Let’s face it — inventories are boring. If you’ve ever had to do one at work as part of your job, you know it can be time-consuming and annoying. And it can be even harder at home, where you could own a lot of items that you don’t even think about.
However, the stress of an inventory is nothing compared to the heartbreak of losing your belongings in a house fire. While the loss itself is one thing, it’s so much worse when you’re not even sure what items you lost or how much they were worth. Sure, you may be able to recall the things you use every day, but unless you have a perfect memory, you won’t be able to keep track of everything that’s gone.
This is a major issue for the sake of insurance purposes. Although people tend to remember the most valuable possessions, all of the smaller things can add up. In addition, having the exact specifications of these pricier items will help insure that you are recompensed for their full value.
Many insurance companies offer personal belonging protection as part of your home insurance policy. This ensures that you’ll receive compensation if you lose personal items in your home as a result of damage or theft.
There are many ways to make a home inventory list for the personal belongings coverage of your home insurance, including writing it down and keeping a record of your belongings on video.
In the article below, we will detail the most effective way you can make a physical list of your personal belongings, walk you through the process of creating a visual record, and advise on how to store the inventory documentation.
How to Write a Home Inventory List
Writing down your home inventory is the quickest and easiest way of keeping track of your personal belongings. All you need is a pad of paper and something to write with. Also, keep in mind that this process could take some time, so set aside a few hours to complete this process, and consider doing it over multiple days if necessary so you don’t feel rushed.
The following five-step process reveals how to effectively create a written copy of your home inventory.
Step 1: Make a list. Start by making a list of all of your personal belongings. As a part of your list make sure to include:
- Item description
- Where you bought it
- The items make and model, if applicable
Make sure to include items in drawers and closets.
Step 2: Collect paperwork. As you make your list, attach any sales receipts, purchase contracts, and appraisals for items on the list.
Include anything that can provide proof of purchase or each item’s worth.
Step 3: Make a note of especially valuable items. Highly valuable items might need separate insurance.
Check with your insurance agent to determine how much additional insurance you need for your valuable items. Items of high value (also known as “big ticket items”) include:
- Works of art
- Musical instruments
- Expensive electronics, including computers and high-end TVs — Note: When you take inventory of electronics make sure you add their serial numbers and a model numbers.
Step 4: Take pictures. To create and additional backup for your list, take pictures as you add items.
Taking a photo of an important individual item allows you to verify its condition with the insurance company.
Group lesser items and take a photo all at once.
If possible, list what items the photo shows on the back of the picture.
Step 5: Compartmentalize your inventory process into smaller chunks. When you take every possession into account, even a small house can seem overwhelming to inventory.
Compartmentalizing the huge task can make it more manageable and organized. Going through the inventory one room per day makes it feel less intense. If there are multiple people involved, allocating one person per room can see things through more quickly.
Step 6: Don’t forget the shed and garage. Even if they’re not “rooms” by the casual definition, you would be doing your possessions a disservice by foregoing exterior areas like the home shed and garage.
These areas can have some of a homeowner’s most high-value assets. Other off-site areas, such as a self-storage locker, or a safe deposit box, should be taken into account as well.
Step 7: Record your clothing items by the category. There’s not much point in accounting for every single piece of clothing you have; counted individually, one person’s clothing could take more time to inventory than an entire room.
With that in mind, it’s usually fair enough to count the clothing by category. If you have three sets of jeans for example, you can record them as a group rather than by themselves. Exceptions may be made for high-value items of clothing, such as formal dresses.
Step 7: Throw away the things you don’t need. Although this doesn’t directly help the task at hand, you can use this as an opportunity to go through your belongings and toss out the things you don’t need.
People may find they inadvertently stock up on a lot of items they’ll never use. Getting rid of clutter can free space for other things; in extreme cases, it can even lower the risk of a fire hazard.
A document safe makes a great location to keep your home inventory list and can protect it from fire and other damage. And consider keeping a backup list on your computer or in the cloud.
How to Create a Visual Record of Your Home Inventory
You can also use a video camera to create a good visual record of what you own. Do a walkthrough of your home, describing the contents of each room as you go. Alternately, you can use a tape recorder to complete an auditory inventory; just make sure to adequately describe each item.
The following three-step process reveals how to complete a video record of your home inventory.
Step 1: Pick a room. Start at one end of your house and do a walkthrough.
Pick a room such as the living room and work your way from one end of the house to the other.
Speak clearly so that the insurance agent can understand you.
Step 2: Describe each room as you point the camera. As you walk, describe the items in each room.
Point the camera at the item you are describing so that the insurance agent understands which item you are talking about.
Make sure to go through items in your closets and drawers. You should lay items out in the rooms beforehand to save time.
Step 3: Don’t forget the garage. In addition to the main part of your home, don’t forget other areas on your property, such as a garage or storage shed.
You should have coverage on your home insurance policy for any structures on your property in addition to your home. Make sure to include these and the items within them on your home inventory list.
Making a List, Checking it Twice
Taking an inventory mostly involves a lot of legwork, but the physical effort is nothing if you’re not able to compile the findings into a comprehensive list. Following these steps should be done concurrently with taking the inventory itself; trying to sift a bunch of disorganized info into a list will add work and increase the risk of slipping up and missing things.
Step 1: Use an inventory program on a computer or your phone. Compiling an inventory of your home can result in a very long list; in order for it to be helpful, you need to be able to bring up different items quickly and form by multiple categories. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of home inventory software programs available for this purpose — many of them are even free for use. There are also many home insurance apps you can use to store your inventory with ease on your phone. You can input the relevant information into the program after being recorded by hand in a notebook, or the inventory data can be written in directly to the program if you have the software on a smartphone.
Step 2: Attach receipts whenever possible. When you’re writing up your inventory, you should do your best to estimate the monetary worth of each item. Receipts save you that trouble. Attaching a receipt gives some verifiable proof as to how much you paid for things in the first place. Although the cost to replace items may have changed due to factors such as currency inflation, holding onto receipts for the more valuable items can help insure you’re paid off for as much of the original amount as possible.
Step 3: Store and back up your information. Make multiple copies of your inventory in case one of them is lost. Make sure that at least one copy of your inventory is located outside of your home; if anything happens to the home itself (such as a fire) you’ll want to have that inventory more than ever. If you have a safety deposit box, that could be a great option for storing your home inventory. This backup can be done digitally as well. Data backup services such as the Google Cloud Platform exist so you can have your information safe even if you lose your home computer and physical storage.
It is hopeful that you’ll never be in the situation where you’ll have to bring out the inventory to find out what you lost and make a home insurance claim. However, losing your possessions to fire, burglary or another event is always going to be stressful, and it really helps if you don’t have to keep track of every item off the top of your head. By the end of your inventory, you may find your home in a better-organized state than ever before.
Keeping a list of your personal belongings in your home makes it easier to file a claim if your items are lost to damage or stolen. To keep an accurate record, you need to make a list of your belongings or record them on video. In addition, make sure to keep any receipts or other paperwork verifying you purchased the item to help you determine its value. And, while taking a home inventory can make a mess of your home while you’re in the midst of it, when things are done, you’ll likely come out with a cleaner, neater house than before. For this reason, taking a home inventory can double as a more intensive form of spring cleaning. It’s also a great way to just be aware of what you own in the event of a big move or if you end up moving out from a shared home situation.