When it comes to home disasters, such as water damage, one of the best ways to protect yourself from further loss is to compile a detailed list of your personal property. In the case of fire or water damage, sometimes your home contents can be damaged beyond recognition. You will be surprised just how much value those individual possessions add up to when you really start to think about what it would cost to replace them.
Why Exactly Do you Need a Home Inventory?
A household inventory can be a life saver at claim time, when it comes to your insurance company replacing those cherished items that you value so much. The ability to simply hand over a home inventory will save you time and frustration when the insurance adjuster has to account for items damaged in the loss. Your itemized list will also help with the replacement costs of your property and help you to determine ahead of time if you have the necessary insurance coverage to replace your assets. According to the Insurance Information Institute, most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for your personal possessions for approximately 50 to 70 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home. So the best away to find out if you have the right coverage is to construct a household inventory.
In preparation for this article, we spoke to a former Insurance agent who worked for both Farm Bureau Mutual and State Farm for a total of almost 4 decades! He had this to say about creating a home inventory:
“After my 38 years as an insurance agent one thing stands out to me. Most insurance adjusters want to be fair in their payment of claims and the thing which helps them the most is to have a good detailed inventory of items lost from which to work. A well done home inventory takes so much of the guess work as to values out of the equation. With the detailed list the insured knows before the loss what they are insuring and to what value. A few minutes doing the inventory now can and will save time and frustration when the tragic moment of loss occurs.”
So where to begin? Experts will tell you that this is not a one day project, so don’t stress getting it done all at once. There are many ways to go about compiling your list, but the best way to avoid getting too overwhelmed is to break it up over a period of time. Perhaps the best plan of attack is to go room by room or category by category, until you have successfully completed your inventory.
Tools for Creating Your Inventory
Before you start it is important to decide what method you will use to compile all of the information. Obviously, there are several different ways you can effectively capture all of this from a hand written list to pre-made forms and from computer software to fancy apps. We’ve included a comprehensive list below of these methods, including some related resources that will help you manage the process.
Make a Simple Written or Typed List
This one is pretty obvious, and although this isn’t the most efficient method, if you like to use good old-fashioned paper and pencil, this can work. To stay somewhat organized, you might want to use one piece of paper for each room of the house and have some way simple way to notate things like whether you have a photo of the item. Use the checklist below in the “Essential Information to Record for Each Item” section to be sure you capture everything.
Evernote is a great tool for storing all sorts of information and can sync with all your devices. You can add a Home Inventory “Notebook,” and one “note” for each room or area of your home, then list the items within that room along with the information about the items. See the screenshot below for an example of how this would look. You could also insert pictures right into that same note all from your handheld device!
Software For Computer and Mobile Devices (Access from any Device)
These four options are our favorite pick, because you can access them from any device, computer, iPad, phone, etc. Make a change on your phone and it will sync with your computer or other devices where you have the software installed.
1. Insurance Information Institute Software (Free)
2. Digital Locker by AllState (Free)
4. HomeZada (Free – Basic Version)
The HomeZada basic version will give you what you need to do your home inventory. It also has a “Premium” version, which is a paid version (see http://www.homezada.com/homeowners/pricing) and comes with a ton more features, such as multiple homes, tracking your home maintenance and improvement. It even has a home finances section.
Use a Pre-Made Home Inventory Checklists:
If you invest just a little effort, using a pre-made home inventory template will be far more efficient than just trying to record it all on the fly on blank sheets of paper. This will keep you organized and save time. Here are some great worksheets we found on the web that you can just download and print. Of course, you can make your own, but why reinvent the wheel?
PDF Versions (do preview of each – list any stand out features)
Microsoft EXCEL Spreadsheet Versions
Microsoft Word Versions
Google Sheets Version (You Need a Google Account to Access this one)
Use Home Inventory Software (Computer Only)
These two software programs are for your computer only. If you don’t need or want the inventory on your phone or mobile device, these can work great.
What You Own Home Inventory for Windows
Single license : $39.99
What You Own Home Inventory
Home Inventory Pro
One time purchase: $29.95
CD ROM for Windows Only
Home Inventory Pro
MyStuff2 (Free and Paid – iOS Only)
Liberty Mutual Home Inventory App (Free – Mobile App Only)
Encircle Home Inventory (Free – Mobile App Only)
The Essential Information to Record for Each Item
Once you’ve determined how to best go about compiling your inventory, it’s important to gather as much information as possible about each item:
- Receipts, if you still have them
- Replacement value and appraisals
- Photos or possibly video of each item
- Manufacturer, serial and model numbers
- Original cost and purchase date
- A brief, but accurate description of the items
Here is another good resource with a summary of the information you should include in your inventory. http://www.iii.org/sites/default/files/docs/pdf/inventory2011.pdf
Other Important Information
If doing your inventory by hand, remember to store it in a safe location, separate from your home in either a safe deposit box at your bank or with your attorney or insurance agent. Make a digital copy and store that as well. If you are using software it still isn’t a bad idea to print the inventory and store it. Once you have compiled your list, it’s important to remember to continually update your inventory by adding newly purchased items and deleting those you no longer have in your possession.
According to the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA), a typical fire or flood policy contains hundreds of provisions, stipulations and details in the event of loss and that the burden of proof is on the policyholder. This information alone, should inspire you to complete your list as soon as possible and store it in a safe place.
Of course, if it is in your budget, you could hire a specialist to compile your home inventory. There are many advantages to using a specialist from a bonded company, the first being their credibility with the insurance companies and other entities you may have to deal with. Secondly, hiring a specialist will save you time as projects are usually completed within the space of a week. Finally, all the information can be stored at their facility as a back-up, in the event that your copy is lost or stolen. If choosing this route, make sure you do your homework by checking their portfolios, reviews and their own insurance coverage in the case your property gets damaged in the process.
Finally, home and personal property inventories can also be a wonderful resource when dealing with trust and wills. It will save those you leave behind a great deal of stress and worry if you do the work ahead of time. The designation of personal property will ensure that your possessions be given according to your own wishes and will help to alleviate frustrations on the part of your loved ones and friends. Your home inventory can also be a good resource for estate auctions and sales. Ultimately, there’s really no downside to completing a household inventory. Do it today and you’ll be glad you did.