Watchdog: Port Lavaca couple illustrates need for home warranty

May 11, 2010 at 12:11 a.m.

Take it from Bill and Diane Standridge: You need a home warranty.

The Standridges first lost everything in Hurricane Ike. The 2008 storm washed away the couple's Galveston-area home and all its memories, which included keepsakes from the husband's 30 years in the military.

"It was just a pile and sand," Diane Standridge, 76, said. "Sixty years of marriage went out to sea. We still have each other, though, so what the heck."

After they moved to Port Lavaca, the Standridges suffered a loss of a different sort. They bought a house that caught their eye, but amid the stress of relocating, failed to secure a home warranty.

When their relatively new water heater failed, they were without consumer protection. They were additionally told the manufacturer's warranty does not transfer to new owners.

The Standridges say they hope you learn from their costly lesson.

"We thought everything was under warranty," Diane Standridge said. "Now, we're going to have to replace it out of our own pocket."

Local Realtors agree new home buyers should ensure at closing the home is covered by a warranty.

"Ask the seller to cover all mechanical items in the home, but either the buyer or the seller can pay for it," said Judy VanZant, a Victoria Realtor. "No matter what kind of warranty it is, it has to be given to the buyer in writing at the time of the closing or just after closing."

Warranties range in cost from $350 to $450 per year, depending on the company that sells them and the level of coverage offered. Warranties can cover the home's mechanical systems, appliances and structural integrity.

VanZant often asks the home seller to pay as incentive the home buyer's warranty the first year, she said.

To illustrate the need for warranties, VanZant offers the following example.

She recently represented buyers of a home that boasts an $11,000 Sub-Zero freezer free. The home seller paid $435 to cover a one-year warranty.

Three days after the home buyers moved in, the refrigerator stopped working.

"The new homeowners received a new, free freezer," VanZant said. "That's why I'm so big on the home warranty. You can get one at any time. You can get one right now and you need to keep that up."

Lee Swearingen, a Victoria real estate broker, said he maintains and renews each year warranties on his private residence and rental properties.

"I also think it's a good deal for the seller to pay for the first year because then you don't have a situation where a buyer comes back two months later and says, 'Hey, you need to fix this,'" Swearingen said. "Warranties don't cover everything. So when you buy one, make sure you know what they cover."

Swearingen suggests you select a warranty from a reputable company that offers warranties to a notable number of area homeowners. Ask your real estate agent for suggestions, he said.

"When you're leaving a storm like that, you're just not thinking really clearly," Diane Standridge said. "We just hope other people do."

Gabe Semenza is the Public Service Editor for the Advocate. Comment on this story at



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