Try to imagine about each room in your home and name every single thing inside, as well as its approximate value. Sounds ridiculously difficult, doesn’t it? If your home were to catch fire or become damaged in a sudden event, this is exactly what you may be forced to do. Rather than struggle to remember and prove what was lost, take some time to build a home inventory before you ever need one.
Wait, Don’t Leave Yet!
If your first instinct is to close this article and revisit it when you have time, hold the phone! We mean that literally, too. If you feel like you can’t possible create a home inventory now, that’s OK. Instead, take your phone and walk through your home, recording everything you own. Be sure to open closets and drawers as you pan around the room. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t need to narrate it unless you want to, just make sure you capture your belongings. Once you have your recording, be sure to save it somewhere accessible in case you need it.
When you have a little more time on your hands, you can begin to prepare a full inventory. In the meantime, you’ll have your recording to refresh your memory or show a claims adjuster if necessary.
Is a Home Inventory Really Necessary?
You may think you could recall some or maybe even most of your belongings, but that may not actually be the case. Especially for individuals who have been in their homes for a number of years, it’s easy to accumulate things and then forget about them. Conversely, someone may remember they have a particular item but not the age or its value. Creating a home inventory not only helps you keep track of what you have, it can also help you discuss with your insurance advisor the best way to insure your possessions.
Creating Your Inventory
As we mentioned above, your inventory doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective and even a quick recording or partial list of possessions is better than none at all. It doesn’t really matter if you use an app for your iPhone or Android device or simply make a list, it’s getting started that counts the most!
Here are some tips to help you begin creating your home inventory:
- Start with one contained area. This could be one room, one closet, or even one cabinet, but pick a place and document those items first. You can work your way throughout your home one section at a time.
- Gather the basic information. List the item, the make and model, when you purchased i,t and the price you paid. If you can, include any serial numbers for major appliances and electronic equipment. This is the place to include all pertinent information, but don’t get so bogged down in details you overwhelm yourself.
- Technology can help. If you choose not to use an app, you can still use your phone or tablet’s picture and video functions to document your items. Having this digital documentation, especially of your higher value items, helps to prove what you had while you still can.
- If you have to skip something, skip the little things. You probably don’t need a detailed record of the highlighters in your pencil cup, but your laptop and multi-function printer should be at the top of your list when you’re taking inventory of your home office, for example. The exact count of your sock drawer is far less important than capturing the details of the vintage designer gown in the closet. It’s fine to group some items such as “15 t-shirts” or “various office supplies such as staples and pens.” This will free up your attention to focus on the big-ticket items.
- Include items outside the home. Don’t forget to include the contents of your detached garage and shed, especially if you keep tools and equipment there. Also, if you have items in an offsite storage unit, take a trip over there to inventory them as they are also covered under your homeowner’s policy.
- Store your inventory somewhere safe. Having a list or digital record of your possessions is great, but it is useless if it is lost in the disaster that takes all the rest of your stuff. Make sure your records are backed up on an external drive stored away from home and/or in online cloud storage. (Hint: This is where those apps come in really handy!)
Maintain Your Inventory
A home inventory isn’t a one-and-done project. It’s important that you keep up with it by including newly acquired items and removing those things you no longer own. As you purchase items, get in the habit of taking a picture or video, recording the date and value of the purchase, and talking to your insurance agent about scheduling the item if it’s of high value. Keep your proof of value with the inventory, such as receipts, appraisals, or certificates of authenticity. Making this task a routine event means your inventory will always be up to date without you trying to remember where you last left off adding items. Make it a point to revisit the list annually, perhaps after a major gift-giving season, to update it as necessary.
Remember, every item you have well-documented is one more item you don’t have to scramble to remember if you should ever have to file a claim. Even an incomplete inventory is better than none, so get started as soon as possible and keep working at it until you’re done. It may not be a quick process, but it’s certainly a valuable one.
All insurance policies are different. Be sure to review your insurance policy for specific information about coverages available to you. Nothing in this post is meant to suggest a guarantee of coverage.