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 a fire destroyed them? 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 common 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 can 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 that 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 backup copy of the inventory outside the home.
- Additionally, 59 percent of people with inventories have not updated them in more than a year, meaning new purchases and gifts may not be covered.
How to Make a Home Inventory
Start by listing 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. 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 ensure 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. 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 smartphone and your smartphone is destroyed or stolen, then you will lose your recording. It is ideal to have a backup 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 case your computer is 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 and 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.