Protect Yourself with a Home Inventory
Do you think you have a really good memory? Would you know your own things if you saw them? Great! Now, without going back into the room, write out a list of everything that's in your bedroom. And that means everything, from bookcases to chairs, from hair clips to how many pairs of socks.
Are you a little intimidated at the thought? Just consider how much more difficult the task would be if it was for every room in your home and you were doing it after a disaster, like a fire. Under that kind of stress, you are highly likely to forget something. This is the precise reason that you do a home inventory.
What is a home inventory? A home inventory is a detailed list of the personal property located in your home. Don't just include what is in your home, though. You should also include property that you have stored elsewhere, either in a storage area, a shed or a garage on the premises.
Your list should include everything: your furniture, jewelry, artwork, antiques, appliances, kitchen contents, clothes, carpets, drapes, computer equipment, television sets, CD players (and other audio or audiovisual equipment), musical instruments, clocks, mirrors, linens, lawn mowers, snow equipment, tools, sports equipment and any other item of value. And this list is not comprehensive. You may have a unique hobby and unique tools that correspond to it. You really have to consider EVERYTHING.
Why do you need an inventory? The primary reason to have a comprehensive inventory is in case of an insurance claim. When you make an insurance claim for damaged, lost or stolen property, your policy will require you to show the quantity, description and amount of loss associated with each item. Depending on the type of coverage you have (either full replacement cost or actual cash value), you may have to provide a depreciated value for your item. Where possible, you'll also be asked to provide copies of bills, receipts or other documentation to support your figures. The bottom line? If you forget some items or fail to include an adequate description of others, you may receive less than you should for your losses.
Generally, it is best to arrange your inventory by room. It helps to ensure that you don't miss anything. For each room, make a list of each item, opening drawers, closets and any other type of storage. Be as descriptive as possible. For example, don't simply note that a bed exists: describe the headboard, footboard, mattress andbedding, and write down colors and dimensions. Don't forget the attic, hall closets, basement and outbuildings like garden sheds.Use our home inventory checklist.
While this entails a fair bit of work, do try to include the following information for each item:
- Item description (and quantity)
- Manufacturer or brand name
- Model number or serial number
- Description of where (or how) the item was obtained
- Date of purchase or age of item
- Receipt or other proof of purchase, showing cost
- Current value, if you know it
- Replacement cost, if you know it
- Photocopies of any appraisals
Now an inventory is a place where a picture can make the difference. It often helps to photograph or videotape your possessions, especially if the items are hard to adequately describe on paper or if you don't have a receipt. If you use a camera, label each photo with information about the item shown. If you use a camcorder, provide a commentary about each item in view. Date-stamp your video or take a shot of the date on that day's newspaper.
Once you have your inventory, the trick is to keep it in a safe place. An inventory will do you no good if it's lost in the same disaster that damages or destroys your home! Consider keeping a copy at work or in a safety deposit box. Include copies of your receipts and other supporting documentation.
While you may never have to do a complete inventory from scratch again, you will want to update it. If you keep your files on your computer, updating the lists should be fairly easy. You should update your inventory at least once a year, to ensure it faithfully reflects what you have in your home.