Do your homework on home warranties

Home sellers hoping to close a deal sometimes agree to purchase home warranties to give their buyers peace of mind.

Prospective homeowners, however, should do their homework to make sure the policies, which typically cover the major mechanicals and appliances in a home for one year after the sale, will actually help, say consumer protection experts.

The warranties range in price from $350 to $800. If purchased from reputable companies, they can help homeowners deal with broken appliances, malfunctioning air conditioning and other problems, the experts say. The policies usually call for homeowners to contact the service company when something breaks. The company then sends out a repair person who provides an evaluation for a set fee, usually about $65. Once a professional has determined what the problem is, the warranty company pays for the broken item to be repaired or replaced.

Often, homeowners dislike transferring that decision-making power to a third party, said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. Users of home warranty or home service companies have been the least satisfied group of reviewers on the sit.