Before a catastrophe strikes and you’re faced with a loss, make a home inventory – lists, pictures or a video of the contents of your home. After all, would you be able to remember all the possessions you’ve accumulated over the years if they were destroyed by a fire? Do you know the make, model and serial number of your 60 inch LED TV if it was stolen during a burglary of your home?
The most commonly known reason for a home inventory is to recover from a loss. Most homeowners don’t realize they need this list until after the fact, when the insurance adjuster explains the claim process. Then it’s too late. It is impossible to remember everything without a reference document. In today’s economy, financial recovery is even more important than in years past. To be able to replace all that was lost, because you are able to maximize your insurance claim, is extremely important.
According to a 2012 survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), more than half of Americans don’t have a home inventory of their possessions, putting them at risk for inadequate home insurance coverage, should severe weather strike.
- Survey results show 59 percent of consumers have not made a list or inventory of their possessions. Of those individuals with a home inventory, 48 percent do not have receipts; 27 percent do not have photos of their property; and 28 percent do not have a back-up copy of the inventory outside the home.
- Additionally, 59 percent of people with inventories have not updated their inventories in more than a year, meaning new purchases and gifts may not be covered.
How to Make a Home Inventory
Start by making a list of your possessions, describing each item and noting where you bought it and its make, model and serial number. Clip to your list any sales receipts, purchase contracts, and appraisals.
- For clothing, count the items you own by category pants, coats, shoes, for example – making notes about those that are especially valuable.
- For major appliances, electronic equipment, and firearms, record their serial numbers usually found on the back or bottom.
Don’t be overwhelmed. If you are just setting up a household, starting an inventory list can be relatively simple. If you’ve been living in the same house for many years, however, the task of creating a list can be daunting. Still, it’s better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all. Start with recent purchases and then try to remember what you can about older possessions.
Big Ticket Items
Valuable items like jewelry, art work and collectibles may have increased in value since you received them. Check with your insurance agent to make sure that you have adequate insurance for these items. They may need to be insured separately.
Take a Picture
Besides the list, you can take pictures of rooms and important individual items. On the back of the photos note what is shown, where you bought each item, and the make. Don’t forget things that are in closets or drawers.
Walk through your house or apartment videotaping and describing the contents. Or, do the same thing using a tape recorder. Remember to store your recording in a safe place, such as a fireproof safe, a safety deposit box, or online in the cloud, where it would be accessible in the case of a disaster. If you store it only on your smart phone and your smart phone is destroyed or stolen, then you would lose your recording. It is ideal to have a back up outside the home.
Use a Personal Computer
Use your PC to make your inventory list. Many common file formats such as Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access are available for free to record your home inventory as well as proprietary software. The City of Asheville Police Department has created a home inventory template spreadsheet for your convenience. Remember to store your file in a place, such as online, where it would be accessible in the case your computer was destroyed or missing.
Storing your List, Photos, and Recordings
Regardless of how you do it (written list, floppy disk, photos, videotape or audio tape), keep your inventory along with receipts in your safe deposit box or at a friend’s or relative’s home. That way you’ll be sure to have something to give your insurance representative if your home is damaged. When you make a significant purchase, add the information to your inventory while the details are fresh in your mind.
More on creating your inventory
You can list your items by category, or by room. For many items like books, CDs, bed sheets or pots and pans, you can make a general estimate of how many you have. For expensive items, note the make and model, the serial number, and the approximate date purchased.