If you want your home kept in tip-top shape, you’re going to have to pay for it. Either you can pay in time and money to do the work of cleaning, maintaining and fixing every major system and every minor crack and crevice, or you can pay someone else to do it. Unfortunately, most homeowners can’t afford the latter option, and they lack the time and knowledge to competently perform the former. If this sounds like you, you might be in a no-man’s land of home disrepair.
If that’s the case, you might be thrilled to learn that there’s a secret third option: a home warranty. While home warranties don’t get you out of routine cleaning and maintenance, they do help you avoid having to deal with surprise failures of the major systems around your home. If this sounds appealing to you, read on to find out more.
What Home Warranties Cover
Many people conflate home warranties with homeowners’ insurance and thus choose to forego a warranty believing that they are already covered. However, in truth, warranties and insurance cover very different parts of your home. Imagine that your water heater is old, and one day, it breaks, flooding your basement. Your homeowners’ insurance will help you pay to clean up the water and repair anything damaged by the flood, but it won’t help you pay the cost of a new water heater. For that, you need a home warranty.
Specifically, home warranties cover the major systems around your home against problems that occur from general wear and tear. On a standard home warranty policy, you will find coverage of:
- Central air conditioning
- Central heating
- Large kitchen appliances
- Clothes washer and dryer
- Water heater
- Plumbing system
- Electrical system
- Roof leaks
Most plans allow you to add on coverage for other features of your home, such as sump pumps, swimming pools and spas and additional large appliances.
How Much Home Warranties Cost
When you buy your home, it is customary for the seller to offer you at least one year of free home warranty, as a show of good faith that the home isn’t about to fall apart. However, you can (and probably should) renew that policy or at least find a policy from another warranty provider that better suits your needs.
Your precise home warranty cost will depend on factors like your provider, your location, the size of your home and what systems you need coverage for. Generally, standard warranty plans cost between $300 and $600 per year, and enhancements to your coverage can add between $100 and $500 per year. You can pay monthly, but you can usually pay in full at the beginning of the cycle and gain a discount in price.
How Home Warranties Work
So you acquired a home warranty — now what? How do you take full advantage of your coverage and avoid the maintenance meltdowns around your home? It’s simple: Whenever one of your covered home systems or appliances breaks down or shows signs of disrepair, you contact your home warranty provider.
They will send a qualified service provider to your home to diagnose the issue and make any necessary repairs. If something needs replacing, the warranty company will provide you a certain amount of money for that, as well, as dictated by your plan. The call isn’t free; you will pay a small service call fee, between $65 and $120 depending on your provider, but that’s it — any additional service or parts needed to repair your system is covered by your warranty.
However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to care for your covered systems whatsoever. In fact, most warranty providers do not apply coverage to systems that lack evidence of routine maintenance. You do need to do the bare minimum to keep your systems up and running to ensure your warranty remains in effect. Some examples of basic care include:
- Cleaning. Wipe down surfaces, sweep away dust and generally keep a tidy home, especially around your covered systems, like your major kitchen appliances.
- Changing filters. Most systems that deal with water or air have filters that trap debris. These filters need to be cleaned or replaced quarterly.
- Testing systems. Things you don’t use often or for long stretches, like a bathroom in a guest suite, should be tested twice a year to ensure they run properly.
- Inspecting. Finally, you should constantly be looking for signs of damage due to wear and tear, especially among systems you don’t often see or use, like the roof.
A home warranty is a perfect middle ground between caring for your home and having the resources to hire professionals to make necessary repairs. Instead of wasting your time and energy — and worse, your money — on bad fixes, you should just invest in a home warranty to keep your house functioning properly.