4 Things to Know About Creating a Home Inventory List
Is this hard to do? Not at all. Is it a time-consuming pain? We’ll be honest — it depends on who you talk to.
Every person who has been through a theft, fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or other home-wrecking disaster says this is the one thing they wish they had.
Every firefighter, police officer or first responder we have interviewed says that a home inventory is the most important thing a family can do.
Why? It’s easier to write the details now. It’s harder after a traumatic event like a break-in or a house fire.
WHN Staff TIP – Times Two: Second home? Keep a separate inventory list.
When you’ll need it
A home inventory is a list or videos/photos of everything in your home. Here are just four times when your home inventory will help you out:
- When your things have been damaged or stolen
- Filing a police report, insurance claim, federal disaster claim or taxes
- Settling an estate
- Purchasing insurance policies for the right amount or adding riders and extra coverage.
WHN Reader TIP – Expensive? Engrave it! Consider using an electric engraving pen to mark more expensive items. Write a personal ID such as your last name or nickname. It helps with faster identification. Gladys, MN
When to do it
WHN Staff TIP – No Time? Create an inventory guideline – nothing under $50 the first time through. Save those items for a later date. It’s better to have a brief inventory than no record at all.
- During spring or fall cleaning, moving to a new house, after the new year — or anytime!
- Update your home inventory list at least once a year. Choose a date to help you remember, like the change to Daylight Savings Time.
- Update your records when you add something to your household.
- Include the info, pictures, copies of receipts, purchase contracts, warranties and other documents to the folder. This includes antique and art appraisals.
- Re-evaluate your list and insurance needs after any large purchases. Look at the total cost of the big-ticket items and contact your insurance agent to see if you need a rider or additional coverage.
- Consider other options to further secure your belongings like home security systems or safes.
Where to keep it
- Make a home inventory folder, box or binder to hold videos, photos, written lists and documents of your belongings. Label it!
- Keep a duplicate copy of videos and pictures off-site. If the images are digital, save it on a flash-drive to keep off-site and/or in the cloud
- Save the written information on your computer. For added protection, store a copy on a flash drive to keep off-site and/or save it to the “cloud.”
- Not a “cloud” fan? Keep a copy of your information somewhere out-of-town — with a friend or relative. Why? Natural disasters can affect an entire community.
- Give a copy of your inventory list to your insurance agent. Be sure he or she has your most updated version.
WHN Reader TIP – Be Honest: Be truthful and as accurate as possible when you quote the cost of items. A question about one item could lead to questioning the value of all your possessions.
How to do it
WHN Expert TIP – Entry Points: Stephen Hadhazi, public insurance adjuster and publisher of DocuDamage.com recommends taking close ups of your windows, doors and their frames. Also, videotape or take a picture of someone holding a level to your foundation to show that the foundation is indeed level at the moment.
- Need a guide? Print our room lists. These have been created with help from people who have lost their homes.
- Do one room at a time.
- Videotape and narrate. Focus on the big items like couches, tables, electronics, art, etc. Turn on the time and date function to show when you recorded your home and possessions.
- Include information like “I bought this TV in 2012 with my VISA card. I got it at Best Buy and it cost $400. The receipt and warranty are in (file cabinet, safe deposit box, etc.).”
- No video camera? Take photographs and label them with the same info above. Consider holding a ruler next to items to show the dimensions.
- If you use a digital camera, you can load the inventory list on the same CD as your photos.
- Write or describe each item, its brand name, make, model, serial numbers and the price. Include any other information you think might be helpful.
- Don’t forget sheds, garages, basements, porches, attics, hallways and around outdoor areas like pools and decks.
- List seasonal items: snowblower, skis, tennis racquets, skates, surfboards, bikes, lawn furniture, barbecue grill, lawn mower, etc.
- Group items by category, quantity and cost. For instance, “10 pairs of shoes” or “100 books,” and estimate the total cost. If you have high-ticket items like fur coats, designer dresses, heirlooms or antiques, take a picture and write down details (brand, year, price, description, authentification).
- Remember to look in closets, drawers and boxes.
- Note special features such as decorative plaster work, intricate hardwood floor patterns, ADA-compliant design, energy-efficient additions, craftsman work from 100+ years ago.
- Document the age, make and models of your utility systems (e.g. 50-year-old furnace vs. 3 years old).