Preparing a Home Inventory
In the event of a total loss covered by your Homeowners Insurance or Renters Insurance Policy a complete inventory of all the belongings in your home is your best asset in helping you and your Insurance Agent prepare your claim.
If all of your belongings are lost, a detailed home inventory can help ensure their replacement, verify losses for the police and insurance adjuster, substantiate a tax credit, and help you get your life back to normal as quickly as possible.
Don't think your belongings are worth enough to insure? Even the tiniest studio apartment can hold thousands of dollar's worth of personal property. Completing a home inventory can help you determine the overall value of your belongings and assist you in assessing their insurable value.
Investing time in your assets
Taking the time now to document your belongings can save you time and worry later, and ensure proper reimbursement for all your losses. The more area you occupy and personal property you have, the longer it will take to complete an inventory. The most effective inventory combines a detailed written list with one of the following:
- Videotape with audio narration
- Photographs of valuable, or unique items
- Audiotape with photographs of valuable or unique items
There are also good inventory software packages available to help you organize, store and keep your list updated.
No madness in this method
No matter what method(s) you choose, make sure to approach this project systematically so you don't miss anything. Keep a copy of your completed inventory off premises in a safety deposit box, or with a relative or friend.
Here are some project tips:
- Begin in one room and cover its contents thoroughly before moving on.
- Remember hallways, attic, basement, garage, porch, pool, patio and garden.
- Open closets and drawers.
- Group like-items together when possible. For example, clothing can be grouped by category, quantity and overall cost. Note anything of special value.
- Document unique information about valuable items, such as model, age, where purchased, unusual qualities, etc.
- Record serial numbers of major appliances and electronic equipment.
- Attach sales receipts and/or appraisals to the inventory list.
- Photocopy important documents and attach to the inventory list. Keep originals in a safety deposit box.
- Photograph valuable items against a plain background, next to a ruler. Turn items over to show any hallmark, manufacturer or pattern information.
- Keep your inventory list updated by documenting any new items acquired.
- Complete separate inventories for any other home, boat or recreational vehicle you own.
- Collections and/or specialty items, such as jewelry and art, should be professionally appraised to establish their value. Attach appraisals to the inventory list.
Actually replacing value
A good home inventory that is part of a homeowners, renters or condominium owners insurance plan is designed to restore your lifestyle to normal quickly and with minimal additional cost. There are two types of policies designed for this purpose: actual cash value and replacement cost.
Actual cash value policies pay the cost to replace an item after depreciation. Your 10-year old bedroom set might still look good, but it's unlikely you could replace it today for what you paid a decade ago. With an actual cash value policy, you will have to make up the difference.
A replacement cost policy takes into consideration what it would cost to replace the bedroom set at today's prices. You can expect to pay a slightly higher premium for replacement cost coverage.
Read your policy carefully because most homeowners policies have strict limits on certain valuable items, such as jewelry, furs, silver, art, antiques, electronics, guns and other collectibles. You may need to purchase additional insurance, called a rider or floater, to make sure those items are covered properly.
The inventory form that follows is a good starting point and lists many of the common items most people have in their homes. Don't be surprised if you need to attach an additional sheet marked “other” for each room you inventory. A lifetime of collecting belongings, even if you've just rented your first apartment, can yield a wealth of unique items that express who you are.
To create a consistent “other items” page use the following format on as many sheets as you need.
Other items in (name of room)
Number of items
Description of items
Number of items
Description of items
CDs, DVDs, records, audiotapes
Armoire and contents
Computer system and software
Desk and contents
Dressers and contents
Dressing table and contents
Game system and games
Mattress/box spring set
Night tables and contents
Shower curtains and hooks
Pantry food items
Pantry pet supplies
Pantry storage units
Playroom bookshelves and contents
Playroom game tables
Ornamental lawn items
Outdoor cooking equipment