The Truth About Home Warranties And Are They Worth It?

When you buy a new home you always have the option of purchasing a home warranty that, theoretically, covers the cost of repairs to various appliances and other home systems. But are these home warranties worth it and what should you be aware of before you actually buy one of these?

Before I get into some of the nuts and bolts behind these home warranty products let me explain that I actually managed the extended warranty program for Circuit City Stores for a period of time and these home warranties are a very similar product. In addition, I've studied the economics of insurance before and home warranties are basically insurance policies. So I know a fair amount about the economics of home warranties.

A Home Warranty Is An Insurance Policy

When you buy a home warranty - and they start around $420 - you are basically buying an insurance policy. The reason this is important to recognize is that insurance companies are in business to make money and that means that they expect to make money on the average policy they sell, which means that on average the people who buy these policies will lose money. Buyers will most likely pay more for the policy than they receive in return over the life of the policy.

Then why would you ever buy an insurance policy? Because you are willing to trade off the certain cost for a very uncertain cost. The insurance company can play the averages game but many consumers cannot or don't want to play that game and they are willing to pay a premium for the certainty. This is especially true as it relates to health care where a catastrophic illness can cost over $1 MM.

But when it comes to home appliances and other systems what is the worst thing that can happen? Maybe you need a new air conditioner or a refrigerator that might cost you a couple of thousand dollars. So for people who can handle that type of expense out of the blue, there is no need for them to buy an insurance policy - they basically "self-insure" from their own savings. But if a new air conditioner would break the bank then you might want to consider getting a home warranty.

How To Beat The Home Warranty Companies At The Averages

There is one advantage that the homebuyer has over the home warranty companies. They know more about what is being insured than the warranty company does and this asymmetrical information allows them to make a better decision about when to buy the warranty than the companies can make about when to sell the warranty. In fact, the companies will pretty much sell a policy on any property to any buyer because they just can't afford to inspect every home before issuing a policy. But a buyer is going to be more likely to buy a policy when they can see that a home has been poorly maintained - e.g. a trashed short sale - and is, therefore, more likely to develop problems. That's what I did when I bought my short sale. I bought a policy from Home Warranty.

This asymmetrical information leads to a problem for the warranty companies called adverse selection - the tendency of these companies to get stuck with bad deals. Consequently, they have to raise their prices to offset this bias, which means that anyone who buys such a warranty on a well-maintained property is overpaying.

Beware The Exclusions

It's important to understand what you are really buying when you get one of these home warranties. The contract is full of fine print which excludes a huge list of situations that you would reasonably expect to be covered such as:

  • Improper installation
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Whirlpool jets
  • Ejector and sump pumps
  • Doorbells associated with intercom systems
  • Alarm system repairs above $400
  • Security video equipment
  • Central vacuum cleaner repairs above $400
  • The remote components of an automatic garage door opener
  • Ice and water dispenser in a refrigerator. In fact, it's not even clear if they cover the ice maker in the standard policy. I don't think they do.

That's just a small sample of my BestWayInsurance Home Warranty contract. The entire list is enormous. But you can buy a higher cost policy that will cover some of these excluded items. Like I said...these guys are in business to make money.

Beware The Pre-Existing Condition

Just like in healthcare these home warranties have pre-existing condition clauses. When you call in a claim they will ask you a series of questions and if your answers indicate that you don't know for sure that this item ever worked properly since you owned the home then they will simply deny the claim. Now you can buy a premium plan that will cover unknown pre-existing conditions but, even then, if they somehow determine that you knew the item wasn't working when you bought the plan they will deny coverage.

Beware The Deductible

Just like in healthcare you have to pay a deductible for every claim made. On my Home Warranty contract, it's a trade call fee of $100.

The Warranty Company Does Not Guarantee All The Work Performed

This one really burned me up. The home warranty companies contract with various repair companies to actually perform the work and they will make sure that your reported problem is ultimately solved. However, apparently, and once again I can only speak from my experience with Home Warranty if the contractor's work directly or indirectly damages your home or appliance you are on your own to work out the issue with the contractor. BestWayInsurance will do nothing to help you resolve the issue other than note a complaint in their system for future reference in dealing with the contractor even if BestWayInsurance sent out an unqualified contractor in the first place.

For instance, we had a gas leak in our dryer and BestWayInsurance sent out Bender's Plumbing of Addison to fix it. They fixed the leak but after they left we discovered that the dryer was no longer venting outside. Bender's Plumbing was dispatched again to fix this problem but incredibly they decided it wasn't their problem. Reluctantly we paid an appliance repair guy $80 to fix it and he explained that when Bender's moved the dryer the vent hose disconnected and was then crushed as the dryer was moved back in place. If Bender's had known what they were doing they would have opened a panel on the front of the dryer to reconnect the hose and pull it out of the way as they slid the dryer back in place.

Bender's initially promised to send me a check for $80 but it never arrived and then they wouldn't return my phone calls. And even though BestWayInsurance should never have sent out a plumber to do an appliance repairman's work they refused to help resolve this dispute.

Your Realtor Gets A Commission For The Sale Of A Home Warranty

And this is a lesser concern because it does not involve a lot of money but your realtor does get paid a small commission to sell a home warranty. It's around $70 I think, which is such a small amount that my company rebates it back to our clients to avoid any conflict of interest however small. But you should still be aware of this because some realtors will do anything for a buck.

Plumbing Issues

 

Plumbing issues will soon be a thing of the past with these quick fixes you can do at home! Intimidated or don’t have the time? No problem, simply request service with America’s Choice Home Warranty and a couple clicks will get you fixed.

Plumbing Problem 1: Water Trickling Into the Bowl, or “Phantom Flushes”

Periodically, you may hear your toilet begin to voluntarily refill, as though someone had flushed it. Indeed, no one has, but don’t worry, your toilet isn’t haunted. A toilet that cuts on and off by itself, or runs intermittently, has a problem that plumbers call a “phantom flush.” The issue is a slow leak from the toilet tank into the bowl. This problem is almost certainly caused by a bad flapper or flapper seal. The solution is simple: drain the tank and bowl, check and clean the flapper seat and replace the flapper if it’s worn or damaged. 

Plumbing Problem 2: Water Trickling Into the Tank

Do you hear a steady hissing sound coming from your toilet? This is a result of water trickling into the tank via the supply line. First thing’s first, check the float, the ballcock or inlet-valve assembly and the refill tube. The hissing sound is typically caused by water coming through the inlet valve. First, check to see whether the float needs adjustment, or if it’s sticking. Next, check to make sure the refill tube isn’t inserted too far into the overflow tube. (It should extend only about 1/4″ below the rim of the overflow tube.) If neither of these adjustments solves the problem, you’ll probably need to replace the ballcock assembly. 

Plumbing Problem 3: The Bowl Empties Slowly

A weak flush, or a bowl that empties really, really slowly, is usually the result of clogged holes underneath the rim of the bowl. This is the easiest fix of all: use a curved piece of wire to poke gently into each flush hole to clear out any junk and bacteria. Coat-hanger wire works fine, and a small mirror will help you see under the rim. You can also use wire to loosen debris that may be blocking the siphon jet in the bottom of the drain. Be careful not to scratch the bowl, and make sure to use gloves and thoroughly wash your hands afterward.

Plumbing Problem 4: The Dreaded Clog

Clogs are definitely the most common of toilet problems. The good news is several tools can help you clear a clogged drain. A force-cup plunger is more effective for clearing minor clogs. Insert the bulb into the drain, and pump forcefully, careful not to spill waste water all over yourself or the floor. Slowly release the handle, letting a little water in so you can see whether the drain is clear. Repeat if necessary.

For serious clogs, use a closet auger. Insert the end of the auger into the drain hole, and twist the handle as you push the rotor downward. Use caution not to scratch the bowl.

Plumbing Problem 5: Leaky Seals

A standard toilet has at least five seals; each seal has the potential for leaking. The straightforward solution is to identify the faulty seal and tighten or replace it. The seal between the tank and bowl is the largest and most problematic. A break here will cause a major leak, with water shooting out from underneath the tank at every flush. Although it sounds intimidating, replacing this seal involves draining and removing the tank. First, turn the tank upside down for better access. Then, remove the old seal and pop on a new one.

The smaller seals at the mounting bolts and the base of the ballcock may also fail and cause smaller leaks. Replace these in the same way. Occasionally tightening the bolts or mounting nut is usually enough to stop the leak.

The final seal is the wax seal mounted on a plastic flange underneath the toilet base. This is a big deal because if this seal fails, water leaking underneath the toilet base will eventually rot the floor. Caulking around the base of the toilet without repairing the leak will only trap the water, making matters worse. To repair a leak around the base of the toilet, you’ll need to remove the toilet and replace the wax seal. If the leak is caused by a broken flange, request service with E-Exchanreg Home Warranty and we’ll hook you up with a professional plumber if you don’t have your own in mind.

Making Home Warranty Comparisons


 Home warranties take the hassle out of home ownership and give you peace of mind by protecting your family from unexpected and costly bills when major systems or appliances fail. However, coverage options vary widely from provider to provider and choosing the right plan can be tricky. Here is a checklist that details what to look for in a home warranty and how you can choose the provider that's right for you.

Initial Considerations

  • Make a list of all your appliances and systems. Determine which ones are critical to your family's needs, are costly to repair or replace or are at risk of breaking down.
  • Home warranties are designed to fill in the gaps left by homeowners' insurance, but there is potential, however small, for some overlap. Also, some of your appliances may be covered under other warranties. Check and compare these policies so that you're not paying twice for the same coverage.

Coverage

  • Verify which home warranty providers offer coverage in your area. Then narrow your search based on your priorities. Some providers offer fixed plans that cover a list of appliances or systems, some specialize in only a few specific ones, while others offer the option to customize your home warranty benefits.
  • Understand the various levels of coverage. You may find that the advanced coverage offered by one provider is equivalent to the standard coverage offered by another.
  • Take note of the pre-conditions and limitations to any coverage under consideration. Many plans won't cover appliances or systems with pre-existing conditions or costs that arise from improper installation or maintenance.
  • Are you planning to sell your home? Ask if the home warranty is transferable.

Cost

  • Determine the annual cost and what's included. The cost of home warranties varies significantly depending on where you live, the kind of home you live in and what you choose to cover. Some plans include additional services, while others have a more scaled-down offering.
  • Ask about service fees or deductibles. Home warranties take care of much of the heavy lifting when it comes to repairing costs, but there still may be additional fees, such as one for each home visit if something breaks down. Compare any added costs.
  • Establish whether there are limits on the maximum amount a provider will pay for repairs.

Service

  • Easy access to a service network is one of the biggest home warranty benefits. With just one phone call, you can schedule a home visit for a wide range of maintenance issues. Investigate how many in-network contractors service your area and make sure there are a variety of specialties represented.
  • Inquire about the provider's screening process and selection criteria for their contractors.
  • With some companies, the service provider may be different from the company selling you the home warranty. Make sure you can find contact information for the company that will ultimately be servicing your warranty.
  • Ask about the provider's service level agreements, average response time and claims process. Many providers offer the convenient option of requesting service and filing a claim online, but it's also good to know that you can reach a representative when you need one. Compare the level of follow-up documentation each company may require.

Reputation

  • Check out consumer ratings and reviews to learn about other customers' experiences. You want to make sure you choose a reputable provider.
  • Peruse a company's social media and online presence to help confirm its legitimacy and level of consumer focus. Is this a company that places the customer first?
  • Verify that the home warranty providers you're considering are properly licensed if you reside in a state that requires it. These requirements vary by state.

6 Holiday Headaches You Can Control with Home Warranty

The holidays can be both joyous and stressful. With a home warranty, unexpected repairs can be fixed by reliable technicians. Save yourself a headache!

While many of us look forward to the holiday season all year, it can also be a time of great stress. In between all that cookie-baking and gift-buying, it can be challenging to get someone to fix your broken dishwasher or HVAC system. Fortunately, there’s a solution for any unexpected breakdowns that might put a damper on your holiday spirit: a home warranty plan.

home warranty is an excellent way to protect your home from unforeseen and unexpected expenses. The Home Warranty Plan is a one-year service contract for the repair or replacement of covered home system components and appliances that typically break down over time.

Take a look at these five common holiday season headaches that can be easily managed with an Home Warranty Plan.

1. Finding reliable help around the holidays

It can be just as challenging to find reliable home-repair help during the busy holiday season as it is to get that Thanksgiving turkey just right. With a home warranty plan, you’ll have access to industry-leading expertise 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. BestWayInsurance will find the right licensed personnel and eliminate the need for you to locate qualified help during the busy days leading up to and during the holidays.

2.Unforeseen expenses 

Repairing something as major as your home heating system could cost you thousands of dollars. Such a huge expense can be stressful at a time when you’re already spending money on gifts, food, decorations and other miscellaneous holiday expenses. But with a home warranty, you’ll only need to pay the monthly fee along with a trade service call fee, which is a fixed amount that's easy to plan for.

3. Dealing with insurance companies

With a warranty plan, you can skip the whole process of filing claims and deal with insurance, and spend that precious time shopping, wrapping gifts, cooking delicious meals, or decorating your home with family and friends.

4. Playing host with a broken appliance

A broken dishwasher or refrigerator can really put a damper on your holiday festivities. A home warranty plan offers an expedited repair process on covered items. You no longer have to worry about a crisis caused by appliance or system breakdowns at a time when your house is swarming with guests.

5. Paying the full cost of repair or replacement

In the event of a breakdown, insurance usually reimburses the value of the item minus depreciation. This means you will not be reimbursed the full amount paid at the time of purchase. With a warranty plan, you won’t have to pay for the actual repair or replacement of covered items, and your contract will cover repair or replacement of covered items regardless of age, make or model.

6. Not enough time to coordinate home repairs

Finding reliable help that suits your budget, following up and replacing parts all involve a considerable time investment. Since the costs associated with repair and replacement are so high, it is not possible to skimp on the research and effort needed to get a satisfactory solution. A warranty plan will save you time when you need it the most this busy holiday season.

Do Home Warranties Cover Plumbing?

Let’s face it; plumbing issues stink! Plumbing is one of those home systems we tend not to appreciate until there’s a problem with it. They can occur without any warning making for an unpleasant surprise that you have no choice but to address immediately.

Plumbing problems aren’t just unpleasant; they can also be expensive. Not only does the issue itself needs to be remedied, but also leaked water can cause several residual issues such as floorboard rot, drywall damage and mold, among others.

Related: A Guide To Leaks, Clogs, And Other Plumbing Issues You Can Fix

The average cost to hire a plumber for a typical job ranges from $160 to $430. Plus, plumbers often charge an additional premium to come out on evenings or weekends. The cost of parts for the repair can vary widely, especially in older homes where replacement pieces are harder to find.

What Do Home Warranties Cover?

If you’ve been asking yourself whether you should invest in a home warranty, the first step is to look at what’s covered under the warranty. Each plan is different and coverage can vary.

BestWayInsurance Home Warranty plan covers the costs of repairing or replacing more than 20 major appliances and home systems, including plumbing. There are flexible plans that allow you to choose the best fit for your family’s needs and you can even build your own custom plan so you have the exact coverage you want.

Do Home Warranties Cover Plumbing?

Generally speaking, home warranties do cover plumbing when issues result from normal wear and tear. Not every plan is created equally, though, so it’s important to look at what exactly is covered, especially if you already have a contract. Some of the common plumbing troubles covered by AHS include:

  • Leaks and breaks in the water, gas, drain or vent lines
  • Faucets, shower heads, and shower valves
  • Built-in bathtub whirlpool motors, pumps, and air switches
  • Clearing sink, tub, shower and toilet stoppages

Be sure to check the yor contract for more details.

Give Yourself Peace of Mind

Unfortunately, plumbing issues are inevitable in any home. Since the best plan is to be prepared, you can ease your stress by giving yourself the gift of an American Home Shield plan.

Do You know What a Home Warranty is?

A home warranty is often a feature in the sale of a home.  In that scenario, the seller typically pays a few hundred dollars for a one-year warranty covering the home’s major fixtures such as the furnace, water heater and kitchen appliances.  This gives the buyer some protection during that first year of ownership knowing that if something major breaks down it will be covered.  Many homeowners choose to continue paying an annual premium rather than risk-bearing the full replacement cost of a major item.

Although technically not insurance, warranties are very similar in that the homeowner is paying an up-front fee to protect against a potentially huge replacement cost.  If nothing breaks during the coverage period, the customer may in hindsight feel the fee was a waste of money, but that’s what managing risk is all about.  Are you financially prepared to replace major components as they are needed, or would you rather pay a set amount per year whether something breaks or not?

One important difference between insurance and a warranty is that the homeowner must go through the warranty company to arrange for service, and this can be another point where a customer might be dissatisfied.  Home warranty companies establish relationships with service providers in the areas for which they provide coverage.  So whether customers are satisfied with the warranty company depends in large part on whether they are satisfied with the repairmen whom the warranty company has hired.

Even though home warranties aren’t considered insurance, the companies that sell them are typically regulated by each state’s department of insurance. According to the Service Contract Industry Council, 32 states require home warranty companies to register or obtain a license with that state’s department of insurance. This state agency is responsible for licensing the entity, examines the company for compliance of applicable laws regarding home warranty services and monitors the financial condition of the company for the protection of their clients.

What’s covered?

Most home warranty companies offer a variety of plans, each providing different levels of coverage, so be sure to read the details of any contract before buying. Even if you choose to renew the contract from year-to-year, double-check the details of your plan because coverage can change annually. Here is a general idea of what a homeowner can expect to find in each tier of service:

BASIC COVERAGE

  • Plumbing systems
  • Range/oven
  • Dishwasher
  • Garbage disposal
  • Exhaust fans
  • Sump pump
  • Water heater
  • Ceiling fans
  • Heating and electrical system components
  • Built-in microwave
  • Whirlpool tub

ENHANCED COVERAGE

  • A/C
  • Washer/dryer
  • Refrigerator
  • Garage door opener

OPTIONAL ITEMS

  • Pool
  • Spa
  • Well pump
  • Septic system
  • Standalone freezer
  • Central vacuum

For newly constructed homes

Many states require that all home builders and contractors warranty their work on a newly constructed home.

This provides the homeowner with the assurance that should any major defects or repairs become necessary within its new home for various time periods up to ten years following construction that is not the fault of damage or negligence by the homeowner then the repairs or replacements necessary will be covered.

The workmanship of the home construction, materials used and performance of major systems such as the plumbing, electrical and HVAC are all covered under these types of home warranty services. This includes the overall integrity of the structure. Each state monitors the specific requirements in these situations.

For pre-existing home purchases

When buying a pre-existing home, buyers can choose to purchase home warranty coverage. This will provide them with coverage against for repair or replacement costs that they may incur with existing mechanical systems or appliances in their new home within a specific time frame following the purchase date. Major mechanical systems that are covered include plumbing, electrical, heating, and air.

For seller solutions

Homeowners that are trying to sell their homes may want to consider the benefits of offering a home warranty on their home. The seller can choose to pay for the home warranty coverage on his or her own or ask that the buyer pay for a specified portion of the cost. By including a home warranty option on their home, homeowners can get the maximum selling price for their home, be relieved of further obligations should repairs or replacements become necessary after the final purchase is completed and interest buyers in a tough market. Home warranties can be purchased through independent home warranty companies of the seller or buyer’s choice or through the real estate agent that will handle the paperwork with the home warranty company for the parties.

What do home warranties cost?

The average cost of a basic coverage plan ranges from $350 to $500 a year, with the cost of an enhanced plan adding $100 to $300. Prices reflect not only coverage but also a company’s loss history, which is determined by how often an item breaks down and the cost to repair it. Some home warranty companies offer additional coverage for certain items, such as a good pump or pool, for an extra fee. Regardless of the type of plan, homeowners typically pay an additional service fee ranging from $50 to $75 for each repair job.

The majority of home mortgage companies have a set price for their basic home warranty plans that they offer. The type of housing such as townhouse, condominium, single-family residential, duplex or apartment often determines the set cost of the home warranty coverage.

While detached garages are generally covered under the basic home warranty plans that are offered, most separate buildings on the premises are not. Extended home warranty plans are available at additional costs for these building structures.

Costs for home warranty plans are paid upfront before the coverage goes into effect. Some companies offer their clients the ability to make payments on their home warranty plans if it helps to secure the sale or they have a long standing with the client.

Complaints about home warranties

Among the many negative reviews submitted by Angie’s List members about warranty companies, the key complaints are: (1) Something wasn’t covered that the customer assumed was covered, and (2) although the item was “covered” there was still a service call fee that the customer didn’t expect.   Although this expectations gap can also occur with insurance policies and other purchases, home warranties may be particularly prone to it because so often they are purchased by one owner (the one preparing to sell), but used by another owner (the buyer). Most plans do require an additional service fee to be paid by the homeowner. Typically, the least expensive plans cover the least amount of items and require the highest service fees.

In order to minimize misunderstandings, experts stress the importance of reviewing and understanding a service contract before purchasing a home warranty. For example, if a certain appliance needs repaired or replaced, a homeowner should know how much money will need to be spent out of pocket.  Also, how comprehensive is the potential repair or replacement?  If one component of an appliance break but the unit needs replacing, is the warranty company responsible for replacing the unit or the component? That’s an essential question that needs to be answered. It’s also important to review at least three warranty companies, understand what it is covered and what is excluded.

 To keep from getting fooled by your contract, consider the following tips:

  • Check with your state’s department of insurance to verify if the home warranty company you’re considering is properly licensed to do business. If licensing isn’t required in your state, inquire about the company’s status with your local consumer protection agency.  If you join us you can search for home warranty companies that serve your geographic area and find out which have received positive reviews from past customers.
  • Be sure to read the fine print and ask the company any lingering questions before deciding if a home warranty service contract is right for you.
  • Tell your real estate agent about any denied claims. Oftentimes, he or she will have a relationship with the home warranty company and can make a call on your behalf.
  • Be sure to tell the home warranty company if their network contractor did a good job or not. Most keep a rating system on their contractors and disperse the work accordingly.