Gas Line Repair Puts Homeowner at Risk of Economic Shock

Gas Line Repair Puts Homeowner at Risk of Economic Shock

Shannon, a Southern California Gas customer, was at risk of economic shock when learned she had a problem with her gas service line. Service was temporarily discontinued to her home after a leak was detected. 

“The gas company could detect that there was extra gas being used,” Shannon said.

An Unexpected Repair is an Unexpected Expense

Without gas service, Shannon was unable to enjoy many of her home’s basic necessities in the interest of health and safety. Returning service would cost thousands of dollars, putting her at risk of economic shock.

Economic Shock

Shannon’s situation isn’t unusual – more than 50 percent of American homeowners needed a home systems repair over a 12-month period, according to the Winter 2019 edition of HomeServe’s Biannual State of the Home survey. These situations can cause economic shock, a large and unexpected expense that negatively impacts a household.

Economic shock is even more common than emergency home repairs, with 60 percent of U.S. households having experienced economic shock, such as emergency home repairs, within a year, according to The Pew Trusts. Unfortunately, more than a third of homeowners have $500 or less set aside for home repairs.

A repair like the one Shannon needed could cost, on average, $20 to $30 per foot, but up to $75 per foot, depending on the work done. Luckily for Shannon, SoCal Gas had partnered with HomeServe, a leading provider of home repair solutions, and Shannon had enrolled in HomeServe’s service line protection program.

HomeServe Offers a Solution

“When we found out there was a problem and the gas was turned off, we called HomeServe,” Shannon said. “They contacted a plumbing company to come out and determine the problem.”

Economic shock

HomeServe dispatched a licensed and insured network plumber, Frassica Inc., to Shannon’s home. The line was old and deteriorated – dating to the late 1960s when the home was constructed – and needed replaced from house to meter.

“[HomeServe] does whatever they can to make sure the customer’s necessities are met,” John, a Frassica technician, said. “HomeServe goes above and beyond to do what needs to be done; the best warranty company that you could work for.”   

The job included extensive concrete work and 250 feet of trenching, which would have cost $10,000 to $15,000, a substantial economic shock.

Save Money and Worry With a Policy

“With HomeServe, they are saving a tremendous amount of money,” Ken McCarthy, Frassica owner, said. “We’ve had to cut multiple sections of concrete and dig trenches. Some people couldn’t afford to pay for this, but that’s the value of HomeServe. For a nominal monthly fee, they’re covered when projects like this come up, and they get good value.

“These types of plumbing failures happen. I own a plumbing company, and I also have a HomeServe policy. Anyone who is a homeowner has experienced plumbing failures or will.”

Shannon knew the job would be large but didn’t realize the extent of the work.

“It was a much bigger job than we anticipated, but there was no out-of-pocket [costs],” she said. “The entire repair is being covered by HomeServe.”

Shannon was happy to have service returned, free of the worry of economic shock.

“I’m very satisfied with HomeServe,” she said. “I would absolutely recommend this type of warranty because you truly don’t know when something is going to go wrong. They came through for us and saved us a lot of money.”

Economic Shock Can Catch Consumers Unaware

Energy consumers want engagement and for utilities to provide solutions. As the industry goes through a rebranding period, many energy providers are looking to utilize their own expertise and resources to expand their offerings in synergistic ways.

Position Yourself as a Trusted Partner

Home energy analysis and energy efficient rebates programs are great ways to position your utility as a trusted partner, but they lack human touch and nothing makes them stand out from what every other energy provider offers. This is why utilities are turning to affinity partnerships to expand their service offerings.

You can differentiate yourself by offering education about electrical safety and energy efficiency – something of which 88 percent of homeowners approve – while simultaneously offering an optional emergency home repair plan to protect them from economic shock, or a large, unexpected expense.

Many Homeowners Are Unprepared

More than one-third of Americans have $500 or less in savings in the case of an economic shock, and that increases to 54 percent of those who have a total annual income of $50,000. A Charles Schwab study showed 60 percent of American live paycheck to paycheck, and The Pew Trust found 60 percent had an economic shock in the previous twelve months.

Economic shock threatens about one-third of Americans.

The Biannual State of the Home Survey, conducted by The Harris Poll, reports the financial impact of home repairs, the state of the American home and researches home ownership trends. In the fall edition, the survey found more than one-third of homeowners would prefer a deductible-free emergency home repair plan like HomeServe’s offerings. The number was double that of those homeowners who would prefer to pay a rider on their home insurance offering a deductible. In addition, 69 percent of homeowners would prefer their local utility to offer an optional emergency home repair plan from a third party.

Homeowners Are Worried About HVAC

In addition, the HomeServe Biannual State of the Home Fall 2019 survey shows 50 percent of homeowners had an economic shock within the past 12 months. HVAC systems accounted for the most needed repairs, about one-in-five, and nearly half of homeowners are worried about the state of their HVAC system. Many homeowners are shocked by the cost of HVAC repairs, despite the size and complexity of most systems and safety requirements.

One-in-four homeowners had an HVAC repair in the past year and nearly 50 percent are concerned about their systems.

In the past year, HomeServe has sought to address our customers’ concerns about HVAC breakdowns by purchase HVAC repair companies in Washington, D.C.; Cleveland, Ohio; and Grand Prairie, Texas. These hubs will enable us to better serve our – and our partners’ – HVAC customers.

Educating Customers is Key

Education about improving energy efficiency and safety is key, but HomeServe also offers education about service connection responsibilities. In a previous State of the Home survey, more than 40 percent of homeowners surveyed didn’t know they were responsible for maintaining their service connections.  A total of 18 percent were unsure who was responsible, while another 11 percent thought their homeowner’s insurance would cover the repair expense and 13 percent believed the utility was responsible.

Customers want utilities to offer optional emergency home repair plans.

If homeowners don’t know who is responsible for service connection maintenance, they will likely contact the utility if there is an issue. Then you will have the unenviable task of letting them know they are on the hook for thousands of dollars in an emergency home repair they may not be able to afford.

To learn how you can educate homeowners about their responsibilities and help them avoid economic shock, contact us.

Gas Service Line Repair is a Financial Shock

“When I came home that evening, I smelled gas very strongly,” Dorothy said.

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare – a gas service line failure. Dorothy, a Houston resident and CenterPoint customer, learned that her gas service line, although only 15 years old, was leaking.  

An Unexpected Problem

Jose Carbajo of Texas Quality Plumbing and his crew were quickly onsite, where they assessed the problem. Jose realized the gas service line was PVC, which was no longer up to code in the area.

“We’ll dig, trench, about 50 feet and install new [gas service] line that’s up to code,” Jose said.

Not only had the gas service line not lasted long, but replacing it would cost $3,000. However, Dorothy couldn’t delay, because she would have no gas service to her home until the gas service line was repaired. Leaving it as it was, was unsafe and untenable.

Financial Shock Can Prove a Hardship

Dorothy had experienced a financial shock, or a large, unexpected expense. The effects of a financial shock, such as an unexpected home repair or a sudden loss of income, can be devastating, and the United Nations estimates 40 million Americans are living in poverty. Estimates range from three-in-four to three-in-five Americans who are living from paycheck to paycheck.

Many homeowners are not prepared for a financial shock. However, 60 percent of American households endured one in a calendar year, according to the Pew Trust. Among those who experienced a financial shock, 55 percent of households struggled to make ends meet afterwards.

The HomeServe State of the Home Fall 2019 survey found more than half of Americans had a home repair in the prior twelve months. Meanwhile, one in five has nothing set aside in a “rainy day fund.”

A Solution Emerges

Luckily for Dorothy, CenterPoint partnered with HomeServe, a leading provider of emergency home repair plans, including gas service lines, electric service lines, water heaters and HVAC systems. When Dorothy received educational materials about the possibility of gas service line failures through the partnership, she signed up for gas service line protection.

“I signed up [for gas service line coverage] in July, I believe, never thinking this would happen, but it did, and I’m very glad that I had it,” she said. “When I called, the agent was very helpful, answered any questions I might have, reassured me that I was covered, which made me very happy. The contractor that HomeServe sent out was very helpful and ready to fix whatever it was.”

Jose and his team installed a new, safe, code compliant gas service line for Dorothy. It didn’t cost her a penny, thanks to CenterPoint and HomeServe.

Emergency Furnace Repairs Cause Concern

Jessica of Albuquerque was struggling with degenerative nerve disease and late-stage cancer. So emergency furnace repairs blind-sided her.

Jessica faced adversity, but she had her family and her business, SOS International, to keep her occupied. As a second-generation business owner, she continued to work out of a home office space. Jessica also had the comfort of her extended family, including her mother, son, daughter and two grandchildren, surrounding and helping her.

Jessica didn’t have it easy, but she had a strong support network and fulfilling work.

Everything Goes Wrong at Once

The family found water spreading across the floor after the hot water heater burst. And that was before they realized they needed emergency furnace repairs.

“My son’s carpet was wet and we thought the dog’s water spilled, but you stepped on it and [half an inch] of water came to the top,” Jessica said.

The family received more bad news when they learned they needed emergency furnace repairs, an expensive prospect as winter approached.

“Six [valves] went out at one time,” Jessica said. “It was starting to get cold at night, and my daughter has a newborn and a two-year-old.”

With a new baby in the home, the hot water heater failure and emergency furnace repairs had come at the worst possible time. The family couldn’t financially handle so much going wrong at once.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Jessica said.

People like Jessica, who face serious illness, are particularly financially vulnerable. Those battling cancer are two and a half times more likely to go bankrupt, although 75 percent have health insurance. Financial difficulty makes recovering even more difficult.

Turning to a Trusted Friend

Facing a winter with emergency furnace repairs and no hot water, Jessica turned to Eric Maxon, Steward’s Plumbing president. The two had been members of the same business association.

“My first thought was Steward’s Plumbing,” Jessica said. “There’s no one in Albuquerque I trust more.”

Steward’s Plumbing had done Jessica’s plumbing work for years, because she trusted their competency and professionalism. They understood her home’s heating and plumbing systems. It was important to have a plumber who was trustworthy and competent. She didn’t want to seek out and contact multiple plumbers to receive quotes.

Steward’s Plumbing is a HomeServe network contractor, and Eric was familiar with the company’s charitable arm, the HomeServe Cares Foundation. Through its Caring for People program, the foundation provides home repairs at no cost to those who qualify.

“I’ve known Jessica for years,” Eric said. “We’ve worked together on several projects, and getting these emergency furnace repairs done would be life-changing for her and her family.”

A National Company Steps In to Help

Steward’s Plumbing employees passed drug and background checks before the company became part of the HomeServe network. In addition, the company must maintain an A rating with the Better Business Bureau and a high post-job survey score.

HomeServe uses local contractors, because not only are they close by and convenient, but they are familiar with local permitting processes and building codes.

Eric reached out to HomeServe and proposed Jessica and her family as candidates for HomeServe Cares. HomeServe agreed to help the family and dispatched Steward’s Plumbing to replace the hot water heater and make the emergency furnace repairs.

“I couldn’t believe he and HomeServe worked so diligently to make this happen for me,” Jessica said. “Thank you, HomeServe!”

Utilities are looking for opportunities to connect more deeply with customers. HomeServe helps to improve customer engagement for our utility partners through the integration of complementary home repair programs with utility initiatives such as energy efficiency and safety, offering customers greater access and choice. Partnership allows the utility to leverage HomeServe’s marketing and communications expertise to educate their customers through a variety of channels. For more information, contact us.

Millennials Buying Housing Face Difficulties Finding Affordable Homes

Christie Myers, Managing Director of Opportunity Dallas, addresses the affordable housing challenges of Millennials.

Felicia’s story isn’t unique, but her determination, despite the hand she’s been dealt, is admirable.

A Constellation of Rising Stars

Seven years ago, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings started the Mayor’s Rising Star Council. We selected six sophomores from five Dallas High Schools and promised to be with them for an academic year. After a year, the class graduated, and the Council gave them iPads and said, “good luck.”

The following fall, as a new class of students was being selected, the prior class came knocking. They asked to stay on. The Council agreed and six years later, we have the first class of students graduating from college.

A Challenging Journey

One of those students is Felicia George. Felicia graduated in the top 20 of her Lincoln High School class, going on to study Animal Science at Texas A&M. You may assume she had an easy road and, like many other A&M kids, went with a toolbox that equipped her for what was to come.

Felicia George is one of many Millennials buying housing and facing difficulty finding affordable homes.

However, Felicia’s journey has been a challenge. Her single mother lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her Nanna, uncle and two younger brothers. She didn’t have stability in her upbringing. Chaos and insecurity would be better ways to describe her childhood and young adult years. It didn’t stop her. She would get close to giving up, but she never did.

An Uncertain Future

In May, Felicia will graduate from college. When a student you mentored for seven years looks you in the eyes and asks how she will break the cycle or change the trajectory of her family – what do you say? What can you say?

A Purdue University study showed Dallas residents need a six-figure salary to achieve “happiness” in the city. A diploma doesn’t give Felicia or the thousands of Millennials returning to Dallas for the “American Dream” an equitable chance at affordable housing. Like many others, Felicia will leave school balancing her ambitions with a sense of responsibility to her mother and two brothers.

She can move home, but it’s unsafe. Felicia can’t get to a potential job in a reasonable time via transit. She can’t afford a car, because she spent every dime paying tuition. Felicia won’t pass a credit check, because no one taught her the importance of building credit or how to begin.

Felicia’s story is not unique, although her tenacity and grit separates her. The opportunity to obtain affordable housing would allow her to meaningfully change course for her and her family.

Affordable Housing is Elusive

However, affordable housing remains elusive for many Millennials buying housing, even those who have not come from a lifetime of struggle and poverty. According to a study by Go Banking Rates, monthly rent was by far the biggest expense. It came in at an average of $1059.51 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. The site estimates that the average millennial needs to work 68 hours to pay that off.

Millennials buying housing also may find it more difficult, since they’ll pay 39 percent more than Baby Boomers did when purchasing their first home, while under a staggering student debt load. Despite that, Millennials buying housing accounted for nearly half of all homes purchases in 2018.

However, 63 percent of Millennials regret purchasing a home, according to a Bankrate Poll. Zillow found that more than 80 percent regretted at least one aspect of their home purchase, and 36 percent resent unexpected repairs or home maintenance, such as a malfunctioning furnace. In addition, almost half of Millennials feel their handyman skills aren’t up to snuff, according to The Harris Poll.

Utilities are looking for opportunities to connect more deeply with customers. HomeServe improves customer engagement for utility partners through home repair programs with initiatives such as energy efficiency and safety, offering customers greater access and choice. A partnership allows the utility to leverage HomeServe’s marketing and communications expertise to educate their customers through a variety of channels. For more information, please contact us.

Smart Home Devices Top Biannual State of the Home Survey

HomeServe USA (HomeServe), a leading provider of home repair solutions, announced the findings of the winter 2019 edition of its Biannual State of the Home Survey. Smart home devices are used in a majority of homes, according to the homeowners surveyed.

Click here to view our Biannual State of the Home Infographic

Widespread Adoption of Smart Home Devices

Building on a question first asked in the summer 2018 edition, the survey examined attitudes toward and adoption of smart home technology. The majority of homeowners – 56 percent – report having at least one smart home device. Use of voice-controlled assistant (e.g., Amazon Alexa, Google Home) topped the list at 35 percent, while 20 percent report using smart light bulbs. Video monitoring (e.g., Amazon Cloud Cam, Nest Cam, Ring, Arlo) came in at 17 percent and smart heating/cooling technology is used by 16 percent of homeowners. The findings make it clear that Americans are turning toward devices that can make life easier.

The twice annual survey, now in its eighth edition, reports on the financial impact of home repairs and the state of the American home. The winter edition of the online survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe from Feb. 27-March 1, 2019, among 2,031 U.S. adults age 18 and older, including 1,429 who identified themselves as homeowners.

The survey also examined the adoption of mobile device apps to manage the home. Thirty-six percent of homeowners report using at least one mobile app, with apps that manage smart devices and appliances/electronics (e.g., Alexa, Sonos, Nest, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings) topping the list at 27 percent. Nine percent reported using home repair apps (e.g., Centriq, WikiHow, DIY Tip Genius, BrightNest) and eight percent use a mobile app to track house cleaning schedules and chores (e.g., Tody, OurHome, HabitHub).

“Smart home technology adoption will likely continue to rise as homeowners get more comfortable using these new technologies,” said HomeServe USA Chief Executive Officer John Kitzie. “That is why HomeServe is committed to offering our customers technology solutions that simplify their lives — including a new partnership with Centriq to offer a mobile solution to help customers better manage their homes.”

[1] Survey conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe from August 27 – 29, 2018 among 2,012 U.S. adults 18+ (1,377 homeowners)

Saving Habits

All eight editions of the survey, which first began in 2015, have examined the savings habits of Americans in relation to emergency home repairs. The previous survey, conducted in summer 2018, found that more than one in five (22 percent) homeowners have no money set aside for a home repair emergency. That number dropped slightly to 18 percent in the most recent edition of the survey, but is the same level seen in the winter 2018 survey (20 percent) . 

Homeowners with household incomes of less than $50,000 (about 31 percent) were of particular concern, reporting they having no savings set aside for an unexpected home emergency. The survey data also clearly shows that a “rainy-day” fund is the best way to prepare for an unexpected home emergency, but many homeowners are not utilizing these funds. Indeed, 43 percent of homeowners reported having no rainy-day fund or emergency savings fund or a specific line item in their budget for home maintenance or unexpected home repair costs. That number increases to 52 percent for homeowners with a household income under $50,000.

“The trend continues in current edition of the Biannual State of the Home survey – far too many homeowners are not financially prepared for an emergency home repair. This is especially true for homeowners with household incomes of less than $50,000, who, unfortunately, would be the hardest hit by an unexpected and expensive home emergency,” said John Kitzie. “We know that based upon survey results, more than half of homeowners have experienced some sort of emergency home repair in the past 12 months.”

The survey further supports previously collected data that showed that emergency home repairs are an unfortunate reality of homeownership. Fifty-four percent of Americans reported having a home repair emergency in the last year alone, with heating or air conditioning (HVAC) system repair or replacement (16 percent), blocked/overflowing toilet (14 percent), and leaking water pipes (12 percent) topping the list of the most common home emergency repairs. 

Home Repair Completion

For the first time, the survey examined how homeowners identify a service person or company to complete home repairs. Forty-one percent rely on referrals from family and friends, while 27 percent search online. A small number, five percent, reported using smartphone apps to find repair professionals.

HomeServe takes the hassle and worry out of finding a reputable contractor to help with home repairs, offering technology for smart home devices to make it even easier. HomeServe customers who receive service rate the company 4.7 out of 5 Stars, and the Better Business Bureau has granted the company a A+ rating. 

Survey Methodology

The Harris Poll conducted the winter survey online on behalf of HomeServe USA from Feb.27-Mar. 1, 2019, among 2,031 U.S. adults age 18 and older, among whom 1,429 are homeowners. The online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact

[2] Survey conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe from February 22-26, 2018 among 2,037 U.S. adults 18+ (1,389 homeowners)