Do you have the winter blues? Cabin fever? Looking for a way to pass the time? If you’re stuck inside this winter, why not take a few minutes to make a home inventory? If disaster strikes, or your home is burglarized and your belongings are destroyed or stolen, a home inventory makes the insurance claims process a lot simpler.
What Is a Home Inventory?
You’ve had a fire, a break-in, or storm damage. You’re tired, overwhelmed, maybe even displaced from your home. Now you’ve got to find a way to quantify your losses for your homeowners insurance company.
A home inventory is essentially a comprehensive list of all your personal property and belongings, along with receipts (if you have them), photos, and descriptions. And it’s probably not as hard as you think to make one.
Your home inventory can be categorized by room or the type of item, such as clothing, heirlooms, electronics, jewelry, and even food. Your inventory can be in the form of a written list, a spreadsheet, or some type of printable checklist. It can even be created with an app provided by your insurance company, insurance agent, or an app developer.
A home inventory will allow you to provide a value for the loss of one item, and it can help you quantify all of your belongings if you’re ever faced with the devastation of a total loss. It should be updated every year or whenever you make significant purchases to ensure that your new items are documented.
Why Should Homeowners and Renters Prepare a Home Inventory?
No one wants to think about a significant loss to their home or our belongings. But doing a little work now will go a long way toward reducing your stress and expediting the claims process if something bad happens.
One of the best ways to make sure you get through this process effectively is to prepare a personal property inventory, or home inventory, long before a loss ever happens. A detailed list of your belongings can not only help you purchase the right amount of insurance to begin with, it can also help you verify your losses and get claims settled much faster with far less red tape and headaches.
Putting your personal property inventory together may seem like a daunting task. But imagine the task of remembering everything that was in your home and what it was worth when you are stressed, exhausted, and devastated by a disaster.
How to Make a Home Inventory for Insurance Purposes
There are no hard and fast rules for taking a home inventory. You can use the method that works best for you, as long as you are sure to be thorough and you then secure your inventory in a safe location. Imagine taking the time to prepare your inventory, and then losing it along with your other belongings!
Go room to room, carefully recording items as you go using the method you have chosen. Think of the information you will need to report to your insurance company if you should need to file a claim. You will want to include as much information as possible to make the claims process go smoothly and ensure that you will be fully reimbursed.
As you prepare your inventory, include everything. But pay careful attention to valuables like jewelry, electronics, antiques, and so on. And don’t forget to include items in your garage, attic, basement, sheds, or other buildings on your property. For each item, include a brief description that includes — when possible — the brand name, model or serial number, receipts, and photographs. Include appraisals for jewelry and other high-value items.
Many people choose to make a video and describe the contents of their home as they walk through it. Others create a handwritten list or use a spreadsheet on their computer, attaching other pertinent materials as needed. You can also use software, an app, or even a professional home inventory specialist. Just be sure to carefully check the credentials of any individual who you invite into your home to catalog your belongings!
Your insurance company, agent, and other insurance industry experts often provide free checklists, apps, or other resources to help you prepare your inventory.
One last thing: Make backup copies of your inventory and store them away from your home in a safe deposit box or some other secure location. That way, you can be sure that your inventory will be safe, even in the face of a terrible disaster.
How to Keep Track of Your Ever-Evolving Food Inventory
The food in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer is also valuable and can be lost due to a fire, a storm, or a power outage. Unlike most of the items in your home, your food inventory is likely to always be in flux, so today’s inventory probably won’t match tomorrow’s, and so on.
While it’s probably impossible to keep track of all of your food at all times, here are a few tips for keeping track of your food inventory. Even if it’s not 100% accurate all the time, it can give you a snapshot and approximate value of what you typically have on hand.
The first time that you take inventory of your fridge and pantry will be the most difficult. You’ll probably have to take everything out (a good opportunity to do some shelf and fridge/freezer cleaning, too), sort through it, throw out outdated items, and start a list from scratch.
Write everything down as you put it back, and then create a categorized list organized in a way that makes sense to you. There are a few ways to easily make and update your food inventory:
- Use a spreadsheet that you design and fill in yourself.
- Go high-tech; use a free app provided by an app developer, your insurance company, or your insurance agent.
- Take frequent photos of your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator.
Once you’ve created your initial dated master list or filled in your app, you can easily update it every time you go to the store or use something up. Taking photos can help make sure that if you miss something on the list, you still have a record of it.
A great way to ensure your food inventory is on track is to stay organized. Keeping shelves clean and free of clutter, using bins to organize like items, and cleaning out your refrigerator and pantry regularly are great for keeping a peaceful and pleasant kitchen, and will definitely help you if you experience some kind of food loss.