonder why more people don't buy them this way.

One reason is that many people don't know where to look for resales. Two good sources are TimeSharing Today magazine (www.tstoday.com; $14 a year) and the Timeshare User's Group (www.tug2.net; $15 a year). Their Web sites have ads for time-shares and links to resale brokers. Both also offer background for newbies, and the forums on TUG can answer just about any question you have.

What you will actually save depends on where you buy. With brand-name developments, such as Disney, Marriott and Wyndham, you'll typically pay 30 percent to 50 percent less than the developer's price. But because many people in the secondary market feel more comfortable buying into a brand-name resort, prices have started to creep up.

You'll save more money buying from a lesser-known developer — probably 50 percent to 70 percent off the property's price when it was first put on the market. The best deals are on older time-shares and units that are difficult to trade. Owners may also want to unload their units to be free of annual maintenance fees. But fire-sale prices — for example, weeks listed on eBay that start at $1 — could indicate problems, such as a bad location or an overload of assessments.

"Why are you selling?" should always be your first question. Other questions to ask: Are the maintenance fees paid up? Typical fees range from $200 to $600 a year. Are transfer fees included in the closing costs?

Hiring a resale broker is one way to help protect yourself because brokers are required to tell you all the details of the sale — just make sure the brokerage is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau or the American Resort Development Association.

Another safety net is the closing company, which will review the sales agreement, check to see whether the developer has a right of first refusal on the property and handle all the paperwork. Get a title search and title insurance to make sure the mortgage is completely paid and the deed is free of liens.

Although the seller usually covers the broker's commission, the buyer is generally responsible for closing costs. Escrow fees, title insurance and recording fees will run about $750. The developer charges an additional fee for transferring the unit; the fee can run from $25 at domestic Marriott resorts to a few hundred dollars elsewhere.


Jessica L. Anderson is a staff writer at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to [email protected].