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When your vacation home ends up trapping you

Timeshare tricks
When your timeshare vacation home ends up trapping you 01:46

Many timeshare owners fed up with being unable to sell their timeshares or exit due to strict contracts are turning to companies that purport to expedite the process. But not all of the companies are reputable.

According to timeshare website Red Week, at least 1.15 million timeshare owners want out of their agreements.  

Unfortunately, the California real estate commissioner warns that a glut of timeshare properties and owners "desperate" to get rid of them have created "easy" prey for unscrupulous timeshare exit companies.

For Gary Newton, getting rid of his Tahoe timeshare has been an uphill battle. "There's no resale market," he said in an interview with CBS News.

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He has tried selling it and even giving it back to the vacation resort, before finally deciding to pay a timeshare exit company $3,600 to get rid of it.

"And the deal was they would initiate the process and give me an update every month," he told CBS News in an interview.

The agreement promised a "safe and secure transfer strategy" that "usually takes three to nine months." But a year-and-a-half later, Newton was still waiting.

He's not alone in his timeshare exit troubles.

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"We want consumers to stay away ... from companies that aren't licensed, that make bold promises, who charge money up-front," Wayne Bell, California real estate commissioner, told CBS News.

CBS asked Bell to examine the agreement Newton signed, which the commissioner said appears "intentionally vague."

"I'm not sure what they're purporting to do. If you can't explain what they're going to be doing, then you definitely should not give them money," Bell said.

Tired of waiting, Newton contacted us and we reached out to the company, which agreed to refund his money. That left Newton where he started -- stuck with a timeshare he doesn't want, with a yearly maintenance fee he can't get rid of.

"If anyone would come along and say, I'll give you 50 cents, I'd say 'It's yours!"

The Timeshare Industry Trade Association advises owners who want to get out to first contact the resort, developer or homeowners' association "directly" and try to work out an exit solution. It also advises never paying an up-front fee to anyone offering to help get you out of a timeshare.

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