October 17, 2014

Understanding Home Service Contract Terminology

National Home Service Contract Association defines terms for homeowners, regulators and the media to keep things straight.

(Lenexa, Ks) The purchase of a home may be the largest investment individuals and families will make in their lifetime.  A number of products, such as home service contracts, insurance, builder’s and other warranties exist to help homeowners protect that investment. The key to their effectiveness, is gaining a clear understanding of various industry terms.

The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA), a non-profit trade association, is dedicated to educating consumers, regulators and the media so that they clearly understand the the home service contract industry. Clearly defining each is the best place to start.

Home service contract/warranty

  • A home service contract provides service, repair or replacement due to normal wear and tear on major, built-in household appliances and systems. Most cover items such as dishwashers, ovens, wiring and plumbing systems and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC).
  • Many contract providers also offer a menu of optional items such as pool pumps, spas and free standing appliances such as refrigerators and clothing washers and dryers for an additional fee. Rural homeowners may also elect to add septic tanks or well pumps.
  • At an average cost of $550 a year, contracts historically renew annually.  In recent years, many providers have begun to also offer coverage on a month-to-month basis.
  • Contract providers maintain a toll-free service call line 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the convenience of their customers. Dispatch of a trusted local service provider usually occurs within 3-5 business days. Most provide expedited service for true emergencies such as breakdowns that affect life, health or safety.
  • Service calls average approximately $75 and protect the homeowner’s pocketbook as some repairs and replacements have the potential to run thousands of dollars with no contract in place.

Builder’s home warranty

  • As stated above, a home service contract is a renewable agreement for the service, repair or replacement of major, built-in household appliances and systems on existing homes due to normal wear and tear.
  • A builder’s home warranty is very different. These warranties, provided by the builder on a new home, are designed to offer coverage on the actual workmanship and materials used in the home’s construction.

Product and extended warranties

  • Retailers and manufacturers frequently offer warranties on the purchase of on the goods – such as electronics and automobiles – they make and sell directly to the public through retailers.
  • These new product warranties are generally active for a limited time to safeguard against existing defects in the product.
  • Extended warranties are just that – warranties that extend beyond the original warranty period. At purchase retailers may offer to extend a new product warranty for an additional price.
  • These new product or “retail” warranties are part of a separate industry, aside from the home service contracts/warranties.


  • There is little similarity between home service contracts and insurance.
  • Insurance protects a homeowner against partial or total damage or loss to the structure itself or possessions in the home. Insurance protects against sudden and fortuitous events such as fire, wind, hail, theft, collision or other accidents.
  • Insurance does not cover breakdowns due to normal wear and tear, while service contracts do. The two products complement each other – they do not overlap.
  • Homeowner’s insurance also provides liability coverage against accidents in the home or on the property.
  • If a tree falls on the exterior air conditioning unit of a home, it’s covered by insurance. If an air conditioner stops blowing cold air, it is covered by a home service contract/warranty.
  • In most states, it is not legal for a home service contract to cover anything which could be covered by insurance unless a specific legal exemption exisits.

The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) is a non-profit 501(c) (6) industry trade organization of member companies serving home service contract providers and consumer interests throughout the United States. For more great industry, media and consumer information, visit  https://homeservicecontract.org or call 913-871-5600.