Quick: If your home was destroyed by fire or the mother of all hail storms, would you be able to remember all the possessions you’ve accumulated over the years and know their value?
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.
When setting up a homeowners policy with your insurance company in Grapevine or the Fort Worth or Dallas areas, ask your agent for a good home inventory strategy that works best with your insurer.
In this post we take a look at creating a home inventory.
Before the Internet
Before the Internet and all of today’s digital devices, creating a home inventory was a pain in the butt — collect receipts, write down items on paper or in a ledger with appropriate details like date of purchase and cost and file it somewhere.
If you were “high tech” you might use a Polaroid or film camera to take pictures of your stuff, then, of course, you had to file or store those images (preferably off-site, in a safe deposit box, in case of fire).
Only the most dutiful homeowners updated those lists and images or even remembered where the list was filed in the first place.
The Digital Age
Today it’s much, much easier to document the possessions in your home because there are so many tools to help — computers, mobile devices like iPads or tablet, digital cameras, mobile phones with excellent cameras, home inventory “apps,” “cloud” storage, and so on.
The important thing here is not to let too many choices keep you from actually creating a home inventory. Keep it simple and do what you like to do.
Some digital strategy suggestions:
Create Digital Record
Use your computer or mobile device to make an inventory list.
- If you’re a spreadsheet kind of guy, fire up Excel on your laptop and go to town. Chances are there is a spreadsheet out there on the web you can use as a template to get started.
- If you’re a database kind of guy, fire up Access, FileMaker Pro, or a consumer-level database like Tap Forms (for Mac) or any of the home inventory programs for Windows or Mac and have at it. Chances are good there are lots of home inventory templates and examples to get you started.
- If you’re reasonably digital savvy, use one of the many mobile apps that are available (like Know Your Stuff Home Inventory from the App Store or Google Play) to create a room-by-room record of your belongings. Information can be entered either through the mobile app or online and your data will automatically synchronize between the two.
By the way, ask your agent in Grapevine, Fort Worth, or Dallas or online if the insurance company offers home inventory spreadsheets, templates, or apps for your convenience. These might even make the claims process go faster for you.
If you don’t want to mess with collecting information for spreadsheets and home inventory databases right away, at least use your camera phone or a digital camera to quickly create a visual record of your belongings.
Take pictures of rooms and important individual items to have a visual record.
If you get these images developed, that’s OK. Just use the camera to take pictures of more than the item in the room. Also include a photo of:
- any identification tags (on the front, bottom, or back of the item, if applicable)
- receipts (if you have)
- front covers of owner’s manuals
Don’t forget to document visually things that are stored in closets or drawers.
Another option is to videotape the belongings in your home, but you will want to check with your insurance company in Grapevine, Fort Worth, or Dallas if this kind of documentation is acceptable. If so, make sure you follow any requirements.
- Walk through your house or apartment videotaping and describing the contents. This is easier if you have someone operate the camera while you point out items, describe them, move them to show identification numbers, or dictate.
- This can be useful for items such as clothing or kitchenware. You can simply open a kitchen shelf or closet and describe the contents. For instance, in the kitchen, it would be sufficient to state that you have a set of dishes for 12 that includes a dinner plate, salad plate, etch with when and where it was purchased
Storing the Documentation
Regardless of how you capture and document your belongings, you will need to store lists, photos, videos, and other documentation somewhere.
Safe Deposit Box: If it is a physical document, store it along with the receipts in your safe deposit box or at a friend’s or relative’s home. This way if there is a fire, your documentation will not be destroyed.
Digital Backups: If you create a digital file, make sure to back it up and keep a copy on an external drive off-site. This way, if there is a fire or disaster — or if the hard drive itself fails — you will have a backup copy safe and sound.
Online or Cloud Storage: Perhaps the best and most convenient option is to save your documentation files “to the cloud,” using a service like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive (Microsoft), or Amazon. As these files are already off-site you don’t have to worry if there is a fire or other disaster. You can even set it up to share a link for all your documentation with the insurance company in Grapevine, Fort Worth, or Dallas.
If you’re worried about privacy when storing and sharing information online from a cloud service, remember that encryption is available, these services are proven and reliable, and you should not be storing any sensitive data like bank access codes, PINs, and passwords with your home inventory documentation.
Making a Home Inventory Checklist
- making a list of your possessions
- where you bought them
- their make and model
The easiest way to do is by going room to room rather than trying to remember off the top of your head.
Clip to your list:
- sales receipts
- purchase contracts
- copies of owner’s manual covers
- count the items you own by category (pants, coats, shoes, you get the idea)
- make notes about those that are especially valuable
For major appliances and electronic equipment:
- record the serial numbers, which are usually found on the back or bottom
- keep sales receipts
- retain copies of any extended warranties
- it doesn’t hurt to keep those owners manuals, either (some insurance companies use these as ancillary proof of purchase if receipts are not available)
For big ticket items like jewelry, art work, and collectibles remember these may have increased in value since you received them. Make sure to keep safe any appraisals and other special documentation.
There really is no reason not to create a home inventory list for insurance purposes. Remember, 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.
If you are just setting up a household, starting an inventory list is 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.
Check with your insurance company or agent in Grapevine, Fort Worth, or Dallas to make sure that you have adequate insurance for these items. They may need to be insured separately and it is important that your insurer know about these items before there is a loss.