Thursday, February 21, 2008

Don't Get Ripped Off by Your Appliance Repairman

Picture this. You get home from work and just want to settle into your daily routine. Suddenly, you realize that the refrigerator isn't cold, or the microwave isn't heating, or the washer won't empty. Now what?!? Do you open the phone book and hope to get a well-trained, honest repairman? Or do you just pray that you don't get ripped off?

Try using these six tips to get the service you need without getting taken to the cleaners.

1. Write down the make and model of your appliance and a brief description of the problem (a single paragraph will do) before you pick up the phone. This information will not only help the repairman diagnose the problem; it also makes you look like a smart consumer. Remember, knowledge is power.

2. Try to find a factory authorized repair center first. This is a must if your appliance is still under warranty. Factory authorized means that the manufacturer stands behind the repair and will usually mediate in any disputes. With stiff competition in the appliance market, the last thing the manufacturer wants is an unsatisfied customer who purchases a different brand.

3. Ask people you know for referrals. Okay, this one is pretty basic. But, with all of the appliances we use every day, someone you know has needed to have one of them fixed. Benefit from their experience, good or bad.

4. Check the yellow pages for repairmen who take credit cards. Credit cards offer an extra layer of protection for you. If you are not satisfied with the fix and the repairman refuses to address your concerns, you can contact your credit card company and request a charge back to the merchant. This will involve more paperwork on your part, but can give you a better position when negotiating a dispute. Be aware, though, that using this tactic too often can leave you in bad standing with your credit card company. Check their policies on charge backs first.

5. While you have the yellow pages open, compare the ads. Yellow page ads are not cheap. Only the most successful or competitive companies can afford the big display ads. While this doesn't indicate the level of service you get, it does show which companies invest in advertising and which expect to still be in business in a year or two.

6. When you do start making calls, ask the same questions of each company. A good start would be:

How long have you been in business?
Do you use factory parts?
Are you insured for any damages the appliance may cause after the repair?
Do you offer a written guarantee on parts and labor?
Do you have any corporate references?
Have your repairmen received any factory training?
Has your company ever been taken to small claims court to settle a dispute?

Using these six tips will help you to weed out the dishonest, incompetent, or just plain bad appliance servicemen. They will also help identify the good servicemen that you can count on for a long time to come.

An Introduction To Home Warranties

A common trend among homeowners, especially new homeowners, is to purchase home warranty protection to protect their investment. A home warranty is very similar to an insurance policy in that it protects the homeowner in case a covered system or appliance is in need of repair.

There are several companies that offer home warranties, and many of them now have deals with real estate agents, brokers, and loan officers to include home warranties anytime a new piece of property is bought or sold. The fact that home warranties are often included in new real estate transactions is the reason why they are very popular with new homeowners. New homeowners are often given this protection for a year as part of their home purchase, and since oftentimes they will use the service at least once during that first year, many of them continue to buy the protection after that first year is up.

Although it varies from company to company and location to location the standard price range for a home warranty is typically between $300 and $500 per year. Although the first year is usually paid ahead of time for the entire year, after the first year many homeowners choose to pay on a monthly basis, normally between $25 and $40 per month.

Particular coverage again varies company to company, but generally most household systems are covered. Examples of systems that are commonly covered are the plumbing system, the heating and cooling system (including the air-conditioning unit), ceiling fans, electrical systems and exhaust fans. Most policies also include some or all of the appliances such as the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer, dryer and microwave.

Most of the home warranty companies work on a national basis therefore it would be impossible for them to send a repair person from their company out to each individual's home. Not to mention that each individual's problem may require a different type of technician. For example, if you are having a problem with your kitchen sink you may need a plumber, however, if you're having a problem with an electrical outlet you'll need an electrician. The way the home warranty companies handle this is they have contracts with individual contractors in each city that they have members. When a covered member is in need of repair they call the home warranty company who then contacts the contractor in the member's city and schedules an appointment for the repair. In the event that a covered system or appliance cannot be repaired it will generally be replaced by the home warranty company by a new system or appliance of equal value.

All in all home warranties can be an excellent and affordable way to protect your real estate investment. The average home warranty owner uses their home warranty service twice per year. Wouldn't you like to be protected in the event something goes wrong in your home?