Marriott also lets potential customers test timeshares through a general toll-free number. If there happens to be timeshare vacancies available, people can stay there at special rates-no tour required.

Fuller says the marketing conversion rate to sales for timeshares is believed to have improved dramatically since the hotel chains entered the business. However, industry experts say they do not believe there has been much change in timeshare resale values, which historically have been poor. The reason: a lack of an active secondary market for timeshares.

RCI's Barrows says one significant problem is difficulty in documenting timeshare ownership. After all, how do you know whether a timeshare, viewed online, actually is owned by the person who posted the ad? Most of the fraud surrounding timeshares, he says, has been in the timeshare resales arena.

In fact, 38,000 timeshare owners recently were bilked out of $15.4 million in appraisal fees. Timeshare owners were enticed in an elaborate telemarketing scheme to pay a $399 appraisal fee to sell their timeshares. Barrows says that Cendant Corp. hopes to help rectify the timeshare resale problems shortly. It is working with eBay to create a timeshare sales site on the Internet that would verify ownership by all timeshare owners who list properties.

So are these new timeshares worth it for your clients?

"Make the assumption that you're going to lose 50% of the value over 10 years. Add that to the time value of money. Then add the annual fees-maintenance and refurbishment," says J. Michael Martin, an attorney and CFP licensee who is president of Financial Advantage in Columbia, Md. "Then ask, how does that compare to two weeks at a comparable hotel? If the numbers are close, I wouldn't do it. I'd only do it if it's cheaper."

The reason, Martin says, is that many people lose interest in their timeshares. Even though there may be exchange options on a timeshare, often those options are more flexible on paper than in reality. If a client is considering the timeshare because of the exchange option, Martin advises finding owners in the same building who already have used the exchange options.

Another reason Martin questions timeshares is the open-ended risk with maintenance fees. "You don't know how fast it's going to escalate," he says.

"If there are values in timeshares, try to find someone who's trying to get out of one. If someone has one they want to sell, maybe you'll get it for half price. It's the same rule as for closed-end mutual funds. Never invest in a closed-end fund on the offering."

Jon Paulisin, editor of Vacation Ownership magazine, says it's very easy to arrange to write off a timeshare by putting it into a business. "We just did an article on donating your timeshare to a charity and writing it off. If you're having a problem selling it and you pay $20,000, you can receive the full tax benefits if you know how to do it." Paulisin has an option on the swanky Miami Beach "Castle" and is marketing timeshare ownership in it. He also owns the Tax Advisors Institute in Las Vegas.