If you are like most people, you probably have lists for everything; grocery lists, packing lists, contact lists, to do lists – you name it! Lists are extremely useful tools when it comes to keeping us organized (and sane). Well did you know that one particular list could save your home (or at least what’s inside)? For those that have experienced a natural disaster, such as a fire, flood, or wind damage, or maybe even a theft of your property, you probably already understand the value of a home inventory. Creating a home inventory has many benefits including:
- A complete home inventory can assist in speeding up the claims process with your insurance broker. Knowing what you had and the approximate value of those items can save a tremendous amount of time (and energy) in addition to potentially saving you thousands in replacement costs.
- A home inventory can also be an efficient way to verify any losses you may have had throughout the year on your tax returns, which is especially important during tax season.
- In addition, a home inventory may also help you with the insurance selection process. When buying homeowner’s or renter’s insurance it is particularly helpful to know the items you wish to cover and their value so that you can purchase the appropriate amount of coverage. There’s nothing worse than finding out that you don’t have proper coverage AFTER you have experienced a significant property loss.
Creating a complete home inventory can be a time consuming process. Make it a point to devote some time to it each day until it is complete. Feeling overwhelmed? Get the family to pitch in. There are many parts of the process in which children can be involved depending on their age and abilities. If you are thinking about creating a home inventory, follow this step by step process to get it done.
1) Before you get started with your inventory, you will want to choose how you will record it. You can choose to use paper and pen, record it in a spreadsheet application, or, if you are like the millions of smartphone users across the country, you will most likely take advantage of technology and use an app such as Encircle or Home Inventory Checklist to get this done. Whatever you choose you will want to make sure it can be easily updated and can accommodate all of the information you need in your list.
2) Next, it’s time to begin recording your inventory. You will want to make sure to record the items in each room including those in basements, attics, and storage areas like closets and garages. It is recommended to actually walk through each room when completing this task. It may be easiest to begin with the large or high value items in the room and work your way down. Creating an inventory from memory is not always best and it is very easy to forget items that may not have been used in a while. In fact, you may even want to organize your list by room name so it is easier to locate items on your list. When recording each item in your inventory, be sure to include the item name, short description (may not be necessary for all items, especially helpful for items with a high dollar value such as antiques or jewelry), the serial or model # of the item, date the item was purchased, and the estimated value. Estimated value is perhaps the most important piece of information on this list. It is important to be as accurate as possible. You may want to consider an appraisal for items that are estimated to be over $1000 in value.
3) To complete your inventory, it is recommended to photograph each item that you have listed. Photographs may help provide additional “proof of ownership” on a claim or may at least help provide identifying characteristics for your items such as model #, color, size, purchase price (if photographed with price tag), etc. which will help during the process of replacing your property. You do not need to use a high tech camera to accomplish this but should at least make sure that your photographs are clear and are as high a resolution as possible to show as much detail as you can.
After your inventory is complete, you will want to make sure you have a backup in a safe location. Your backup could be a printed copy in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box, an online backup using cloud technology, or an off-site backup with a friend or family member. The important thing is, if you need it, it’s there! You will also want to think about how you will go about updating your inventory. Will you update it annually or as items are purchased? Will each family member be responsible for a room in the house or will you facilitate the update? And don’t forget to save your receipts when new items are purchased. Receipts can be used to verify ownership and value of an item and most inventory apps do have features where you can scan and save receipts as part of your inventory. But saving your receipts in a file, works just as well!
You may not ever need to use your inventory (and I sincerely hope that you don’t) but if you do, it will be one less thing you will have to worry about during a stressful time!