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Inventory for Homeowners Insurance - 5 Tips

Why make an inventory?

A few years ago, a friend of mine had many of his possessions stolen from his car while moving between apartments.  He didn't have an inventory or photos to make a renter's insurance claim.  Luckily though, he was able to use his credit card statements from prior years to replace most of his stuff.

You have no doubt been told to "write down an inventory of your household items in case of a disaster or theft" - and as I learned from my friend, it's especially important if your household possessions are made up of gifts, heirlooms, antiques, or items purchased with cash.

Putting together an inventory is good advice, but how many of us actually do it?

Really diligent folks might create a spreadsheet listing serial numbers, purchase dates, categories, etc. and then upload it to a secure place online like our online vault or Google Docs.  Photography hobbyists may take a number of pictures, add comments, and then upload to their favorite site.  Unfortunately, I don't fall into either camp.  At first I tried to make a simple list, then I took some digital photos, but I have since forgotten to upload anything...

There's an App for that!

Recently I came across the "My Home Scr.App.bk" application from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).  This iOS/Android app is simple to use for a busy homeowner, but sophisticated enough for the most detail oriented as well - there is a barcode reader and the ability to email yourself a pdf or csv file of the inventory.  The app can be found at http://www.insureuonline.org/home_inventory_page.htm.

Even non-smartphone owners are included, since the site above also has a downloadable Home Inventory Checklist (pdf) that can be printed out and completed by hand.

5 Inventory Tips for Homeowners and Renters

As you take on the task of building your home inventory, here are a few tips:

  • Don't try to take on too much at once.  I suggest starting by using the app to take a few pictures per room with drawers and cabinets open; then, detail individual items starting with the most expensive/important ones first.
  • Cash, jewelry, antiques, firearms, etc. are all subject to limited coverage.  Check your policy and add a "scheduled property" type of endorsement to your existing coverage if necessary.
  • If you are going to get a safe to secure documents at home, be sure to get a fireproof and waterproof safe.  If you include digital media, it needs extra protection, so consider a safe built for that purpose.
  • The garage sale value of your possessions - known as  "actual cash value" - may be much lower than the cost to replace them.  This is especially true with electronics - so work with your insurance agent to be sure you have the right amount and type of coverage (either actual cash or replacement value).
  • Losses from flood or earthquake are not covered in a standard policy.  Check with your agent to see if additional coverage makes sense for you.