Create a Personal Home Inventory Before Disaster Hits

Over the years, you’ve probably accumulated a lot of stuff in your home. The average American household has over 300,000 items, according to one estimate (source). If a disaster such as a flood, fire, or theft were to destroy your home, would you recall all the details necessary to provide a claim report to your insurance company?

To avoid guessing what your worldly possessions are worth, it’s in your best interest to create a personal home inventory. By making the time to list your items in an organized manner, you’ll avoid problems if you need to make a claim with a carrier. This article will offer you some helpful tips to consider when creating a personal home inventory.

Why home insurance?

Homeowner’s insurance can be a lifesaver. If a catastrophe unexpectedly caused you to lose your stuff, whether it’s from theft or a natural disaster, you’d be able to replace everything. Home Insurance coverage is essential whether you are a homeowner or a renter.

Mortgage lenders tend to require you to have insurance to be eligible for a mortgage. As a tenant, the landlord’s insurance only covers the structure you live in, not your belongings. SuperMoney offers both home and renter’s insurance that offers comparison and reviews of the different carriers to help you determine the best fit for your lifestyle.

Keep track of your stuff

A notebook, an Excel spreadsheet, or a downloadable home inventory worksheet are all you need to get started with your home inventory. A search on Pinterest for “insurance home inventory” provides downloadable and creative worksheets. eSurance’s My Home Inventory Checklist provides a populated worksheet consisting of all the rooms and items you could find in a home.

Customize your worksheets

Collect as much information as possible in your worksheet. If you’ve saved any receipts, you can staple them directly to the worksheet. Customize your sheet with the following labels to gather as much detail as possible:

  • Description of the Item
  • Quantities
  • The Brand
  • The Purchase Date
  • The Serial Numbers for electronics
  • The Purchase Date
  • Original Cost
  • The Estimated Value of the item
  • Any Improvements

Systematically record each room

Once your worksheet is ready, go room-to-room and you list your valuables. Start with your kitchen, living room, and bedrooms and then hit your garage, attic, and outside areas. Do not neglect any of the stuff you have stored in boxes or out of sight in drawers.

Focus on your most treasured and valuable items first, and then go back to record the less important stuff. Miscellaneous items such as Tupperware or gardening tools can be grouped together.

Document with photos and video

Documenting your home can easily be accomplished by taking pictures or videos with tools, such as a smartphone. Photos allow you to add descriptions and other important details. Video lets you quickly scan entire rooms and include audio recordings.

With either a photo or video, you can zoom in on brands and serial numbers of electronic items. The written worksheet combined with photos or videos will verify details. Update your inventory worksheet yearly and save your receipts, especially for your more expensive valuables.

Keep your inventory safe

David Bakke, a finance expert at Moneycrashers.com,  points out, “Once your inventory is complete, be sure that you have a few extra copies on hand. Store at least one copy away from home, such as in a safe deposit box at your local bank.”

Anywhere outside your home is an ideal place to store your inventory – at your office, a friend’s home, or even in your email. Another way to keep your possessions safe is by taking a picture of your personal inventory, saving it on a thumb drive, and storing it in the cloud.

Record your stuff digitally

There are a few mobile apps available to help create a room-by-room record of your belonging. Digital apps make the process quick and easy, and most apps allow you to store in the cloud. Here are a few of our favorites.

 Know Your Stuff® 

  • The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) offers this award-winning home Inventory tool.
  • Provides secure online storage through Amazon Web Services.
  • It’s easy to join the app, as it requires minimal personal information at registration.
  • Has a user-friendly dashboard that includes charts, tables, and graphs that show the total value of your belongings by property, room, and collection.
  • Allows you to store and manage all your insurance policy information and contacts in one place.
  • You can download it from your computer or mobile device via the Apple Store and Google Play.

Home Gallery App

  • Liberty Mutual offers this app to anyone whether a customer or not.
  • Takes photos of your belongings directly from the app.
  • Makes it easy to quickly browse a gallery of your belongings.
  • It catalogs each item by room and allows you to add details.
  • Barcodes can be scanned for images and descriptions.
  • You can export your inventory as a spreadsheet or PDF for easy sharing or as a backup.
  • It’s only available on iOS at this time, but it can be used on multiple platforms including desktop, iPad, and mobile.

 Digital Locker

  • Allstate Insurance offers this free and easy-to-use app.
  • Easily and securely stores your information in the cloud.
  • It keeps a detailed and visual catalog of your valuables.
  • When new items are added to your “locker,” the app totals the cost of all items.
  • As you take photos from the app, it organizes items by room or category.
  • You can manage your personal property and access your information quickly when needed.
  • Customize your locker with descriptive tags to quickly search and locate relevant items.

Act now

Conducting a personal home inventory may not sound like an ideal way to spend a Sunday, but you’ll be grateful you took precautions to prepare for an unexpected disaster if it were to hit. Keep in mind that, in 2015, natural catastrophes alone in the US totaled over 25 billion dollars and, of that amount, only 15 billion was insured according to Munich RE.

It’s a smart decision to not only get home insurance but to keep track of your stuff long before you need to make out any claim reports. Of course, the best home inventory is worthless if you have a bad insurance company. Click here to see if you are getting the best coverage and rates available.

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