Could you tell your insurance company every item you have in your home right now, and how much it’s worth? Probably not—and that could hurt you if your home is burglarized, severely damaged, or destroyed, and you have to make a claim on your homeowner’s insurance. A home inventory can make the process of settling a claim easier.
A home inventory is simply a record of your personal possessions. It’s valuable to have even if you never make a claim since knowing what your belongings are worth can help you purchase the right amount of insurance for your personal property in the first place.
Creating a home inventory may sound like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. If doing the whole house at once feels overwhelming, do a little at a time, say a couple of rooms per week. (Just make sure to finish the project!) There are several different methods to compile your inventory. Choose the one you’ll find easiest—the one you’ll actually do. Who knows, your tech-savvy teenager might even enjoy helping you with this project.
Cameras, phones, or apps
Digital cameras and smartphones have made the task of creating a home inventory easier. It takes just a few minutes to take photos of an entire room. Print the photos and record important information about your items (make, model, price, etc.) on the back, or create a spreadsheet with your inventory information (click here for a free home inventory spreadsheet template). If you don’t want to print them, store your photos digitally in the cloud, burn them to a CD, or store them on a flash drive.
Another simple way to create your home inventory is to use your smartphone to shoot video of your belongings. When you shoot a video, you can also describe the items as you film them. Sometimes a video is all you need to prove you owned an item, but do check with your insurance company to see if you’ll need other documentation as well.
Using a free or paid mobile app is an increasingly popular way to create your home inventory. Most home inventory apps prompt you to list your rooms, the items in them, and other details. You can add photos as well as copies of receipts and other documents. Two free options include the Insurance Information Institute’s “Know Your Stuff” app, or the Encircle home inventory app (both have versions for Apple and Android).
When taking photos, start with a wide-angle shot from the room’s entryway. Take photos or video of each wall, as well as the floor and the ceiling. These images record types of flooring, special moldings, ceiling fans and light fixtures.
Get close-up shots of any serial numbers or other identifying tags.
Take group shots of like items, such as books, shoes, or kitchen items (open a cabinet door to record your dishes, for example).
Make sure you get photos of everything in the room.
Describe items pictured: name brand, model, model number, color, special markings or features. Note what you paid for the item and document the receipt if you have it.
Remember to inventory items in your attic, garage, or storage shed.
If you buy a big-ticket item, save the receipt and add the item to your inventory right away.
Once you create your home inventory, be sure to review it now and then and keep it updated.
Make sure your home inventory is stored in a safe place that you can access when you need it. Keep the photos, CD, or flash drive in a safe place, such as with a trusted friend, in a safe deposit box, or in a disaster-proof box in your home. You can also use your email server as a backup if you email yourself a copy of your inventory.
It does take some effort to create a home inventory, but if you lose your belongings and you don’t have one, it may take quite a lot of time and hassle for your insurance company to reimburse you adequately. We hope you’ll never have to make use of your home inventory to make a claim, but if you do, your preparation should help your claim be paid more quickly and fairly.