A: Thanks for your question and thank you for watching Ilyce’s YouTube channel, ExpertRealEstateTips.
First, there are two kinds of home warranties: existing home warranties (which is what you’re talking about) and new home warranties, that are provided by either the builder or the manufacturer of products used to build new homes, like roofing materials.
There are several companies that sell existing home warranties. Many of Sam’s real estate clients have purchased (or received) home warranties for properties, and most of the companies offer similar plans.
Home warranties are contracts that cover the repair or replacement of a home’s mechanical systems and appliances. The basic plan typically covers, at a minimum, the electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling systems in a home, along with many appliances. All of these companies add and subtract items from the list of things they cover so you’d need to make sure that you buy the right coverage for your circumstances. However, most home warranty companies also allow you to add coverage for additional items.
Some warranties will give you a “workmanship guarantee” of a specific period of days, so if the refrigerator stops working and you pay for a service call, and then it stops working 30 days later, you won’t have to pay another service fee to fix the same problem.
For example, if you pick a plan, the optional coverages may include additional refrigerators, wine refrigerators or freezers, pools and spas, septic systems, well pumps, and other appliances and home systems. The optional coverages will have specific costs for each additional item that gets added to the plan. You may also encounter several levels of coverage (such as platinum, gold or silver) that will bundle coverages together. Be sure to read the fine print so you know what’s covered specifically under each plan.
Keep in mind that home warranties generally last for one year, and you’ll pay around $500 to $650 for a home warranty plan. But the home warranty will cover only items that are in working order on the date of closing (or a date that has been agreed to). They won’t fix something that’s broken (or nearly broken) at closing. So, if you buy a home and the washing machine is on its very last legs or is already broken, you can’t buy a home warranty plan and then expect them to replace the machine the week after closing.
These plans have a service fee or deductible for any service call you make. Depending on the plan you pick, expect to pay a deductible or service call charge that typically runs between $75 and $125 per call.
Let’s say you decide to buy a home warranty with a cost of $600 and a $100 deductible or service call fee. On your first call, you’d already be out $700, but you’d have peace of mind knowing there is someone to call for help, which many homeowners welcome as a service. (Home warranties started as a service to make home buyers feel more comfortable that their home purchase wouldn’t be a money pit, but often continue to extend their warranties as the years go on.)
Interestingly, for those buying a home, some home warranty plans now cover the cost of having a locksmith out to rekey locks. With this rekey benefit, at least you’ll know that your new home will have new keys and have a benefit from the home warranty from Day 1.
Although we frequently get asked, we don’t recommend individual companies or service providers. But you can ask your real estate agent for the names of companies that operate in your area, price out their offerings, compare deductibles, read the fine print and then decide which plan is right for you.
Before you whip out your credit card, be sure to read some reviews about these companies, look up the complaints about them online, check out their service records and find out how long they have been in business. All home warranty companies that do business in your state should be registered and, at a minimum, their registrations and any licenses that are required should be current. When we research a company, we always pay close attention to negative reviews and try to see if there’s a pattern indicating potential trouble.
If you’re looking for the names of companies, you can use your favorite Internet search engine and simply type “home warranty companies.” You’ll be able to find information and comparisons of various companies and their product offerings.
Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (Fourth Edition). She is also the chief executive of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them through her website, bestmoneymoves.com.
Read more in Real Estate: