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How to make a home inventory list for home insurance


By Susan Manning, Insure.com

No one wants to spend their Friday night taking inventory of every possession in their house, but if a disaster strikes, this mundane work will pay off.

Nearly half of Americans don't have an inventory list for their house. A recent report by Farmers Insurance said 44% don't have an inventory list. You may think a flood, tornado or wildfire will never hit your home, but Farmers said 70% of people will experience a natural disaster in their lifetime.

If your home and its contents get damaged, you'll be under enough stress dealing with the events at hand. That's why it's critical to make a comprehensive and detailed account of all your possessions for home insurance.

Obviously, the more information you have, the better -- it will make filing the claim faster and easier. So, you want to err on the side of collecting too much information.

Here's some information that you'll want to provide the insurance company:

  • When it was purchased
  • Where it was purchased
  • How much it cost

With that information, an insurer can assign the contents a value so it can be repaired or replaced quickly.

Now, let's talk about how best to compile a home inventory list for home insurance.


How to compile a home inventory

You don't need to get fancy to catalog your possessions.

A pen and notebook go a long way to track your material items. Make your list by including the possessions, any special details, rough estimate of when it was purchased and any other information that would make it easy for an insurance agent to process a loss.

Take photos and videos. They don't need to be Ken Burns' documentary quality, but having a visual record of important possessions will take pressure off you in the middle of a very stressful situation.

It will also make your insurance agent's job easier. And don't stop at just pictures and videos of items -- get shots of the serial numbers and receipts as well. Recording model numbers also helps.

"Video on your phone is fine…just so there is some kind of record. High valued items should be scheduled and have appraisals," said Megan MacBey, CIC, account executive at Eagle Insurance Group, LLC, in Massachusetts.

Walk around your home, go room to room and record every item. Don't get lost in the tedious work so much that you forget to list everything. Most people have storage boxes in attics and basements that are filled with items of value, but when they're tucked out of sight, they're often overlooked when taking inventory.

Important documents are sometimes overlooked. These can easily be preserved with photos from your phone. Make sure you capture: account numbers, addresses and phone numbers associated with bank accounts, passports, appraisals and insurance policies. Birth certificates, death certificates and marriage certificates are equally essential items to capture on video or photo.

Don't forget to update this list annually. Just as you would document and collect receipts for your taxes every year, you should also document and collect receipts to update your insurance inventory list of the new purchases.

This process will get less cumbersome after you create your first list. After that, you'll only need to add new purchases. Updating annually will allow you to adjust your property coverage accordingly.

Although this could be a daunting task, it's an important one, so choose one room to start with and go room by room until you're done. And remember: If it gets overwhelming, do it a little at a time because a partial list is better than none.


Where to store a home inventory list

No matter which form you choose -- a handwritten list, photos or videos -- make sure to find a safe place to keep it. It won't help you if the list is destroyed in a disaster.

Here are some ideas on where to store your list:

  • A safe deposit box
  • A copy at a friend or family member's house
  • A cloud so it can be accessed even if your original device is destroyed in the natural disaster. There are also apps that help create your inventory list and then store it on their cloud system.

So what happens if you're part of that 44% who don't have a list, but a disaster destroys your home? Is all lost?

"Not necessarily. They know you need to replace clothes and furniture, etc.; it just makes it easier to evidence what needs to be replaced," said MacBey.

Going room to room jotting down all your possessions isn't exactly thrilling. However, creating an inventory list for your home insurance can be vital if your home faces a disaster.

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