Why do I need a personal property inventory?
Homeowner’s insurance provides you with the security of knowing that your personal belongings are protected in the event of a loss. However, the insurance company can only pay you for items that you can document after the loss has occurred.
This is where good home inventory comes in. A home inventory can:
- Speed up your insurance claim because you won’t spend the time trying to take an inventory after the damage has already occurred.
- Maximize your claim payments because you won’t forget any of your belongings.
It can make your life a lot easier when you begin the process of replacing your personal belongings. You should take an inventory of your personal belongings so that you have a record of what you own. After a loss, this inventory can help you identify items that have been damaged or stolen.
What should be included in the home inventory?
A good home inventory should contain the following information:
- Item description, including make and model (if applicable)
- Estimated value of the item
- The date of purchase
Obviously, you won’t get receipts for everything you own. But for general categories, such as clothing, you can provide a number. For example, “six pairs of jeans, 10 dress shirts, two pairs of sneakers.” But be sure to note any valuables, such as an expensive suit or dress. It’s a good idea to periodically update your inventory as you purchase new items for your home.
And don’t forget off-site items, such as the belongings you keep in the storage facility. Your homeowners insurance policy may cover items in off-site facilities from problems such as theft and fire.
How do I make an inventory for the home?
A home inventory can be as simple as a written list, photos, or a video. Or use a home inventory app to help you compile your list. While you’re taking inventory of your personal belongings, don’t forget all the drawers, cupboards, attic, and basement, and if you’re brave, take a look under your bed.
However you decide to create home inventory, the key is to be as detailed as possible and store a copy of the inventory outside of your home. For example, you can store an electronic copy in a cloud service or keep a paper copy with a relative.
You will also need to update your home inventory on a regular basis. It is a good idea to update it every year. This way you can add any items you’ve acquired or delete items you’ve gotten rid of.
Make a list
The list can be as simple as a pen and paper or a spreadsheet on your laptop. Here are some organizational tips to get started:
- Organize your list by room. Choose a room and record all content. For example, start in your living room and include everything, such as the TV, coffee table, chair, and sofa. Don’t forget the little things, like books, furnishings, and decorations on your shelves.
- Organize your list by groups of items. Or group together items such as antiques, artwork, clothing, collections, jewelry, kitchenware, furniture, musical instruments, and miscellaneous items.
Take photos and/or video
If you have a smartphone, you have the tools you need to record your personal belongings with photos or videos. Take a tour of your home and pick up each item. If possible, get a clear snapshot of the serial number. If you are recording a video, it is best to describe the item, its estimated value, and the date of purchase.
Using the Home Inventory app
You can use an app for your smartphone or tablet to list items and store photos and videos. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners recently launched a home inventory app (available on the App Store or through Google Play) that has the ability to:
- Group property by category
- Scan barcodes for accuracy
- Loading and exporting photos
- Find disaster preparedness tips
- Review information about filing insurance claims
Here are more home inventory apps.
Some apps may not be available on all operating systems and may require in-app purchases.
Re-evaluate your insurance on valuable items
While you’re documenting all of your stuff, it’s time to take a look at high-value items such as jewelry, musical instruments, artwork, and electronics. That’s because homeowners’ insurance may place a special sub-limit on certain types of items.
For example, a common homeowner’s insurance policy places a $1,500 limit on theft coverage for jewelry and watches. If you have valuables, you can “schedule” them. Scheduled personal property is an addition to home, apartment, or renter homeowners’ insurance to insure high-value items at their full value.
Quick tips to secure your belongings
- A home insurance policy will have specific coverage limits for “contents”, that is, your possessions. Check your policy declarations page for your content limits. Does it seem sufficient to replace all the furniture, rugs, curtains, clothing, appliances, and other belongings?
- Make sure your policy covers the replacement value of your possessions, not the actual cash value. Paying actual cash value will only pay you the consumable value of your items, not new replacements.
- If you live in an area prone to earthquakes or floods, you can consider earthquake insurance or Flood insurance. Without it, your home and property would not be covered in these disaster situations.
How do I know I have enough insurance?
Home inventory can also help you determine how much insurance you need to cover your possessions. Coverage should always equal the cost of replacing your property at today’s rates, less than a reasonable amount of depreciation. You should also have high-value items such as jewelry, furs, and art objects that are regularly evaluated to ensure you have enough insurance to cover their value.