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Blair Looney, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Central California.

Dear Action Line: This year my wife and I were finally able to purchase a home. After many years of living in apartment complexes, we made the decision to move into a more spacious living space to start a family. We purchased an older home, and would like to get a home warranty in case our water line or air conditioner fails.

What are some tips that I should consider before signing a home owner contract?

Dear reader: Typically, homeowners are responsible for the service lines that run from the curb stop, or service shutoff to their home. While the water department usually owns the meter to ensure proper billing, the homeowner is responsible for any damage. In some states, the local utility company is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the natural gas line connected to the residence.

Whether you need such insurance depends in large part on the age of your home. If you live in an older neighborhood, where the homes are more than 40 years old and the pipes and lines are still originals, you may want to consider purchasing such a warranty. Check with your neighbors to see if they've had to replace or repair any of their lines then follow up with your local water or utility company if you're still unsure.

Warranties differ greatly, so consumers need to carefully review and understand the service contract before purchasing a home warranty. In order to minimize misunderstandings, be certain that you understand which items are covered by the warranty and which ones are not. Since a service call fee may apply, you should know how much money you will need to spend out of pocket.

If you still have questions or aren't sure whether or not to get the additional coverage, your best bet is to talk with a warranty company before spending any money to see exactly what's covered and how they determine a condition is pre-existing.

You can also check with someone you can trust, Better Business Bureau, to find a reputable warranty company using the keywords home warranty plan or repair service. Naturally, you can always contact them through with any questions you may have.

-- Blair Looney is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or