We own a home as do millions of people, it is our pride and joy, and anything that goes wrong with our pride and joy can be downright depressing. So what steps can we as home owners take to insure our pride and joy stays our pride and joy for years to come? Home warranties; do we need them, can we afford one, can we afford not to have one?
When we purchased our home, in our offer to buy, we asked that the seller provide a home warranty. They provided one, and the cost of it fell under the seller’s closing cost, we received a warranty that was good for one year, beginning from the day of closing; renewable upon our request a year hence. The warranty company did not come out and inspect the home or ask for the ages or working condition of any of the appliances or heating/air conditioning unit. The policy was issued, and we where given a policy describing what was, and what was not covered, and the conditions that where required to receive warranty work from the company.
When we became serious about buying the home we live in, we enlisted the help of a home inspector. Home inspections are a must in my opinion when buying a home, first home or your Tenth home, an inspection is a must. Inspections will not guarantee something will not break down in six months or a year, but having a home warranty will get you through the very expensive problems that can arise from owning a home. Home inspections are a great tool, but as with anything they do not have insight into the future. Keep in mind when buying a pre-owned home; what works well today may be a different matter tomorrow. Newly built homes usually have a builders warranty, but be sure and ask, and read the fine print.
We tossed around the idea of renewing the warranty when the year was up,we decided it was well worth it, it is a simple process, and it cost us roughly Six Hundred dollars for the next year renewal. Payments monthly are allowed, this is much easier than paying the year up front, fees to be deducted automatically from our account on a certain day every month. We bought the house in the spring, so renewal was in the spring, things were going fine until about the middle of August, the electric bill was creeping up there, the AC unit seemed to be running a lot. We dug out the warranty policy, our co-pay to start the process of having a technician come out was Sixty Dollars. We put a call into the warranty company and requested a technician come out. Warranty companies have contracts with certain repair companies in all areas of the country, these repair companies work for the warranty company and do service calls on homes that have that particular warranty company’s’ contract.
This may or may not be a downfall, but the homeowner has no say in who the warranty company sends out. This was OK with us, as with many people we have many repair companies in the area and we are not married to one company so to speak because, having the AC or heat guy out daily is not something that one does, so we really didn’t know one from the other. As it turned out they were an excellent company, that had no problem with me following them around to get an idea of what was wrong with the unit, it turned out we had a freon leak in the unit. A repair could not be made it was decided by the repair company. It was the estimation of the repair company that a new unit would need to be installed. The final decision of course had to be made by the warranty company, and I was told to be sure and read my policy, because in many cases, work may be done to insure the new units compatibility with my house, and some of that work may not be covered.
So this is where we started having doubts; wouldn’t you? We have a policy that states certain things and now my unit is broken, no Air Conditioning. Am I over a barrel now? As it turns out I was not, but I needed to ask certain questions and get assurances from the repair company on what specifically will be done, and what is not covered. I had to of course pay the $60 dollar service call fee. Measurements where taken and a new unit was ordered; keep in mind older units may have a different size than the new one, so retro fitting can require some modifications; modifications that may not be covered under the warranty. Again I had this little flutter, oh boy what have I gotten myself into here. As it turned out the modifications where minor and compared to the overall cost of the unit, very small. It still cost $250.00 dollars, they had some upgrades, and small modifications that where not covered. These things where discussed in the warranty policy, but not in my opinion spelled out as clear as I would have liked.
It is important that before you have a major repair bill looming that you know the facts, read all the fine print before the AC is wheezing its last breath. Some things are simply not covered in a home warranty. There are things you can add, for instance a hot tub, or swimming pool, all at additional costs. For the standard policy, most inside the home appliances are covered; including refrigerators, stoves and built in micro-waves, check your policy closely for exact appliances. This does not include televisions, phones or stereos, and the like. The warranty company will always try to repair before replacing, and when replacing it is usually replaced with one very similar to the one you have, I was told if a dryer for instance went out and replacement was needed, I could chip in for the additional cost of upgrading. If you don’t like your dryer now and it fails you, and needs to be replaced you can add your own money to get a better one than what the warranty company will allow.
Be careful, it may state the appliance is covered under the warranty, but in the fine print it may be noted that if the repair company decides that it failed do to you the homeowners’ obvious neglect, you may not be covered. Do all of the owner maintenance that you can, usually the manuals will tell you what you can and cannot do. You can vacuum the dust off of the refrigerator condenser, keep filters cleaned and or replaced. Do what you can to maintain your home and the things in it, there will come a time when something breaks down, the AC never breaks in the winter, and the heat never goes down in the summer.