16 Jan Could you remember all your possessions if they were lost in a fire?
In the event of a fire or disaster, can you remember all of your possessions? Could you close your eyes – picture a room in your home, and remember every single item in there? It’s harder than one might think. When you add the stress or shock of a devastating scenario when a loss occurs, it’s even more difficult to accurately remember all of your possessions. You need a home inventory.
Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance. Here’s how to create one.
Start your home inventory now.
If you’re just setting up a household, starting a home inventory is relatively simple. If you’ve been living in the same house for many years, however, the task of creating a list can seem daunting—but it doesn’t have to be. Start here:
Pick an easy spot to start – A small area—like your small kitchen appliance cabinet, your sporting equipment closet or your handbag shelf. Those are a great place to start.
List recent purchases – Another way to start is with recent purchases—get into the inventory habit and then go back tackle your older possessions.
Include the basic information – In general, describe each item you record, and note where you bought it, the make and model, what you paid and any other detail that might help in the event you need to make a claim.
Count clothing by general category – For example, “5 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of sneakers…” Make note of any items that are especially valuable.
Record serial numbers – Usually found on the back or bottom of major appliances and electronic equipment, serial numbers are a useful reference.
Check coverage on big ticket items – Jewelry, art and collectibles may have increased in value and may need special coverage separate from your standard homeowners insurance policy. While you’re making your home inventory list, check with your agent to make sure you have adequate insurance for these items before there is a loss. Covering those valuable items may be as simple as adding a personal articles policy.
Don’t forget off-site items – Your belongings kept in a self-storage facility are covered by your homeowners insurance, too. Do you keep your golf clubs in a storage shed behind your house? Make sure you include them in your inventory. (Here are five things you may not think to insure.)
Keep proof of value – Store sales receipts, purchase contracts, and appraisals with your list.
Don’t overwhelm yourself – Once you’ve began your inventory, keep going even if you can’t get it all done immediately. It’s better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all.
Use technology to make your home inventory easier.
A simple pencil and paper will suffice, but technology can make creating a home inventory much easier. If you excel with spreadsheets, type it out. If your phone is your lifeline, store the information in the cloud so you can access it there. Whichever way you prefer to keep up with your information, you can make your home inventory part of it.
Take pictures – Create a photo record of your belongings. Capture important individual items as well as entire rooms, closets or drawers. Label your photos with what’s in the picture, where you made the purchase, the make or model. This information might be important to replacing and/or getting reimbursement for the item. Use your smartphone or digital camera—some give you the capability to put in the description of the item when saving the photo.
Tape it – Walk through your house or apartment videotaping and describing the contents. For example, you might describe the contents of a kitchen cabinet: “Poppies on Blue by Lenox, service for 12 that includes a dinner plate, salad plate, bowl, cup and saucer. Purchased in 2015.”
Use an app – There are many mobile app options that can help you create and store a room-by-room record of your belongings. Check out our list of apps and platforms that we use to stay organized and efficient.
Keep your home inventory up-to-date and safely stored.
Your home inventory is only useful if it’s accurate. You can access it to provide information to your insurance company in case of fire, theft or other destructive disaster. Regardless of the medium you’ve used to create your list, keep it backed up and in a safe place.
Add significant new purchases to your list – Make it a habit to add the item information and receipts to your inventory while the details are fresh in your mind.
Store a copy of your paper inventory outside the home – Keep it. Along with applicable receipts and appraisals—in a safe deposit box or at a friend’s or relative’s home. Make at least one backup copy of your inventory document and store it separately. An easy way to make digital backup copies of your paper list is to take pictures of it on your smartphone.
Backup digital files – Keep a copy on an external drive or online storage account.
Understand your app – Be sure the information you input is backed up by the app developer and that you know how to access this information when you need it.
Even if you wouldn’t consider yourself ‘tech-savvy’, you can still use technology to your benefit. For example, you can write down your home inventory on a piece of paper. Then, go one step further by taking a picture of that paper on your phone! This is one way that technology works to your benefit whether you’re a digital pro or not.
Creating a home inventory and keeping it up-to-date will not only help get your insurance claim settled faster, but it will help you accurately determine how much coverage you need. Share your inventory with your agent so that they can properly advise you. Still want to know more about Homeowners insurance? Here are the straightforward answers to the most common questions.
*This information about creating a home inventory was adapted from the Insurance Information Institute.