There were about 364,500 residential fires in 2011, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. That’s nearly 1,000 residential fires a day and a total monetary loss of more than $6.65 billion. Billions of dollars are lost each year to fires, and that only concerns property loss. There are millions of hours lost to collecting information, filing claims and proving the losses so that homeowners can get paid by the insurance company. That’s where a home inventory checklist comes in. In the event that you do experience a loss, whether it’s due to fire, theft or some other catastrophe, a home inventory list can save you precious time and money when filing a claim.
When you make a claim, you need to provide information about what was lost. This is extremely difficult to do right after experiencing a loss. If someone broke into your home, ransacked your house and stole some of your valuables, you’re stressed out, you don't feel safe and you're worried that it could happen again. Now imagine trying to figure out what the person took! Some things will be obvious, like a missing television, but others won't be as visible at first glance, like jewelry. Figuring out what items are missing is much easier if you have a list of everything in each room of your house. Running down your checklist would make the process less stressful and faster, so you can go about the business of returning back to normal life.
First, walk around and record a video of the contents in your home. Get close up to expensive electronics, and try to capture as much information as possible. It will take some time to compile a proper inventory, so until then you can use this video as a substitute. Next, you need to decide how you will store your home inventory. You can use a tool like Know Your Stuff from the Insurance Information Institute or put together a simple spreadsheet. Walk through every room of your house, and take plenty of pictures. Take photographs of the room, of expensive items in the room and any identifying information such as model numbers and serial numbers. Go back to your tool and enter in as much information about each item as possible. Then store it in a safe place, such as in a Dropbox account or folder in your email, so that it can't be damaged or stolen.
If you move items from room to room, update your inventory. If you recently received some gifts because of the holidays or a birthday, update your inventory. It’s important to update it at least once a year, and more often if you receive or purchase expensive items. An outdated home inventory is better than no inventory, but you might as well spend a little time to keep your list up to date, which could relieve some future stress if you come to need the list.
Your insurance policy has a limit on how much of your personal property it will cover. If you find that the contents of your home are particularly valuable, you may want to increase your coverage so that you are protected in the event of a theft or fire. Note that some items are not covered or are only covered with low limits under a standard insurance policy. For example, many insurance policies have limits on items such as collectibles and jewelry. You will want to get separate insurance riders for those items.
A home inventory is a very inexpensive and easy way to save you a headache and precious time, so do yourself a favor and start one today.