Our First Major Repair as Homeowners
installing a water heater

Lessons From a First-Time Home Buyer: Our First Major Repair as Homeowners

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. This week, my wife and I placed a maintenance call, with the hope that it might be a small fix — but, of course, it turned out to be a worst-case scenario. The culprit causing harm to our wallets this time? Our water heater.

The good news is that, through this process, we learned a few things that I think will help us as homeowners going forward. But, how did it all go down? Let’s dive into the story of our first major repair since buying our house.

Our Experience with Our First Major Repair as New Homeowners

The problem and the call

A few weeks ago, we opened the door to the small room in our garage where the water heater resides to find that the floor was wet. After cleaning it up, we noticed that there was a slow drip coming from one of the plugs on the appliance. Naturally, we put a Tupperware container under it to keep the floor clean and measure how much was leaking per day.

This “solution” was fine for a bit as we tried to Google potential causes and fixes. Woefully, though, things started to get worse as the amount of water suddenly doubled. Then, before we could even react to that, we discovered that water must also be leaking from a new source as the floor was once again soaked without the Tupperware overflowing.

That experience dictated that we call a professional. Funny enough, after briefly pondering who to call, it was the company whose jingle we knew from watching Jeopardy on our local TV station each day who we thought of first (I guess we’re more susceptible to advertising than we thought!). Even though it was a Sunday night when we inquired about an appointment, we were able to schedule techs to come out on Tuesday morning.

a man testing a water heater

The diagnosis

When the techs arrived, I ran them through the above experience to give them a frame of reference. By this point, having looked up articles and videos online, I already knew we were probably in for some bad news. Sure enough, it only took them a few minutes to determine that the water heater had likely failed.

But then there was a glimmer of hope. While inspecting the tank, they noticed that it was from 2019. Considering that most water heaters have a six-year warranty, this would imply that the appliance was still covered — right?

Bad customer service

Lest you read this section’s title and think that the techs were to blame, that is absolutely not the case. In fact, I was impressed to find that they took it upon themselves to call the water heater provider on my behalf to inquire about the warranty. Seeing as I vehemently detest making phone calls (we even booked this service call online, for the record), this was a huge gesture.

Unfortunately, the customer service on the other end of the line wasn’t quite as desirable. First, we were told that, since the warranty information hadn’t been properly submitted, we’d need proof of purchase. But, before I could even go about trying to see if we had that, it came out that the warranty was “non-transferable.” In other words, since we bought the house and didn’t buy the water heater initially, we had no claim to the warranty. Our techs were pretty aghast at this, noting that the water heaters they sell have a warranty that’s attached to the address.

My initial thought was that maybe I could push back and try to get the warranty honored after all. However, that sounded frustrating and, honestly, did I really want to continue dealing with a company that had such stupid rules to begin with? On top of that, the majority of the cost was going to be the labor to install it, so it’s not like we’d be off scott-free either way.

So, with that, we moved on to other options.

Getting a quote and exploring financing

calendar, a pen, and $100 bills

Once we realized that I’d be buying a new water heater from them, it was time to talk about how much that would cost. When we got to the first number, I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised as it seemed higher than what we were looking at with a Google search. But, it quickly made sense when I realized that the quote she was giving me was all-inclusive — with the labor accounting for the majority of the expense.

Off the bat, the total was around $2,900. However, this is where an interesting bit of upselling came in. As it turns out, this service offers a membership that includes some regular maintenance visits throughout the year (for plumbing as well as HVAC). Another perk is that members get 10% off services. So, while it cost $189 to add to our order, the 10% discount brought the total down to $2,790. Basically, we spent $200 to save $300 — with the result being $100 savings and a one-year membership for free.

Having decided on that, it was then time to determine how I wanted to pay. Although we could likely shoulder a $2,790 bill upfront, some flexibility would certainly be nice (especially as my wife moves to a new job). Luckily, I found that there was a six-month no-interest option. Actually, this is a six-month no-interest and no-payments due option — but, with interest kicking in after the promo period, we 100% intend to pay it off before that happens. This way, we’ll enjoy a bit more breathing room in our budget without paying extra for it.

The installation

As I write this, our new water heater is currently being installed. Yes, the day after we ordered the service, it’s already in the works. And it couldn’t come a minute too soon either.

After the techs left yesterday, the leaking somehow got even worse. Therefore, I’m very excited to put this water heater out of its misery. Plus, the new one will have a drip tray installed below it just in case.

Something else I failed to mention earlier was that, when the techs looked at our current setup, they noted a couple of things that weren’t quite installed correctly. Granted, they worked — but they weren’t proper. This was all the more reason I found it fit to just start from scratch with a new system rather than trying to salvage the older one.

When all is said and done, it’s not as though this new water heater is really going to change anything (other than allowing us to stop worrying about wasted water and a flooded floor). Nevertheless, having it taken care of shows that we can handle being homeowners after all — even when these inconveniences and expenses arise. Honestly, that feels good.

Meanwhile, although it was an upsell and will be an annual cost, I’m also pretty happy with the decision to join their membership program as it will help ensure that we’re doing preventative maintenance on some vital parts of our home. So, while it’s never fun to spend money unexpectedly and on un-fun things, I think this initial homeowner experience went about as well as it could.


Kyle Burbank

Head Writer ~ Fioney
Kyle is the head writer for Fioney. He is a personal finance nerd, constantly looking for new apps and services to test and incorporate into his own financial game plan. In addition to his role at Fioney, he's written for other publications including Born2Invest, Lifehack, and Laughing Place, as well as his own site Money@30. He also creates personal finance and travel-related videos for Fioney's YouTube channel, which has garnered more than 2 million views. Currently, Kyle resides in Springfield, Missouri with his wife of 10 years. Together, they enjoy traveling (including visiting Disney Parks around the world), dining, and playing with their dog Rigby.

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