Will a Home Warranty Help Your House Sell

Give yourself a marketplace edge by offering buyers peace of mind.

Which home would you rather buy? One that offers you no protection if the furnace, air conditioner, dishwasher, plumbing or garage door opener go kaput, or one with a home warranty that gets the problem fixed for less than $100?

Most buyers would select door No. 2, so it's easy to see why many sellers are making a home warranty part of the deal. It's almost standard in some markets, according to industry experts.

Offering buyers guaranteed, low-cost repairs is especially valuable in a slow housing market. In some cases the warranty will give you an edge over other properties; in other cases home warranties are expected, and not offering one might cause buyers to reject your home outright.

"It's one more benefit that the seller can offer," said Kathy Aymard, manager of the Annapolis, Md., office of Prudential Carruthers REALTORS®, which is affiliated with RealEstate.com. Home warranty coverage costs a few hundred dollars, but what you're offering buyers is peace of mind for their first year in the home.

"Most buyers don't have a whole lot of extra cash when they get in the house" after coming up with a down payment and paying for a move, Aymard said. Under a home warranty, repairs are covered, with the new owner paying a small deductible - generally $30 to $75, depending on the policy.

A good listing agent should suggest offering a warranty, Aymard said. Her office considers it so important that its listing services include providing a warranty.

She cautioned that home warranties won't cover pre-existing conditions. In other words, a seller who knows he has a plumbing leak and buys a warranty with the intention of having it fixed under the policy, she said. Likewise, a problem caught during the pre-sale inspection should be repaired before closing.

Indeed, the offer of a home warranty does not mean that a buyer should forego a home inspection. Although the buyer bears the cost of the inspection, it's critical to have a qualified home-inspection specialist give the home a thorough once over before you sign on the dotted line at closing.

Keep in mind that purchasing a home warranty for the buyer doesn't get you off the hook for making repairs before putting your home on the market. You'll still need to patch and clean and paint and do whatever you can to get your home in showcase condition.

However, sellers can purchase a home warranty while the home is on the market to protect themselves against unexpected repair costs, then transfer the warranty to the buyer. Several companies offer home warranties. Ask your real estate professional for recommendations if he or she doesn't suggest the warranty as part of their services.

"I don't know that a warranty by itself sells a house, but a warranty is a benefit" to the buyer, Aymard said, noting, "If the seller's not offering it, the buyer ought to get it anyway."

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