Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Aug. 6, 2020

Do You Know the Difference Between Being Pre-Approved and Pre-Qualified?

Unfortunately, this happens all too often, a potential buyer is ready to start looking for houses and has no idea if they should get pre-approved or just pre-qualified. While both are wonderful options, for different reasons, not understanding the difference between the two could be the difference in an accepted offer on your dream home or being disregarded all together. Both pretty similar to one another, it is crucial (especially in the current seller’s market) that you know the difference between these processes BEFORE you start your journey in looking for a new home.

Pre-Qualify

In order to get pre-qualified, you’ll need the following:

  • Current Income Amount

  • Current Total Debt

  • All Assets

What does pre-qualification mean? It is an estimate, typically given to you by a bank or credit union, of how much you could be approved for regarding a home loan. If you’re interested in getting pre-qualified, it is very simple. Log into almost any bank or credit union website and fill out a quick application/questionnaire. Once you have submitted all of your answers, they’ll run the data and let you know the amount you qualify for. This is a wonderful step for first-time home buyers, especially, since they often go into the process unknowing of a price range to keep in mind, as well as very little equity built up.

It’s important to remember that the number you are given is entirely an estimate based off of the information that you’ve provided. There are no documents required no background checks done in the pre-qualification process. However, there is no harm in getting pre-qualified because it is completely free and doesn’t take a hit on your credit score!

Pre-Approve

In order to get pre-approved, you’ll need the following:

  • Employment Status

  • Proof of Income

  • Proof of Current Debts

  • Proof of All Assets

  • Credit History

  • Estimated Amount for a Down Payment

What does pre-approval mean? It is an official amount that the bank has approved you for in order to take out a home loan. Once you get your pre-approval, you’ll know exactly how much you’ll be able to afford. The good news is that getting pre-approved is also an easy process! You can choose to do this online, over the phone, or in person with the bank or with your mortgage broker. Once you’ve been approved by any of the above, you’ll get official documentation saying just how much you’ve been approved for. Then your home search can begin!

Added bonuses for being pre-approved:

  • It will make your search so much easier knowing exactly what price range you’re in.

  • More negotiation power when negotiating with the seller.

  • A faster and easier close!

Is One Better Than the Other?

To put it bluntly- yes. While deciding to get pre-qualified has its benefits, it is absolutely necessary to get a pre-approval before you start making offers on homes. To take it one step further, most experienced realtors won’t offer to start looking at homes for you until you show them your pre-approval. This is because anything other than that approval is just an estimate and the vast majority of sellers and listing agents won’t even consider an offer unless it comes with a pre-approval for the offered amount. This is especially true in today’s market where, in most price ranges, the seller has most of the power. If you are only pre-qualified for an amount, there is a very slim chance that your offer will get looked at, much less considered.

Which Option Best Suites Your Needs?

There are some instances in which only getting pre-qualified is the best option for you.

  • If you are considering buying a home but aren’t yet convinced it’s the right time, pre-qualifying is probably your best option. Pre-approvals only last for 90 days and they do take a slight one-time hit on your credit score (don’t worry, it’s only a couple of points). So, if you’re more or less just curious what you could afford, it’s probably best to wait on getting pre-approved.

  • If you are serious about buying a house and are looking to close within a couple of months from starting your search then the answer is very simple: you need to be pre-approved. Again, especially in the current housing market, your offer is as good a nulled without that pre-approval. The market is hot and offers are being accepted within 24 hours of houses hitting the market, so don’t get left behind!

Whether you’re just looking to get pre-qualified or you’re ready to get pre-approved and start making offers, I am ready to assist you every step of the way!

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

Posted in Home Buyers
July 30, 2020

Is a Fence RIght For Your Berks County Home?

Since many home owners in Berks County spend more time at home, they've been taking advantage of this time to make improvements to their property. A good solid fence can add value to your home and protection for your family. Whether you're building an all-new fence or replacing an old worn-down one, it can be expensive. So before you call up a fencing contractor or get the supplies to build your own, it's a good idea to consider what you need in a fence. It it privacy, looks, protection, or all of the above?

Here are a few pros and cons of building a fence to help you decide what you need, or if you even need a fence at all.

PROS

Privacy

Now more than ever, having a private place to play and relax is essential for home owners in Berks County. Having a proper privacy fence will give you protection from prying eyes. Having a fence not only reduces the disturbance to your neighbors, but to your family as they play in the pool, garden, sunbathe, etc. Most privacy fences are made from hard woods that can be stained and, depending on the skills of the builders, can add a great deal of appeal to your property.

Safety

Safety is another key reason people decide to fence their yard. If you have a swimming pool, it's especially essential to have a fence that will protect your family. It's also a great way to keep out the critters you don't want in your yard, as well as letting your dog run free.

Noise Reduction

If you live near a busy street, noise may be an issue. An 8 ft high solid fence can reduce noise by up to 10 decibels. Acoustifenc is a product that has been used to reduce sound along highways and mass transit lines. You can now use it in residential settings, and it's reported to reduce noise by up to 5 percent, depending on fence height, elevations and noise frequencies.

Design Element

As already noted, you can add quite a bit of value and appeal with a fence that's expertly crafted. Even a simple picket fence can add style and charm to your property, as well as define the property boundary.

CONS

Maintenance

If you maintain your fence, it will be able to keep it's appeal for years. On the other hand, if you get laxed on taking care of it, a fence will naturally deteriorate over the years. This is particularly the case with wood fences, as they require occasional cleaning, staining, sealing or painting and can warp and rot over time.

Expense

Fencing an an entire property, or even part of one, is expensive. The price can vary a great deal depending on materials and length, number of gates, and labor. A wooden privacy fence now averages $17.31 to $23.13 per linear foot – that’s $2,596.50 to $3,469.50 for a 150-foot-long fence.

When determining whether to build a fence or not, it is important to weigh the pros and cons. Typically, the pros will outweigh the cons.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

July 23, 2020

Should You Do Your Own Electrical and Plumbing?

Since the pandemic started, more people are spending time at home, and as such, home improvement projects are becoming more of a thing with homeowners in Berks County. Not only are homeowners interested in raising their property value, but for their own comfort and enjoyment.

If you plan on remodeling your home on your own, you need to think about the electrical and plumbing in your home. It's one thing to watch YouTube videos about how to lay tile, but it's quite another thing to work on electrical and plumbing.

Assessing the risks

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that working on electrical systems is dangerous work. In fact, electrical malfunctions are listed by the U.S. Fire Administration as one of the top causes of house fires.

There are many dangerous things that could go wrong when doing an electrical rewire, including electrocution, shock and fires. Some of your appliances run on higher voltages, which makes it more dangerous.

Another risk is if you install faulty wiring due to inexperience. It's an issue that could go undetected for years, fooling you into thinking you did the job right. And then a fire breaks out. 51,000 fires a year in the US happen this way, leaving 1.3 billion dollars in damage.

Doing electrical work is not something you can learn to do with a YouTube video. Licenced electricians complete 600 hours of instruction that cover safety, electrical circuits, and blueprint reading, followed by supervised, on-the-job training. All of that training is necessary to not only protect them, but the people that will be using the buildings that they perform electrical work in.

DIY plumbing problems

Plumbing is also not a project for beginners. Doing your own plumbing repairs runs the risk of making the problem worse. Even a simple repair gone wrong can cause serious issues. It may start out with something like a leaking pipe that eventually causes water damage. Or worse, it could be a burst pipe that is more serious. Either way, you run the risk of not only failing to take care of the original plumbing issue, but causing more problems that you’re unable to address properly

Is it legal?

If you do want to tackle your plumbing or electrical, you’ll want to make sure you know what’s required first. In both cases, you may need to obtain a permit. Make sure you call your local permit office to make sure you're following the rules.

While it may seem tempting to skip the permit process to save time and money, doing so could backfire. It may be time consuming and frustrating to get a permit, and many homeowners skip doing so as a result. Yet if you do so, it could complicate selling your home later. During the home inspection or appraisal process, homeowners may have to show that the proper permits are on file. If the lending bank learns that remodeling work was done without securing permits, it will likely not make the loan.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

July 16, 2020

Every New Home Owner in Berks County Should Have These Items

Being a new homeowner in Berks County is quite a learning experience. No matter what the project you try to tackle, it seems like there's always something that will catch you by surprise.

To take on the surprises that owning a home will offer, you need to have the right tools on hand to tackle those scenarios. By stocking your home with these following items, you'll be ready for any new challenge as a new homeowner.

Wet-Dry Vacuum

You’re gonna be spilling stuff. Look for a strong wet-dry vacuum that can handle everything from paint to nails and small stones.

(The Right) Fire Extinguisher

Most people don't realize there are more than one type if fire extinguisher. In fact, there are five different types of fire extinguishers with different uses, from extinguishing cooking oils to wood and paper. Usually you would use a Type C Fire Extinguisher for a home. Electrical fires are class C fires, and your house should be equipped with a type C fire extinguisher to combat small fires. This type of fire extinguisher puts out a fire by smothering it with carbon dioxide or by discharging a dry chemical, usually sodium bicarbonate. Check the U.S. Fire Administration’s guide to make sure you get the right one for your home.

Extension Cord Organizer

No one likes to deal with tangled cords, especially extension cords. You can save yourself time and hassle with cord management devices. You can also make your own with a pegboard, hooks, and Velcro straps to keep each cord loop secure.

Either way, your cords will be knot-free and easy to find. And be sure to include a heavy-duty extension cord in your organizer that’s outdoor-worthy. You don’t want to really have to use that fire extinguisher.

Big-Kid Tools

Odds are you already own a bunch of the basics: drill, screwdriver, hammer, level, tape measure, wrench, pliers, staple gun, utility knife, etc. But home ownership may require a few new ones you might not have needed before, including a:

  • Stud finder. You can make as many holes in the walls as you want now. Use the stud finder to figure out where to hang those heavy shelves so they’re safely anchored.
  • Hand saw. Much easier (and cheaper!) than a power saw, you can get a good cross-cut saw for smooth edges on small DIY projects.
  • Ratchet set. Every bolt in your new house belongs to you, so you’d better be able to loosen and tighten them when needed. Crank that ratchet to get to spots where you can’t turn a wrench all the way around. Great for when you’re stuck in a corner.
  • Pry bar. Get one with a clawed end to pull nails and a flat end to separate drywall, remove trim or molding, and separate tile.

Tool Kit

You’ll need something to carry all those tools around from project to project. Create a tool carrier using a tool bucket liner and an old 5-gallon bucket. Or invest in a handyman belt filled with the basics to keep on hand in the kitchen.

Confidence

With a little self-confidence — and some YouTube tutorials — there’s (almost) no DIY project you can’t master. It's your home now. It's time to take charge and take care of it.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
July 9, 2020

Stay Cool at These Top Ice Cream Restaurants in Reading

Summer is well under way in Berks County and temperatures are expected to get up into the mid 90's this next week. That means it's time to take the family out and get some cool treats to beat off the heat. Reading has a great variety of places to get frozen delights to satisfy even the pickiest kids. Plus it's a great way to help local businesses. Many of these businesses offer curbside pickup and delivery. 

Here's a list of some of the best places in Reading to get frozen treats:

Sweet Ride Ice Cream
542 Penn Ave, West Reading, PA 19611

Laid-back ice cream parlor serving scoops in varied flavors alongside soda fountain drinks. Offering curbside pickup and delivery.

Rita's Italian Ice & Frozen Custard
1124 Lancaster Ave #30, Reading, PA 19607

Italian ices & frozen custards are the feature at this counter-serve chain with a range of other cold treats. Offering curbside pickup and delivery.

Carvel
3320 N 5th Street Hwy, Reading, PA 19605

Carvel has every kind of ice cream treat you can imagine: soft ice cream, scooped flavors, toppings, shakes, sandwiches, Sundae Dashers®, take-home treats and their famous ice cream cakes. Pickup only.

Friendly's
1535 Lancaster Ave, Reading, PA 19607

Informal chain serving signature ice cream treats alongside American classics like burgers & melts. Offering takeout and delivery.

Cold Stone Creamery
2747 Papermill Rd Ste 21A, Reading, PA 19610

This popular ice cream chain offers design-your-own creations hand-mixed on a granite slab, plus shakes & more. Or you can choose from Cold Stone's own creations. Offering takeout and delivery.

Dairy Queen Grill & Chill
820 Kenhorst Plaza, Reading, PA 19607

A wide range of soft-serve ice cream & signature shakes top the menu at this classic burger & fries fast-food chain.

Have a Cool and Safe Summer in Berks County!

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

July 2, 2020

Avoid the Storage Rental Trap

Are you moving to or from Berks County and considering getting a storage unit? If you are, a good question is "why?" Are you letting logic or emotions rule your decision?

The interesting fact about the self-storage industry is that they are a $39 billion dollar industry with positive projected growth over the next five years. One big reason for this growth is that they've figured out how to play off of our emotions.

This isn't to say that using a storage unit is always a bad idea. It just depends on the reason you decide to use one. There are many reasons we choose to rent a short-term storage unit and, for some, it makes solid financial sense. There are those who don't have room in their home for things such as winter clothes and sports equipment, outdoor furniture, bikes, lawnmowers etc. So these people have figured the monthly cost of renting a unit into their budget, and justify the rental cost.

And the rest of us? We are fueling the growth of this industry. Why? We allow our emotions to affect the financial decisions we make. It’s that simple.

When many people move, they have things they just can't part with emotionally. It may be heirlooms they'll never display or give away, or things they save because they think the kids will want them someday. So they store those things, deferring making difficult emotional decisions, which ends up costing quite a bit of money over time.

Here are some stats about the US Self-Storage Industry that illustrate this:

 

 Annual industry revenue  $39 billion
 Number of storage facilities (range)  45,000-60,000
 Total rentable self-storage space.  1.7 billion square feet
 Self-storage space per person   5.4 square feet
 Percentage of households that rent a self-storage unit.   9.4 percent
 Average monthly cost for a self-storage unit.   $87.89

Think about it. Almost 10% of households in America rent a storage unit. The storage area averages about 5.4 sq feet per person and costs almost $88 per month. That's almost $1000 per year.

If you aren't careful, renting a storage unit can become a black hole. How?

Let's say you find a great deal on a storage unit, say 1 or 2 months free, and it sounds like the perfect way to keep your things safe while you move. So now you can lock your things away and move on with the move.

What most people don't realize is that when they sign the rental contract, most of them have a timed cost increase in the contract. And you agreed to it. 

So now that your things are stowed away, you, like many other people, just deal with the monthly payments and think "I'll deal with it next month." Before your know it, a year has gone by and you've dumped $1000 to store things that you may not even remember.

How can you avoid wasting money like this and avoid being a casualty of the self-storage industry?

1. Take the time to truly think through the COST of storing each item over time.
2. Set a time frame in which you agree to rent the space - 6 months or 1 year
3. Ask to see the fine print in the contract regarding automatic monthly increases
4. Ask to be informed before a monthly increase will occur
5. Create a visual and physical inventory of stored items-include measurements

So, if you are one of the families using a short-term unit, ask yourself if you are ready to make decisions to dispose of the “treasures” you have stored in the 5.4 square feet once and for all and us that $1,000.00 yearly savings elsewhere.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
June 25, 2020

What First Time Home Buyers in Berks County Should Know About Their Mortgage Payments

If you're planning to buy a home in Berks County, then you may have already realized there's a lot to learn about the process. One of the things you should learn first is what makes up your monthly mortgage payment. When you know what expenses you'll be covering each month, you'll have a better idea of how to adjust your budget and how much you can afford.

What Your Mortgage Payment Covers

Your monthly mortgage payment is made up of four parts: principal, interest, taxes and insurance (often abbreviated as “PITI”). Once you have been approved for a mortgage, your loan officer will work with you to determine the amount and terms of your loan. They will then calculate your mortgage payment based on these four components:

  1. Principal is the money you borrow to purchase the home. A portion of the principal is usually paid off with each mortgage payment and reduces the outstanding balance you own, which increases your home equity.
  2. Interest is the amount a lender charges you for borrowing the money to buy the home. Many factors determine mortgage rates, but usually the interest rates can vary according to risk. Items that affect your interest rate include credit score, down payment, loan program, loan type, property type and loan to value.
  3. Taxes are annual property taxes you pay as a homeowner to local governments to fund public services (community schools, roads, police, etc.), and are usually a percentage of the assessed property value. Before buying a house, be sure you understand what you can expect to pay for local property and county taxes.
  4. Insurance refers to your homeowner’s insurance and helps protect against financial loss from fire, natural disasters or other hazards. If you’re financing your home with a mortgage, you’ll be required to have this insurance. Also, keep in mind if you're making less than a 20 percent down payment, you'll most likely need private mortgage insurance (PMI) which protects your lender if you stop making payments on your loan. 

Keep in mind that many loan quotes will only include the principal and interest. Taxes and insurance also need to be factored into the monthly payment.

Your Escrow Account 

If you're buying your first home in Berks County, it can be overwhelming to think about all of these expenses. You can keep yourself organized and make sure you have the funds needed if you set up an escrow account. In fact, your lender may require you to have one if you're putting less than 20% down on your home.

An escrow account can be a good thing to keep your payments in order. You pay your lender 1/12 of your annual real estate tax bill, homeowner's insurance, and PMI (if you need it) premium each month, along with your regularly scheduled payment. The lender then holds the funds and distributes them to your county assessor and insurance companies as the payments are due. This will make sure everyone is happy.

Making your monthly mortgage payment is a bit more complicated than making a rent payment. But it's worth it. You're building equity in your own home, and not someone else's.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
June 18, 2020

Fixing Costly Pet Damage

As much as we love our pets, the damage they can cause to your home can be less than desirable. Even if you take every precaution, there's always going to be some marks left behind from our pets. If you plan to sell your home in Berks County, or just want to keep it in top shape, there are ways to keep on top of damage that happens over time with pets. Here's a few tips that can help repair costly pet damage.

Wood Flooring

Hardwood floors are usually sealed with polyurethane that can be a barrier for stains, but that seal can't completely protect against urine stains or scratches.

For light scratches, you can cover those with a stain-filled marker. Deeper scratches will need to be filled with a wood filler and sanded down.

When you re-stain the damaged area, start with the lightest stain you can, let it dry, then stain again until it matches the surrounding area. For larger areas that have scratch damage, you can sand the whole area and re-stain it, making sure to match the rest of the floor.

Repairing urine damage can be more difficult, due to the discoloration and smell. For lighter stained floors, sand the area and clean it with wood bleach, then refinish the area. For darker urine stains, you may have to replace the boards if you can't scrub it out.

Walls

Wall damage can be fixed, depending on the type of wall covering. If you have wallpaper, you may not be able to fix damaged areas as easily without replacing or removing the wallpaper altogether.

If you have sheet rock or paneling damage, you can fix these more easily. Sand the damaged area to remove any debris and make the surface smooth. Fill in any holes with spackle, using several layers depending on the level of damage. Make sure you let each layer dry completely before applying a new one. You can use a hair dryer to speed up the drying. Once you have area repaired, you can then cover it with primer and paint it.

Furniture

Sometimes dogs confuse wood furniture for chew toys. To fix wood damage, start by prepping the area by using a utility knife to score it with hatch marks, scraping away any frayed edges sticking out. Then use a bit of auto-body filler to fill in the damage. Apply the filler, let it dry a bit, then slice off the excess and reshape it. Sand it smooth once it dries completely.

Then you can mix colors of acrylic paint and coat the are with 2 -3 layers, giving it a wood grain appearance. Then cover with clear coat and rub gently with steel wool to give it the right level of shine.

The Yard

Lawns can be damaged by the nitrogen in dog waste. Watering your lawn regularly will help keep urine from soaking in.

The nitrogen in your dog's waste can cause quite a bit of damage to a lawn. You can reduce that damage by regularly watering the lawn to keep urine from soaking in. Raking your lawn in the Spring to remove debris and waste can also help. Sprinkle grass seed over areas that look bad.

If you follow these simple tips, you can keep you pet damage in your Berks County home to a minimum and keep everyone happy.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
June 11, 2020

Help Support Our Local Berks County Farmers at These Farmer's Markets

It's that time of year again! The local farmers in Berks County are bringing their harvest to market. Now is a great time to eat healthy and help support our local economy. You can still get all the great farm fresh items you did in the past, with some adjustments due to COVID-19 restrictions. Check out these markets soon, and make sure to call before you go to verify time of operation.

Shillington Farmers Market

10 S Summit Ave, Shillington, PA 19607

(610) 777-7675

Shillington Farmers Market will continue to be open regular hours, Thurs & Fri. 7am-7pm and Sat. 7am-4pm.

Fairgrounds Farmers Market

2934 N 5th Street Hwy, Reading, PA 19605

(610) 929-3429

Thursday 8am-7pm, Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 8am-4pm.

Antietam Valley Farmers Market

905 Byram St, Reading, PA 19606

June 8 & 22, July 6 & 20, August 10 & 24, September 21, October 19, November 16, and December 21.

PA Dutch Farmer's Market of Wyomissing

845 Woodland Rd, Wyomissing, PA 19610

(610) 374-1916

Curbside service available. Inside service allowed with masks required.

Leesport Farmers Market

312 Gernants Church Rd, Leesport, PA 19533

(610) 926-1307

They will only have vendors with essential items such as groceries, household items, cleaning supplies, etc. Food stands are TAKE OUT ONLY, no seating.

Skyline Drive Orchard

118 Skyline Dr, Reading, PA 19606

(610) 929-0888

Open seasonally 5 days a week June - November
Wed, Thurs, & Fri: 9:00am - 6:00pm
Sat: 9:00am - 4:00pm
Sun: 12:00pm - 4:00pm

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

June 4, 2020

Is a Home Warranty Right for Your Berks County Home?

You would think that the question of whether to buy a home warranty for your Berks County home would be a tame one, but it can really stir some strong emotions. Everyone has their own story about buying a home warranty. Some may say it's a scam and a waste of money. Some will tell you how much it saved the day when they couldn't afford a critical repair.

In the end though, the decision and how much it will benefit you is based on how comfortable you are with making critical repairs out of your own pocket when needed. If your AC goes out in the middle of summer, will you have the money to fix it? What about your hot water heater?

Here are 3 important points that can help you decide if your home in Berks County needs a home warranty.

Know the Cost

A basic home warranty costs about $350 to $500 a year or more. It usually covers such items as kitchen appliances, plumbing, water heater, heating and electrical system components, sump pump, whirlpool tub, and ceiling and exhaust fans. You can buy an "enhanced" plan that covers things such as your washer and dryer, AC system, refrigerator and garage door opener. Optional coverage can be added, including pools and septic systems.

You can usually make monthly payments if that works better for you. Keep in mind that warranties will usually require for you to pay for the service call. This is called a home warranty deductible, or service call fees. This fee usually hovers around $75 per visit. Some companies, like American Home Shield or TotalProtect Home Warranty, let their customers choose the amount of a deductible, which depends on the amount of premium. The higher the premium, the lower the deductible.

Peace of Mind

The main goal of any home warranty is for those unforeseen repairs. You never know when the AC will take a dive, or some other expensive repair will pop up. If you don't have the money to cover that repair at the time, you could be stuck. For example, the average cost of a new AC unit with installation is around $5000. If you have it covered with a home warranty, you won't have to shell out all that money if it goes out completely.

Home warranties also make sense for people who aren't handy or who don't want to worry about tracking down a contractor when they have a problem. Warranties can also make sense for people with expensive taste in appliances.

Not Everything is Covered

Home warranties don't cover everything, so don't think that having one will mean you never have to pay for home repairs again. This is no doubt why some people say they're a scam or a ripoff. As long as you know what's covered and what's not, then you won't be as angry if your warranty doesn't cover a particular repair or item.

Some problems won't be covered by the warranty, either because the you didn't purchase coverage for that item or because the warranty company doesn't offer coverage for that item. Also, home warranties usually don't cover components that haven't been properly maintained. And if the warranty company denies a claim, you will still have to pay the service fee and will also be responsible for repair costs.

In the end, whether or not you buy a home warranty depends on how you choose to handle your finances, as well as your peace of mind.

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