About 1 in 20 homes has an insurance claim each year due to damage, theft, or other covered risks according to the Insurance Information Institute.
If you have a home insurance claim, creating a home inventory becomes a powerful reference tool that can help expedite your claim and ensure you get the correct claim settlement amount. As a matter of fact, your insurer will require that you provide proof of ownership and will request receipts or a proof of purchase.
Making a home inventory is easier than you might think, but there are some important steps you don’t want to miss. Here’s what you need to know before building your home inventory.
What is a home inventory?
You can think of a home inventory as a catalog of your belongings. Imagine if you could lift your home and flip it upside down—most items that fall out, will be considered personal property and should be documented.
Much like the inventory of a store or a business, the items you own may change over time, and each item has a value. A home inventory is a way to keep track of your belongings and to easily show your insurer a detailed view of what you owned at the time of a loss.
This sounds like work.
Do I really need a home inventory?
Yes, a home inventory can take some time, but to call it work might be a stretch. The good news is that once your home inventory is built, maintaining your inventory is a breeze. Just add new items if you purchase something of notable value and delete the items you no longer have.
While a home inventory isn’t strictly necessary, having a detailed list of your belongings can help expedite your claim. Also, with today’s high-tech tools, making a home inventory is easier than ever.
In many cases, homeowners choose to insure high-dollar valuables on a separate policy or with scheduled (itemized) coverage that insures these special items to their full value. In both cases, if you chose scheduled coverage, your insurer already has detailed information about these specific valuables, including an appraisal or purchase receipt.
However, many of us own things that fall somewhere in the middle in regard to their value. These items might fall under the broader personal property coverage on your home insurance policy, in which case you’ll definitely want to include these items in a home inventory.
Think about things like laptops, cameras, furniture, nice clothes or shoes, appliances, or even some jewelry items. These are all examples of items you can include in a home inventory to show the details of each item and prove that you own each item. Using scheduled coverage can be more expensive, so it makes sense to save specialized coverage for high value items and to use a home Inventory to document the value of other personal property.
How to build a home inventory
First, you need to decide which type of home inventory works best for you. Some mobile app providers already offer ready-made solutions, but many homeowners choose to build their own home inventory (don’t worry, it’s easy) rather than depend on third-party providers.
A home inventory is a detailed account of what you own. You can use a spreadsheet, or even a word processor to help build a record of your belongings. You can add photos to either type of file, and you can record the name of external file names stored with your home inventory, such as a PDF or video file.
Be sure to include the following details for each item in your inventory, wherever possible:
- Description: Describe each item as best you can, including the brand name and model or type, if applicable. Also, include details about the item that make it unique. For example, a riding lawnmower is different from a reel mower, both in function and in value. Details matter.
- Photo: A picture is worth a thousand words. Use more than one picture if it helps to show detail.
- Video: Some people like to use video to record some types of personal property. This can be an easier solution if you need to capture an entire room or area, but detail can be lost when compared to photos. If you use video, be sure to take photos as well, especially where details matter more, such as with jewelry or similar items.
- Serial number: Many items don’t have a serial number, but if you see one, make a note of the serial number in your home inventory. Take a picture of the serial number as well.
- Receipt: If you have a receipt or a record of when you purchased an item, include that with your home inventory. If you purchased the item online, you can print the email purchase confirmation to a PDF file that’s easy to include in your home inventory file.
Here are some important steps to take when building your own home inventory:
- Choose a trusted cloud service provider. You’ll want to back up your home inventory to an off-site location to protect against fires, water damage, or similar risks, but It’s also important to choose a cloud service provider that isn’t likely to disappear or terminate its cloud service product.
- Use your smartphone. Just as importantly, check your work after you snap a pic. We’ve all taken pictures that turned out to be a blurry mess. A clear picture can help move your claim along faster if you have a loss.
- Build your home inventory one area at a time. Rather than make a record for every TV in the house, followed by the next group of similar items, try building your inventory one area at a time or one room at a time. By following this strategy, you’re less likely to miss anything important. It’s less work too.
- Use overlapping photos. Taking multiple photos of items provides a panoramic view of the item in your home and can be an easier way to document multiple items at once, such as clothing or the contents of cabinets.
- Edit your home inventory when you buy something, discard something, or redecorate. In many ways, tour home inventory becomes a living document. Over time, we acquire new things and donate, sell, or discard old things. Be sure to keep your home inventory up to date.
- Don’t overlook storage areas. Attics, basements, garages, and storage units are common places to store items we don’t use daily. These items still have value, though. Be sure to include these areas when building your home inventory.
Where should I keep my home inventory?
A trusted cloud service provider is probably the safest way to store your home inventory. In most cases, you’ll have a local copy on your computer while also having a backup in the cloud. This keeps your files safe from fires, water, theft of your hardware, or other risks at your home that could cause you to lose your home inventory as well as cause damage to personal property.
Some people also like to keep a copy in a fireproof box or a safety deposit box. The common theme here is that you want to keep a copy of your home inventory out of harm’s way. At the very minimum, grab your smartphone and take a video of each room—then stuff it in the cloud in case you need it.