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Home Warranty Information

Home warranties pick up where insurance leaves off!

Traditionally, home warranties have protected homeowners from repair costs that are not covered by home insurance. Home warranties cover such things as the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and major appliances.

Mechanics of the Home Warranty

While home warranties are not necessary for every homeowner, they can help sell a home by providing the buyer with added protection.

Generally, home warranties cover malfunctions of major appliances such as washers, dryers, ovens, and refrigerators. They also cover ductwork, plumbing, the electrical system, heating, and air-conditioning. In some cases, or for additional fees, the warranty might extend to garbage disposals, doorbells, ceiling fans, garage-door openers, water softeners, trash compactors, and built-in microwaves.

The National Board of Realtors describes home warranties as service contracts, typically lasting one year, that cover the repair or replacement of major home systems and appliances that break down due to normal wear and tear. Home warranties do not overlap or replace the homeowners insurance policy. Think of it as a cause and effect relationship: If a hot water heater burst and destroyed a wall in your home, the warranty would repair the water heater and your insurance would pay to fix the wall.

Similarly, if your refrigerator were to stop working while you were on vacation, there could be spoilage, leakage, or floor damage. Your homeowners insurance might pay for the damage to the linoleum, while the home warranty would cover the fridge.

The age of your home usually doesn't matter, as far as warranty coverage is concerned. You can obtain a home warranty, as long the covered items are in good working order at the start of the contract.

Home warranties cost about $350 to $400 a year, plus $35 to $50 per service call. If your home is in good condition, the expense might not be necessary. On the other hand, when you do need to pay for repairs in an aging home, the costs can mount quickly.

Making a Home Warranty Claim

Making a claim on a home warranty contract is straightforward. You are generally given a toll-free number to call. After the warranty company verifies your coverage, the company will dispatch an independent trade contractor to your home. The contractor diagnoses the problem, repairs or replaces as necessary, and the homeowner pays a small service fee. The contractor then bills the home warranty company for the remaining charges.

Generally, home warranty companies do not limit the number of claims you can make, but you will have to pay for the service call every time. Plus, there might be a dollar limit on repairs to certain items; for example, there may be a $1,500 limit for hot water heater repairs. Your contract will spell this out.

Check Home Warranties Before you Buy

A home warranty is only as secure as the company that offers it. The National Association of Realtors warns consumers to find out as much as they can about the reputation and track record of any home warranty company. Realtors frequently work with home warranty companies, and can recommend firms with a proven track record and financial stability. You can also ask if the company is a member of a professional association that monitors business practices. It's also a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau or your states department of consumer protection.

Each home warranty plan is unique in scope and service, with specific coverage's, limits, and exclusions. Review home warranty contracts carefully before you buy.

Office of the Commissioner of Insurance offers this advice for anyone buying a home warranty.

  • Always understand the length of the contract and when it begins.
  • Look over the contract to understand what is, and is not, covered. Some contracts will list specifically what is covered.
  • Look over the procedures for reporting a claim. Some contracts require customers call a claims number prior to ordering repairs to the product under warranty. Things will go more smoothly that way.

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