It's no wonder new-home buyers purchase structural warranties. According to Criterium Engineers, a nationwide home inspection firm based in Portland, Maine, structural defects occur in 10% to 20% of the 25,000 homes they inspect each year. Furthermore, Criterium says, the average repair bill to fix those flaws is around $30,000.

People looking to buy existing homes haven't been as fortunate as their new-home counterparts. Unable to buy warranties covering structural defects, they've been left to assume the risk on their own. Until now.

USHP, an affiliate of Residential Warranty Corp., recently introduced a structural warranty for resale homes. Called AmeriGuard, the warranty covers not only traditional systems and appliances but also the skeleton of the home (with an inspection required). "To our knowledge, we're the only ones offering true structural coverage on all load-bearing components of the home," says Suzanne Palkovic, vice president of marketing for USHP, based in Harrisburg, Pa.

USHP provides the warranty only on homes that are inspected by Criterium. Currently, the warranty is available solely in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware, though plans are in place to expand to most of the country.