Having a homeowners’ insurance policy is not enough to thoroughly protect all the possessions in your home. Only by documenting your goods and updating the list on a regular basis, can you ensure you have enough insurance, settle claims faster and substantiate losses for income tax purposes. The process of creating a home inventory may sound overwhelming, but technology has made it quite simple.
A traditional home inventory is a basic list of all belongings along with receipts to substantiate their value. Camcorders and digital cameras have added much dimension to home inventories. Video taped inventories are especially useful as you can narrate along with the video.
To create a video home inventory, walk through every room of your home and pan around the room with the camera. Don’t forget to open drawers and closets to record and describe what items are there. Whenever you can, note where you bought each item and its make and model. Make sure to categorically include toys, music CDs and even clothing and linens, as the cost of replacing these items can be substantial. Take particular note of expensive items including jewelry, furs and collectibles that may require additional insurance.
In addition to documenting your possessions electronically, make sure that you keep copies of supportive records including sales receipts, purchase contracts and appraisals. Also, record the serial numbers for major appliances and electronic equipment. Serial numbers usually can be found on the back or bottom of these items.
Follow the same steps when creating a digital photograph home inventory except make written notations about the items. Whatever form your home inventory takes, take steps to ensure you store it properly. Either print out the files or burn a CD. Keep a copy in a safety deposit box or have a friend store it. Keeping only one copy in your house will serve no purpose if your home is severely damaged by a fire or other widespread disaster. The same is true if your sole electronic home inventory is wiped out through a computer hard drive crash.
In addition to annually updating your home inventory, it is important to update to include newly acquired items. The Insurance Information Institute has created Home Inventory Software that is free to the homeowners and renters. The “Know Your Stuff - Home Inventory Software” is available at www.knowyourstuff.org. The software includes a customizable room-by-room list of possessions and can also store electronic images.