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How did she know to get a home warranty? She worked for Florida’s Department of Insurance, the industry’s oversight agency.

Later, when she moved to Kansas and back again to Florida, she made sure each new property had a home warranty. Since then, she and her husband have bought and sold several homes, and they’ve made sure to highlight the home warranty as a selling point.

“Home warranties were part of the incentive package,” says Ms. Santucci, who is now retired. “Getting one when we were buying was an incentive for us, too.”

Yet in all those years, she’s never had to use her warranty. Not once.

“I never had to file a claim for anything,” she says. “But the peace of mind I got was definitely worth it.”

As a real estate agent himself, Mr. Smith frequently advises home sellers to buy a home warranty and “gift” it to the homebuyer at closing. (Most warranties are transferable from owner to buyer.) Many real estate agents think properties with home-service contracts may sell more quickly over other homes on the market and help keep buyers engaged with the property.

“It’s especially useful for first-time homebuyers who have always had a landlord to deal with repairs,” Mr. Smith says. “This is kind of like having your landlord’s name on a refrigerator magnet. If your dishwasher stops working, you just have to make one call.”

Of course, there are some circumstances that preclude a home-service contract. When Mr. Smith decided to move from his town house to a brand-new condominium, he didn’t need a home-service contract; the builder provided one. And, he says, if you are planning to gut your house for extreme renovations, a home-service contract probably would be a waste of money.

For many homebuyers and sellers, however, carefully researched home-service contracts may well be the way to go.

“More and more, it can mean the life or death of the sales contract,” Mr. Smith says. “It’s a great thing to have to pull out of your hip pocket when you need it.”