Proper Home Inventory Tips

Don't wait until disaster strikes to try to recall the value of damaged, destroyed, or stolen items from your home. Prudent homeowners and even renters create a home inventory list and keep it in a safe place so that if disaster does strike, you will be prepared to file an insurance claim or police report with all the information you need at your fingertips. In addition, most people are understandably upset when their home and precious items have been damaged or destroyed and it can be difficult to remember all the important information you may need.

Home Inventory - What is It?

A home inventory is an extensive and all-encompassing accounting or listing of your personal property located in your home as well as any other places, such as a garage or storage area that is located on the premises. Some people erroneously believe they don't need to do a home inventory unless they have expensive jewelry or art. This couldn't be further from the truth. While you may think you'll remember the items in your home that could be stolen or destroyed, you most likely won't recall model numbers, purchase dates and prices, and other important specifics.

Your home inventory list should include all personal property, including all audiovisual equipment, such as televisions, stereos, computer equipment, and musical instruments. Your list should also include all appliances and other kitchen content, your furniture, carpets, and all household furnishings. Your accounting of your personal belongings should also include your clothes and other personal affects.

While it's easy to remember to include such items as jewelry, artwork, and antiques on your home inventory list, don't forget to include such items as lawn mowers, tools, sports equipment, and other items you generally use outside. Any item of value should be included on your home inventory list. Once you begin to list your personal items, you'll see why it's impossible to remember the details of each and every item and you'll feel better once you have completed this task.

Why Should I Conduct a Home Inventory?

The most common reason people make home inventory lists is for insurance purposes, although there are other reasons that are important, too. However, when you make an insurance claim for items that have been damaged, destroyed, stolen, or even lost, you are going to need specific information pertaining to the items. In some cases, you'll need supporting documents, such as receipts, to back up your claims and these should be included with your home inventory list.

Without an organized and well documented home inventory accounting, you run the risk of being compensated well below the replacement value for your items. While this may seem like a daunting task at first, it may not be near as daunting if you conduct your home inventory when you are moving. This will give you a chance to assess your belongings to see if any of them need to be replaced or thrown out altogether and it's also a good time to make sure all of your household paperwork is in order.

How Do I Conduct a Home Inventory?

Set aside some time when you aren't likely to be distracted or interrupted to conduct your home inventory. If you have a large amount of personal property, you may need to do this over several sessions and if you are planning to move, that is an excellent time to do this as well. While you'll want to group like items together, such as television sets and furniture, you can do this after you've listed all your items. To get started, it's probably best to go room by room so that nothing is left out or forgotten.

You'll want to be very specific when you conduct your home inventory. You may even want to put this information into a spreadsheet application on your home computer, but a handwritten list will work too. You'll need to be as concise as possible; for example, don't just list 3 televisions, but list them each individually with the brand names, sizes, dates of purchase, and purchase prices. Try to include as much of the following information as possible in your home inventory list:

Description (be as concise as possible)
Any identifying numbers, such as model number or serial number
Brand name or Manufacturer
Where the item was purchased (If you didn't purchase the item, but received it as a gift, list this information as well.)
Date you purchased the item
Any accompanying paperwork, such as receipts, cards, or letters
Value of item, including purchase price, current value, and replacement cost
Copies of any appraisals, such as you might get with jewelry or art

Take Pictures if Possible

If your stolen items are recovered in a pawnshop or any other area, a picture will remove any doubts the authorities may have that the items are indeed yours. Photographing or videotaping your personal property will lend credibility to your home inventory list, especially for those items for which you don't have a receipt. Make sure you include a reference to the date of your video if you videotape your possessions; you can easily accomplish this by taking a shot of that day's newspaper with the date in plain view.

Safeguarding and Maintaining Your Home Inventory

Although you may use your home computer to list your home inventory, you certainly don't want the only copy to be on one of the items that could be damaged or stolen. Be sure and print a copy of your list and keep it in a safe place, such as a safe-deposit box or with a relative. Keep supporting receipts, pictures, and videotapes with your list and review your home inventory at least once a year to add new items, subtract old items you no longer have, and to update prices, such as the current or replacement value of your items.