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Simple Ways to Create a Home Inventory

In addition to the structure of your home, your Florida homeowners insurance also covers your belongings if they’re stolen or destroyed by a covered peril such as a house fire. But if you’re already stressed by a disaster, will you be able to remember what you own to make a claim? That’s why we recommend that you create a home inventory of your belongings. (It’s also a good idea to create a home inventory if you rent—renter’s policies also cover personal belongings.)

A detailed home inventory will not only make it easier to file a claim—it can also help you qualify for tax breaks or disaster assistance following a major loss.

Home inventory options

Creating a home inventory can be as simple as a handwritten list, a printable home inventory checklist, or a spreadsheet (like this one from non-profit United Policy Holders).

Another good way to create an inventory or add documentation for a written inventory, is to use your smartphone to take photos and video of your possessions. Record everything in each room, including what’s inside cabinets and drawers. Take photos of serial numbers, bar codes, brand names, and receipts if you have them. Verbally describe what you own if you’re taking video, and include where and when you bought each item and how much it cost if you know that information.

Make sure to include high-ticket items like appliances, TVs and other electronics, jewelry, rugs, art or collectibles. You don’t need to be as detailed with smaller items like clothes or kitchen basics. Make note of them (“Three pairs of jeans,” etc.), but your insurance company may create a “bulk estimate” for contents of closets or cabinets.

If you store belongings in a self-storage unit, remember to document them, too. Your homeowners insurance may also cover these items against theft or fire. You may choose to use a smartphone app to create your home inventory. There are many home inventory apps, both free and paid, and some insurance companies offer their own apps or forms to help you create your home inventory. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has created a free home inventory app that does not collect personal information. Check the privacy policy of any home inventory app you plan to use if you’re concerned about if and how your personal information might be collected and used.

If all this seems overwhelming, start slow. Record recent purchases (maybe a special holiday gift?), or choose one room to document at a time. Even a partial inventory will be helpful in case of a loss.

Storing and updating your home inventory

If you have a paper home inventory, keep a copy of it with other important documents in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box, and store a copy with a trusted friend or family member. Back up digital home inventory files on the cloud or to an external drive. Upload photos and video to a cloud-based service or email it to yourself.

Also remember to update your home inventory when you make a major purchase—and at least once a year, review it to see if anything has changed.

Review your homeowners insurance coverage

After documenting your possessions with a home inventory, review your homeowners insurance coverage to see if it continues to meet your needs. Check your homeowners or renters insurance declarations page to see what the limit is for your contents coverage. Standard homeowners insurance may limit coverage amounts on certain items, but you can add coverage for many of those items if you need to, usually for a nominal amount.  Also check to see if your contents coverage is replacement cost rather than actual cash value (the value of your items, less depreciation).

If you need homeowners or renters insurance, give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 (click here to contact us online). L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency, partnering with multiple homeowners insurance companies. We can help with all your insurance needs, from homeowners and auto, to business or investor insurance, and even life insurance. Our agents will be happy to discuss your insurance needs and help you find a policy right for you.  

Creating a Home Inventory

Home Inventory Makes Insurance Claims EasierCould 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).

Inventory tips

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.