How to Transfer a Timeshare Ownership
The following are suggestions of the author Kurt Brown, may not cover all the legal requirements of all states or foreign countries, are meant merely as a guide, and are specifically NOT offered or intended as legal advice. For legal advice on this and other ownership issues, please contact an licensed closing company orattorney of your choice who is versed in real estate law in the state your Timeshare exists in.
Developing a Buyer-Seller Relationship Based on Trust
For many TUGgers, the first chance to sell that unneeded timeshare, or purchase that bargain timeshare, may result from an Internet ad. The following discussion is assuming that the parties have never met in person, but have reached agreement over the Internet or via telephone. Should you attempt to transfer the timeshare yourself? Read on.
Share Information The buyer and seller should have initial discussions and exchange of information via the Internet. By carefully reading the responses to questions of the other party, it is possible to get a good indication of the trustworthiness of that individual or company. The first rule - if you do not feel comfortable with the other person and the information furnished, do not go through with the transaction. Exchange full names of all persons whose names will appear on the new deeds; social security numbers; telephone, fax, and e-mail contact information; physical addresses (not just post office box addresses, which may not be adequate for deed recording purposes). At this point, it is often good to have a telephone conversation, so that the parties can further evaluate the other people involved in the transaction. If the other party is unwilling to exchange such information, you may have to re-evaluate the transaction.
Contact the Resort or Management Company - Call the resort. Get the names of contact people. You will get a good indication of how cooperative and helpful resort management is. You may find at this point that you would rather not own there!! Find out if the seller is up-to-date on maintenance fee payments, whether there are any liens on the property, whether there is still money owing on an original sales/purchase agreement through the resort, whether the current weeks are still available. Also, ask questions about the size and condition of the resort, the homeowners’ association, history of special assessments, plans for upgrades and improvements, special awards, planned activities, amenities, sales and resale activity.
You can also get specific information on things like informal swapping of weeks through the resort, cost and availability of inexpensive bonus time, whether the resort belongs to a larger grouping of resorts and rights to use of other resorts, and exchanges within that group, how the floating week or points system works, and whether there are options like "split weeks". Are there additional costs if family members, friends, or associates use your week? Are pets allowed? Midweek linen exchange? Washer/dryer in the unit? Full kitchens? Boat ramps? Golf privileges? On-site restaurant or party facilities? Suitability of resort activities center for children? Whether ownership is tied to specific real estate - like a specific unit number/week. You can also find out if the resort will send you copies of past newsletters and resort information.
Draw Up An Earnest Money Contract?
A timeshare transfer is a real estate contract, just like the purchase of a house, and should be as detailed. List in the Earnest Money Contract the name of the resort, the week(s) and unit number(s), and season(s) of the weeks being transferred. Whether the week(s) are fixed, floating, or tied to a points system. Whether the interest is "fee simple" or "estate for years" or "membership" or some other system. List also who is responsible for past and present maintenance fee payments, special assessments, and delinquent fees; who has the right to use present and future-year weeks; and whether any spacebanked weeks are included in the sale. Is there a transfer of an RCI or II membership included with the sale? Is the sale being financed by the seller? What happens in case of a default? Who pays any resort transfer fees? Terms of the sale should be detailed! List names, address, telephone numbers, and have all parties sign the contract (and initial all pages).
Exchange Copies of Original Deeds and Sales Documents - from such documents, you can often determine if there is a "release of lien" from the original purchase, who the real owners are (including if any are deceased and whether ownership is subject to probate proceedings), and any specific state or county or resort requirements for transferring ownership.
Title Insurance - it is assumed that both parties have done "due diligence" in finding out anything adverse about the transfer and the resort, and that the purchase cost is fairly small. If you are very conservative in your money management, it may be worth your while and your peace of mind to purchase title insurance from a title company and pay all the other closing costs associated with closing a standard real estate contract. Such fees and costs may easily add a thousand dollars or more to the transaction. It is your call. However in many cases the resale cost of the sales price makes this added expense cost prohibitive. This article discusses Title Insurance
At the very minimum, there will be:
- a new deed drawn up
- a covering letter and check to be sent to the County Clerk’s/Recorder’s Office in the county in which the timeshare is located
- a covering letter from the seller to the resort notifying the resort of the change of ownership.
Deed - depending on the county and state and the ownership being sold/purchased, there is almost always a deed involved. Some "memberships" may only involve a change in the owner of the membership (for example, right-to-use the remaining twenty years membership in a club), and no deed may be involved. Obviously, such an ownership is probably not as valuable as is one involving a sale of deeded real estate. The deed may be a Warranty Deed - where the purchaser is warranting the ownership, or a Quitclaim Deed - where the owner is simply transferring whatever interest he/she owns (or doesn’t own). (For some states, the document may be called a Bargain and Sale Deed, or a Cash Sale Deed, or one of a myriad of other possible documents). The previous deed can give your attorney (or you, if you want to chance it), a good indication of the requirements of that county, including the sort of acknowledgment/declaration, witnessing, and notarization required. In some states, you must disclose exactly how much money was involved in the transfer; in others, "ten dollars and other valuable consideration" is sufficient.
Recording - if there is a deed, you will need to record it with the county clerk’s or county recorder’s office. You will send the original of the signed and notarized deed. Make copies for all parties before sending off the original. There will be a recording fee of anywhere from about $10 on up. Check the clerk’s website or call the recorder’s office. The county will often have specific requirements for recordation that you must meet, or the deed will be sent back. Most specifically, you must pay ALL of the recording fees. Sometimes, the various states require a "use fee" or "sales tax" or "county fee" other fee to be paid at the same time. Sometimes there are additional affidavits or tax forms detailing the dollar amount of the sale and the contact information of the parties - especially if taxes are involved!! Many of these forms can be downloaded from the websites of the county clerk’s office. Let the recorder know to whom the recorded deed should be sent - usually to the "Grantee" (the purchaser). Florida, California, and Louisiana are among the states where you must be especially careful in filling out the forms properly and including all the necessary forms.
Resort Notification - the seller must send a letter to the resort or management company detailing the transaction. The letter should include the designation of the timeshare, including any internal account numbers, the week and unit number, and season. Also, the contact information of the purchaser including social security numbers, telephone numbers, and addresses should be included. List who has the rights to particular weeks, and billing addresses and dates from which responsibility for paying maintenance fees and other delinquent amounts will transfer. There may be a transfer fee collected by the resort - most likely if the resort is part of a larger group. Finally, the purchaser must insure that the resort gets a copy of the signed, notarized AND recorded deed. Many will not transfer ownership records (and allow rights to use) until such is received.
Membership Transfer Application - if spacebanked weeks or exchange company membership are included in the transfer, both parties must fill out and sign the Membership Transfer Application in the back of the RCI book There may be a similar form for Interval International.
So, should you attempt the transfer yourself without the help of an attorney? Are you comfortable that you can fulfill the above guidelines? You decide. You may want to look below for some more potential pitfalls in drawing up your own new deed.
One more thing. You probably do not "legally" need an attorney to draw up the documents - if you are one of the parties involved in the transaction. However, if you decide to draw up a deed for someone else, you are probably practicing law without a license!! This page discusses the legal requirements by state for this: Timeshare Closing Requirements by State
Pitfalls in Drawing Up Your Own New Deed
I am not suggesting that a party to the transaction could not or should not draw up the new deed - only that there are some things you might want to consider, to avoid some real problems.
Again, the following is NOT intended as legal advice, but just a general guideline when you are drawing up a new deed. First, if you are not sure what you are doing, you might want to consider the following:
SUGGESTION 1: Call the legal department at your resort.
They MAY be able to furnish you with 1) hints for drawing up the new deed - including deed formats or headings that could trigger large tax assessments, or little or no tax assessments on the
sale; 2) addresses, telephone numbers, and websites for the local county clerk/county recorder's office; and 3) blank deed forms (or recent deeds with names removed) that the resort is currently
using for ownership transfers.
SUGGESTION 2: Call the county clerk's/recorder's office.
They will give you information regarding mailing addresses, recording fees and tax fee information, and any other tax forms or affidavits that have to be included with the new deed - in order to get it recorded.
The consensus seems to be that all you have to do is either copy the old deed, or buy or obtain a form deed from a stationery store, or from a reseller, or from a website, then fill in a little information. In many cases, that will work fine, but.......
THE OLD DEED MAY IN FACT BE AN OLD DEED
- Real estate transfers are governed by state and local statutes. The state legislatures pass new laws, including Timeshare Acts, and they do revise those laws. There may be new requirements for the deed based on the new/updated statutes.
- Timeshare resorts change "by-laws", change ownership rights including season designations. The deed may need to reflect those changes. Otherwise, someone may be buying a red week which RCI has changed to a white week, or visa versa. Your "super" season may have been changed by the HOA to "special" season. You may need to add information in the deed referring to the changes in the Amended Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, which would have been recorded in the county clerk's office.
- The Original Grantor on the old deed may have been the developer. Developers often reserve rights to themselves and to the other owners - such as use of the resort during all other time intervals that you are NOT purchasing/selling. If you simply put the seller's name in place of the developer, the Grantor's (seller) "reservations" will not make any sense.
- If the Original Grantor was a developer or corporation, the "acknowledgment/notary" block will have to be changed to a format that reflects that the seller is an individual, not a corporate officer.
- The state/local laws may have changed to require that there be information on the deed as to who actually prepared it, and contact information.
IF YOU PREPARE A DEED FOR SOMEONE ELSE
Real estate transfers are legal documents. A "party" to the transaction may almost always prepare the new deed. However, if you are preparing a deed for someone else, whether or not you charge a fee, you may be practicing law in that state without a license.
OTHER POTENTIAL PITFALLS
- If one of the sellers is deceased, the title needs to be changed to reflect the current owner - otherwise, ownership transfer may not be proper in that state. Consult your attorney or the attorney that dealt with the estate and probate issues.
- Each state has individual statutes and regulations. Copying that great-looking deed from your purchase of that Texas timeshare will NOT work in neighboring Louisiana.
- If you don't fill out and send any required tax forms and affidavits with the new deed to the recording office, or if you do not figure the fees and taxes correctly, they WILL send it back.
- In one state, you need to send the new deed to the local town hall clerk's office so that they can put a stamp on it - that all transfer taxes have been paid. You also need to send two different checks and stamped and addressed envelopes so that the town hall clerk can forward the deed to the County Treasurer's Office (along with the check for the "County Transfer Tax"; then to the Clerk of Court of that county, along with another check, to cover the "Recordation Tax", the "State Transfer Tax", and the "Deed Recording Fee". That is admittedly one of the more difficult transfers and for most states it is much simpler - simply sending the deed and a check to the County Clerk's Office. But, you need to know!!
- Make sure the "legal description" of the timeshare interest is correct - including if you are only transferring one of several weeks.
- Make sure the resort gets a cover letter and a copy of the SIGNED AND NOTARIZED AND RECORDED DEED - otherwise, they may refuse to change the ownership records, and someone may lose the rights to use or spacebank a week.
- Look the old deed over carefully for tax stamps and similar. It may give you some strong hints that you will need to prepare tax forms and/or affidavits to go along with the deed.
- In some states, the notarization block requires one or two witnesses to the signing process. Add the proper "witness block" if that state/locality so requires.
- If you are transferring the deed by mail or Internet, you will need to provide separate blocks for notarization by the sellers and by the buyers.
The Final Word?
When you buy a Timeshare, you simply aren't given any sort of instruction manual or advice whatsoever about how best to use it, or even what is expected of you as an owner! TUG exists to answer these very questions and help you make the most of your Timeshare! Whether you are an existing owner, brand new owner, or simply looking to buy your first Timeshare, finding TUG will be the next best thing in your Timeshare Journey (right behind actually taking your vacations!)
Also be sure to register on our Timeshare Online Discussion Forums where tens of thousands of Owners and Experts ask and answer all Timeshare related questions! Registration and participation on the forums is 100% free! Free owner discussion forums
lastly if you have read all this and decided you wish to hire or consult a licensed closing company to handle your ownership transfer, you can find a list of ones who both support TUG, and are regularly utilized by its members here: TUG Supporting Advertisers and be sure you mention you found them after visiting TUG!