Having a home warranty is a smart way to help deal with the inevitable home repair problems that all property owners face at one point or another.
After all, a good home warranty can mean getting expert help when your HVAC system needs to be fixed, your water heater needs to be replaced, or your refrigerator requires a new part because it’s stopped keeping your food cold.
But unfortunately, all home warranties are not created equal. And shopping for a home warranty can be tough, especially if you aren’t familiar with home warranty coverage and providers.
So to find a home warranty that will meet your needs, and protects your home and budget, here are four important questions to ask, along with a few tips on what to look for in a top-notch home warranty.
One of the biggest differences among home warranties is in the breadth, scope and flexibility of coverage offered.
Some home warranties are only good for appliances. Those can come in handy because everyday appliances tend to have a lot of use and can break down from normal wear and tear. A home warranty might cover small appliances, major ones, or pretty much all of them.
Other home warranties focus on systems within your house, such as your air conditioning, heating or plumbing systems. The best warranties offer broad protection at a fair price, and even allow you to customize coverage, based on your needs.
When shopping around, inquire too about any non-covered expenses. Most, if not all, plans DO have non-covered expenses. For instance, an environmental disposal fee might be required in some counties, or modifications may be needed to bring a covered system up to code or in compliance with new standards.
Only you can decide what you might need, but I’ve learned that even newer home systems and modern appliances can malfunction. So it pays to be prepared for the unexpected.
Last year, my husband and I suffered what we called a total “appliance meltdown.”
Even though our home appliances were all less than 5 years old, within the space of two months our dishwasher, stove and microwave all broke down. The first two appliances had to be replaced completely and the microwave handle had to be repaired. Just last month, the microwave handle broke off completely and now needs to be replaced!
Is the price affordable?
If you wake up one day to find things have gone awry in your home – perhaps your bathroom is flooded, or maybe your toilet or shower aren’t working at all – you’ll probably need to call a plumber. And that’s when you will be relieved if you have a home warranty in force.
Obviously, you’ll want to initially know the specifics of how much a warranty will cost you – not just for the annual price of coverage, but also for future service calls.
With American Home Shield’s, warranty, you’ll pay a pre-determined service fee of $75, $100 or $125 anytime you file a claim. As with all home warranty companies, the upfront price of an American Home Shield warranty plan varies based on multiple factors, including the specific type of plan you choose and your state of residency. But basic coverage starts at about $300 and goes up to around $600 annually for more comprehensive plans.
That’s a bargain considering the cost of replacing things in your house that will likely break down at some point. For example, if you DON’T have a home warranty, here is roughly what you can expect to shell out to replace the following items:
- $4,000 to replace an AC System
- $4,580 to replace your Heating System
- $840 to replace a Single Appliance
When considering cost factors, also ask if all the items you want covered are included in the base cost of the plan, or whether will you need to add additional items to create the perfect plan for your home.
How easy is the company to do business with?
In the home warranty business, company size, the quality of the contractor network, and the history of the business all matter.
You should be able to talk with a customer service representative 24/7 and not just during weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm. After all, you never know when a home system breakdown may strike on a weekend or an evening.
Additionally, look for a company that’s been around for a while, and that has served millions of customers — not a new “dot com” company that has a fancy website, and sounds too good to be true.
It’s a big plus, too, if the home warranty provider has sample copies of their contracts available online for you to review. That way, you get to take your time, and read and fully digest all the contract fine print without any sales pressure.
Does the home warranty cover cosmetic components or just mechanical components?
Before you buy any home warranty, inquire about the extent of coverage different companies may provide based on normal wear and tear of an item.
American Home Shield covers both cosmetic and mechanical repairs. Certain other home warranty companies DO NOT cover cosmetic things like handles, doors, knobs, and shelves.
But does that mean all breakdowns are automatically covered by AHS? No.
It’s important to understand not just the benefits, but also the limits of any home warranty.
American Home Shield covers major system components and appliances for repair or replacement when they break down due to normal wear and tear.
So let’s say your child stands on your dishwasher door and breaks the seal. Sorry, but that is NOT a covered repair, because it is not “normal” wear and tear.
Also, what happens if a repairperson comes to your home and, despite his or her best efforts, they simply can’t fix something that was covered under your home warranty?
At AHS, they guarantee that if they can’t fix a covered appliance, they’ll replace it.
That guarantee doesn’t mean they’ll give you the precise brand and color of, say, a washing machine or dryer. After all, you may have bought your laundry set four years ago, and the manufacturer might not even make those exact same models today.
However, if your washer and dryer do fizzle out completely, AHS does guarantee that they’ll install a replacement that has similar features, capacity and efficiency.
What’s more, at American Home Shield, 99% of service requests are dispatched to local repair technicians within 24 hours.
Using Your Home Warranty Wisely
Regardless of the type of warranty you buy, always follow the maintenance guidelines specified for your home’s appliances and systems. Likewise, it’s a smart idea to have those systems and appliances regularly serviced.
Taking both of those steps can avoid many service repair calls and help reduce your overall cost of homeownership.
Ultimately, though, you should look at an excellent home warranty as providing you with a solid financial safety net.
It’s a form of protection that helps safeguard one of your biggest investments, and it can keep you from dealing with major unexpected home repairs too.