Creating a Home Inventory Checklist for Insurance

Creating a home inventory checklist for home insurance is probably not anyone’s idea of a great way to spend a Saturday, but taking the time to do it is important and can save you time, money, and a lot of hassle. Here’s why:

It provides documentation of what you own.
If you need to file a claim, having a home inventory checklist provides concrete documentation to your insurance company of what you’ve insured. It will also help prove tax deductible uninsured losses.

It saves time.
A pre-prepared checklist will speed the claims process along with your insurance company.homeownership

It will make things easier and reduce your stress if something does happen.
It’s much easier to document what you own ahead of time instead of waiting until something happens then trying to recreate an inventory from memory. During the stressful period after a loss or theft, it’s helpful to have the list already on hand.

Creating a home inventory checklist isn’t difficult but it will take a few hours, so make a plan to get it done, then get on to other things. Here are some tips for a smooth process:

A home inventory checklist is simply a list of what you own. Beyond that guideline, a “list” can take the form of an actual written list, a series of labeled photos or a video. Figure out a way to store and organize information that makes sense to you. Some people just narrate as they walk through the house taking a video; others create detailed lists with accompanying photos.

No matter which option you choose, make sure that it details everything, including clothing and shoes. The sample inventory checklists that insurance companies supply are extremely detailed. For example, the “bathroom” section on an inventory form may include spaces for such seemingly minor items like curling irons, scales, and even shower curtains.

Document the items in your house by walking from room to room. In each room, take videos and photos of each room and all the items within. Include photos of the inside of drawers and closets. Make notes on when the photos were taken and add special information about whether certain items are antiques. Take close-ups of expensive items and, for less expensive items like tools, gather them together for group shot.

Don’t forget garages, attics and basements, sheds, and other storage spaces. Remember, you’re documenting everything, including collections, CDs, toys, holiday decorations, and other seasonal items.

For valuable items, keep receipts or credit card statements, and information on purchase dates, appraisals, makes, models and serial numbers. (You may need extra coverage for personal property like collectibles and jewelry that might not be adequately covered in a regular policy.)

Consider taking advantage of online tools. Many insurance companies offer inventory forms that you can fill out and save online. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and the Insurance Information Institute offer free downloadable apps that will help you create and store a home inventory with your smart phone.

Keep a copy on file at home and another elsewhere like in a safety deposit box or with a trusted family member. Make your information accessible remotely by emailing yourself a copy or putting it in a cloud storage space like Dropbox.

If you’re getting new insurance, decide whether you want replacement cost coverage or actual cash value. Replacement cost coverage lets you replace the items with new versions at the current cost. Actual cash value gives you the amount that you would get if you had sold the item, including the depreciation. Actual cash value of used clothes for example, would generally be far less than what it would cost to replace them with new items.

Check limits every year and make sure you have enough coverage.
Update your list as you get new items or retire old ones.

With luck, you won’t have to actually use your home inventory checklist, but if you ever do need it, you’ll be glad it’s there.

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