Real Estate Information

Home Warranties: Are They Too Good To Be True?


What is a 'Home Warranty?'

A home warranty is like an insurance policy. In fact, in some states the Insurance Commission may even regulate them. I know in Texas, the Real Estate Commission regulates these companies.Basically as a homeowner you pay a company a few hundred dollars a year to cover the major appliances and components of your home. If something should go wrong, you call them up and they send a technician out to size up the situation and tell you if you're covered or not.

Is this too good to be true?

Problems for some consumers usually arise when they have a claim. They may have paid their dues each and every year and believed everything in their home was covered. Then one day in August the A/C goes out and they call the Home Warranty Company who sends a tech out to look at the A/C. "Yep" he says "Your A/C equipment is shot, you're going need a new one." "Good thing I have this warranty" you think. You may soon find out that your warranty will not cover a new A/C because you failed to have it "serviced" each year or because the service tech says the reason it went out was because of a "Pre-existing" condition.

I've seen claims denied for very questionable reasons. Stop and think about it, if they can deny a claim, then that's money in their pocket. Someplace in that fine print I keep telling you to read there is a whole bunch of "we won't warranty it 'if's'." The Technician who comes to your home may be the one who'll decide whether or not the work will be covered by the warranty. In some instances, these third party contractors who are hired by the warranty companies do not make as much on repairs and replacements on a claim as if you just called them up out of the phonebook. It pays to get several opinions before making a decision.

Here are a few reasons I've seen Home Warranty Companies deny claims

Lack of regular maintenance
Pre-Existing conditions
Questionable 'Code' issues
Components not installed per the manufacturers installation instructions

The best way to protect yourself if you plan on purchasing one of these policies is to call the Company and ask them which service provider they use in your area. Then call that service provider and schedule an inspection with them to come out and look at the systems and components in your home to ensure the Home Warranty Policy will cover it. Get it in writing if they says everything will be covered.

You also want to make sure what the Home Warranty will cover and what it doesn't. I've never seen a policy with blanket coverage so don't assume it will 'cover everything in the home' like some real estate agents tell you. Read the fine print!

What are my options if my warranty company denies my claim?

I'm betting that most states regulate these companies some how. Check with your states Attorney Generals Office. They should have all the information you need. You may even be able to file a complaint with the AG's office of your state if you've had a denial of a claim in which you feel is legitimate.

Good Luck and read the fine print on those contracts!

Donald Lawson is a Professional Real Estate Inspector licensed in Texas (#5824) and Oklahoma (#454). He currently owns and operates V.I.P. Home Inspections, a multi-inspector firm in Houston Texas. You can find out more about home warranty's on his website at http://www.best2inspect.com


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