Do you have a disaster and or legacy plan? Wondering if you really need a home inventory? Whether you have one started or have nothing at all read on to learn why you need a home inventory and how to protect your personal property.
Almost all of us need a home inventory, whether we rent or own our homes or businesses. If you have insurance, you need an inventory to prove replacement value. If you are leaving things to family, donation, etc, you also may need an inventory.
Sadly, many people think that because they have insurance, they don’t need to worry about a home inventory. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Insurance doesn’t guarantee you will get replacement value for your property. There are so many irreplaceable things, and all the little stuff really adds up. Having a home inventory will save you a huge potential headache, hours, or worse; pocket expenses lost down the drain. When trying to dig your way out of a disaster, or your family is grieving and trying to determine the value of your estate, this can add stress to an already hard situation. When I became a professional organizer, I learned all about the different home inventory systems and tools available. I also helped clients with creating inventory systems both before and after disasters, mostly flooding and some theft. Trust me when I say you don’t want to inventory your stuff after it’s been damaged or try to remember what’s missing! It’s not the insurance company’s responsibility (or your family’s) to know the value of your personal belongings, (and it’s not in their interest to help you with this). If you can’t prove you owned it (meaning tracking down receipts or charges, photos or other documentation), you may lose altogether.
What needs to be inventoried? The quick answer is everything! You are probably thinking this will take ages, and depending on how much detail you want to include, it could be a significant undertaking but really not so bad if you take it step-by-step and room-by-room.
Without an inventory, you could end up with a mess and thousands of dollars in lost assets! In the case of estate planning, your family may be left trying to figure out what is what. Don’t get stuck sorting toilet plungers from kitchen utensils, holiday decor, and more. Document the items in your home, including valuables and everyday items. This inventory should be updated every 2-5 years depending on your circumstances.
I’ve worked extensively on creating inventory for insurance claims and estates. Here’s what you need to know. Photos and videos are your friends! Spreadsheets are super helpful and may prevent you from having to fill out additional information in the event of an insurance claim. But there are other systems out there that are super helpful and can do more for you than just a home inventory.
A home inventory Checklist can help you to understand what information will be most valuable in the case of an insurance claim. Most insurance companies would like to have the following. The more info you can provide, the more accurate your claim and reimbursement will be. Remember, the more complicated your assets and estate, the more details you will need.
It may not be necessary to have all the information below. Suppose you’re in a disaster situation and realize you don’t have anything. In that case, the short answer is to photograph every wall of every room, even opening cabinets and closets, and take photos of contents by shelf. Take notes on contents to help jog your memory, noting location and a general description. Photograph anything specifically valuable in each room. These photos and notes will prove invaluable if you have to evacuate quickly and lose the property.
Remember, “Done is better than perfect!” What follows is a more detailed guide of what your insurance company might request. Not having all of this does not mean you will not get reimbursed. The more you can provide, the quicker and more smoothly things will move along.
- List items by room- This will help qualify content damage when structural damage has been done.
- Include a basic description
- Serial or ID number
- Assign value (replacement value will be paid based on current market value-ex. electronics that may have cost you $500 might be replaceable for $200 today)
- Date purchased
- Receipt if available
- Reference photo’s
Home Zada is one of the most comprehensive home management tools out there and does everything from home maintenance reminders to home inventory. If you’re on the serious side of protecting your valuable assets, I can’t recommend a better way to manage it all in one place! This is a cloud-based option so you won’t lose it if you lose your computer!
Another great comprehensive but inexpensive system is Liberty Street Home Manage software (also cloud-based). It’s under $40 and allows you to enter all the important documentation and photos for all your assets (at multiple locations).
Several insurance companies have their systems, so ask your insurance agent what they offer! It will probably be free and give them everything needed if you ever have to make a claim.
Home Contents is a UK Based app that makes home inventory a snap with your digital camera in-phone. And finally, in the app department, My Stuff has several free and paid options with great features for adding items to folders, tagging, etc for easier sorting and organizing.
If you prefer to stick with a spreadsheet-style inventory, just do a quick search for Home Inventory Checklist to find quite a few good options for free. Most of these templates you can download and use on your computer/device.
Spreadsheet systems (I’ve used comprehensively with insurance agents to recover contents lost) can be clunky, and it’s difficult to see photos of items with their descriptions quickly. Another drawback is that unless you back up your computer or device, you risk losing your inventory (photos and checklist) and your contents in case of a disaster!
If a home inventory for disaster or estate planning is something you want help setting up, let me know, and I’d be glad to assist!
No matter what system you choose, I hope you make a plan, schedule it on your calendar, and start your home inventory today!