An inventory is a checklist that is used as a safeguard by homeowners for insurance purposes. In the event of a loss or damage to the contents of a property, the amount received from the insurance company will be influenced by what has been included in the checklist.
It is therefore useful to understand fully the extent of cover the contents insurance provides you and to make provision for extra cover for more valuable items.
Go through all the rooms using a floor to ceiling method to ensure you list everything of importance and value in all areas of the house. Taking photographs or having a video camera as you do this room-by-room checklist also provides visual evidence, which further validates the accuracy of the checklist.
List items that are expensive or of sentimental value like:
- family heirlooms
You should include details like the date when the item was purchased, receipts, and other distinguishing marks that give them added authenticity.
Take photographs of the items in case the need arises to replace or repair them.
Checking Outdoor Contents
Once all the interior of the house is checked, including cupboards and other storage areas move to the garden areas for further checks. Outdoor items kept in the garage, or in the garden area which are of value to you, should also be included in the inventory. These can be your tools, bicycles, garden maintenance equipment or other items like garden furniture that are stored in the garage for seasonal use. Notify the insurance company of any personal valuables that have been stored away from the home that you are including in the inventory.
Electronic equipment in the home like computers, laptops, televisions, stereos and other surveillance devices like closed circuit television (CCTV) or burglar alarms should also be listed. CDs, videos or books of which you might have a larger quantity can be counted and put on the list as a “lot”.
Also, include in the inventory household items like furniture, furnishings like curtains, linens or expensive carpets, kitchen utensils and other household appliances. Note down the make and model of each appliance using warranties and attach copies of invoices, if you have any, that show their price and date of purchase.
Once you have a complete checklist, which should include supporting information like photographs and receipts, put all the information on an Excel sheet or on a home inventory form. This can be downloaded from the internet. Do not forget to keep a back up copy offsite in case your laptop or computer crashes.
Hiring a home inventory company to prepare a checklist is useful for very large houses, people who are busy, and do not have the time to prepare a detailed checklist. These companies employ specialists who can do the listing for you accurately and professionally.
It is also a good idea to have regular valuations done on your contents to keep the information on your home inventory checklist updated.
How to do a Home Inventory
Being proactive about taking a home inventory has many advantages beyond knowing the value of your belongings. Having a clear idea of the correct value of your home inventory can also ensure that you have the proper level of insurance coverage.
Other benefits include getting your claim settled faster and being able to accurately declare losses on your tax return. One can only hope that you never have to use this list, but in case you do, here’s what you need to know in order to complete a thorough home inventory list.
There are several ways to take a home inventory including a written log, software-based cataloging, or filming your inventory. Utilizing software will achieve the most accurate inventory due to the necessity for specifics in the record. However, the other methods are still highly beneficial and no matter which method you use the steps will be the same.
Photograph or Video Everything
You can do one or the other or a combination of both. The benefit of using a camcorder is that you can give an audio description of each item as you film it. Start by getting an overall view of the room, so that you can see the items in the room and then take detail shots. While documenting the items of higher value is a given, don’t neglect the everyday items such as pot and pans, towels, clothing, etc.
Items that are frequently forgotten but are important to remember in recording inventory include: outdoor items, gardening equipment, patio furniture, appliances, seasonal items, and things stored in hard-to-get-to areas like the attic or crawl space. With each of these items, it is important to show the context of where they exist in your home. For instance, if you are photographing your barbecue make sure that it is clearly shown on your deck.
Document the Details
As suggested earlier, whether you are writing this information in a notebook or a spreadsheet in a computer program, the information needed will be the same. Make sure to record the name, description, quantity, model and/or serial number, date the item was purchased, original price paid, and the current value. Include a photo with this information for reference. Also, save receipts and keep with this information.
Have Special Items Appraised
Jewelry, family heirlooms, and art may need to be appraised to ascertain the most current value as well as to determine if the insurance coverage for them is adequate. This is especially useful when some items need to be insured separately.
Keep the Record Safe
Keeping the household inventory in the house may not be the safest choice in the event of a disaster that could ruin the house and everything in it. Consider a safety deposit box for hard copies and off site back-ups for software data if optimum security is your concern. Otherwise, copies and flash drive backups will be adequate as long as they are kept in a trusted place away from the home.
Keep the Record Current
Once you have your initial inventory, it will be easier to keep the list current. Briefly skim over your recorded inventory every six months or so to make sure nothing has changed too drastically in value and to update the list when needed. Whenever you get rid of something delete it and whenever you get something new, save the receipt and add it to the list.