When was the last time you updated your home inventory? More importantly – do you have any sort of home inventory at all? Documenting all of your personal belongings can seem daunting, but trying to calculate the total value of your loss after a fire or burglary without an inventory to refer to is an even more overwhelming situation to find yourself in.
Why you need a home inventory
A home inventory can help verify losses when filing your tax return and eases the process of filing an insurance claim. However, only about half of homeowners actually keep a home inventory. Disclosure 1
If you don’t have an accurate itemized list of your personal belongings and their individual values, your insurance carrier may not be able to pay you enough money to replace your damaged or missing belongings. Creating a list now means less hassle when dealing with the aftermath of a disaster.
How to get started
Like most things in life, getting started is seemingly the hardest part. Don’t know where to begin? Take a deep breath, and pick one of these first steps:
List recent purchases Disclosure 1 – It’s easier to recall information about your more recent purchases. The more details you have on hand, the easier it is fill out the necessary info and the quicker you get a handle on the process. Once you understand the process, you’ll be ready to tackle your whole house!
List items in a small area – Breaking tasks up into smaller pieces always makes them easier to get through. Start by listing the items in a single room of your house – or better yet, in a corner of a room of your house.
List items by category – Maybe going room-to-room isn’t your style, and that’s fine. In order to avoid missing any items, you should still organize your list into different categories (e.g. clothing, decorations, electronics, furniture, appliances, etc.).
What to include
Any and all information about your belongings is helpful when compiling your home inventory. If possible, try to include:
Basic information about each item
- General description
- Make, model, serial numbers
- Where and when it was purchased
- Purchase price (an estimate is ok, if you don’t remember what you paid)
Proof of value
Items outside of the home
- Items in your yard (play house, swing set, lawn equipment, etc.)
- Items in a storage facility Disclosure 2
- Other off-premise items such as bicycles Disclosure 1
Everyday clothing and basic kitchenware items can be grouped together (e.g. 12 dresses, 15 pairs of sneakers, 8 pots and pans). If certain items are of higher value, list them separately.
- High-end electronics
- Custom pieces
How to document
While a pen and paper (or the notes app on your phone) are all you really need to document your home inventory, there are other options that can make your list more organized, more accessible, and more secure.
Apps – There are mobile apps for just about everything these days – even for creating and storing your home inventory. Make sure to research the service(s) you’re considering and verify that it’s reputable, reliable, and secure.
Spreadsheets – While they’re a more old-fashioned solution (or should we say classic?), spreadsheets are still a better option than a piece of paper that could be easily misplaced or destroyed. Plus, certain cloud-based platforms, like Google Sheets, allow you to access your information from virtually anywhere. This is especially handy if you need to review or edit the spreadsheet while you’re away from your computer, or if your computer gets destroyed. If you chose not to store your home inventory online, remember to back up your digital files on an external drive.
Take photos and video – Keeping photo and video records of your belongings (whether it’s a snapshot of an individual item, or an entire closet) is an efficient way to document your home inventory. Include all pertinent information either in the description of the photo, or in the video itself.
Update regularly – It goes without saying that you should add any newly purchased big-ticket items to your home inventory immediately after buying them. However, even if you don’t make any big purchases throughout the year, you should still review and update your home inventory once a year.
Other documentation tips
- Don’t include your home address or any personal identifiable information on your inventory list
- For the sake of efficiency, you can add your insurance policy number and the claims phone number to your inventory list, so all necessary information is in the same spot
- Make sure necessary individuals have access to the inventory list in case the primary homeowner is unable to provide the information Disclosure 3
Are you properly insured?
Now that you have an inventory of your personal belongings, ensure that those items are properly insured. Contact your Family Risk Manager to go over your inventory and review your current coverage. If you aren’t currently working with one of our professionals, please click below to read more about our Private Client services and to find a specialist near you.
Policygenius, “How to create a home inventory,” accessed June 11, 2021, https://www.policygenius.com/homeowners-insurance/how-to-create-a-home-inventory/
Insurance Information Institute, “How to create a home inventory,” accessed June 11, 2021, https://www.iii.org/article/how-create-home-inventory
The Balance, “How to Make an Easy Home Inventory List for Insurance,” accessed June 14, 2021, https://www.thebalance.com/making-a-home-inventory-list-for-insurance-4166000
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