Wildfire destroys stick-built home
Fires can destroy homes fast, but there are ways to minimize losses through inventory.

A home inventory is a valuable investment for peace of mind for yourself and your family.

If damage, destruction or theft were to occur, an inventory eliminates the need to piece together what items need to be replaced.

Think about it — If your home is destroyed by fire or vandalized, could you recreate from memory a list of all your possessions, including purchase date, cost, serial number and model number?

Unless you have experienced a major loss, you’ve probably given little thought to how hard this process would be.

A detailed list of damaged or destroyed possessions — including proof of ownership and value — is required for all insurance claims. How quickly insurance processes your claim and determines your settlement amount is determined by the details given on your inventory report.

Though easy to compile, a home inventory report requires time and patience to gather the information that’s needed. Here’s how to go about it.

Old camcorder
You can use an old camcorder such as this to record a home inventory. (DepositPhotos)

Equipment Needed

To conduct a home inventory you’ll need:

  • Computer with spreadsheet or word processing program to record and store your report. Or you can print out a home inventory spreadsheet and fill it out by hand.
  • Digital camera to photograph your possessions.
  • Camcorder to provide additional documentation of your possessions as they appear in your home.
  • Scanner (optional) to provide digital images of receipts and other important papers.
  • Flashlight for finding model numbers on the back of appliances and electronics.
  • Tape measure to record the size of items.

Kitchen and living room in one large, open floor plan
It’s important to document major home assets. (DepositPhotos)

Information You Need

When conducting a home inventory, include the following information about each item:

  • Location
  • Description
  • Quantity
  • Manufacturer
  • Model number
  • Serial number
  • Purchase date
  • Initial cost
  • Estimated or appraised replacement value
  • Copy of receipt if available.

Folders with labels, including assets for a home inventory
Store important documents in a waterproof container. (DepositPhotos)

How to Conduct a Home Inventory

When conducting a home inventory, be as thorough as possible in your documentation. Include both video and still images.

Video footage enhances your claim by showing the items as they appear in your home whereas photos provide detailed information.

The steps include:

  • Outside Video: Include a view of the front and back of your home, along with patios, landscaping, fencing, and any additional buildings or structures on the property.
  • Outside Photos: Take pictures of each outside area along with any structures and other items in detail from several angles.
  • Interior Video: Record each room in your home. The best way to ensure a smooth pan of each room is by mounting your camcorder to a tripod. Start by focusing on the upper half of the wall toward the ceiling and pan slowly around as far as you can without moving from where you are standing. Then, move down to the lower half of the room towards the floor. Lastly, pan back to your original starting point.
  • Interior Photos: Take a photo of each room in your home. Position the camera in each corner of the room, or where you can achieve the best wide-angle shot of the entire room.
  • Detail Photos: Take photos of each item and include the frame number of each photo next to the corresponding item on your spreadsheet. Group similar items together in one shot, but specify what’s in each photo on the spreadsheet.
  • Spreadsheet: Organize your spreadsheet by rooms, and record as much information about each item as possible.
  • Receipts: Proving ownership and value of your items is crucial. Locate all receipts, including appraisal certificates, and attach them to the corresponding page of your report. Use a scanner to store copies of your receipts digitally, eliminating the need to attach the receipt to the report.

After You’ve Completed Your Home Inventory

When you’ve gathered the details for your home inventory, upload video, photos and spreadsheet to your cloud storage or onto a CD, DVD, or portable flash drive.

Make two copies of your home inventory report. Store them at secure locations outside of your home in a safety deposit box or with your insurance agent.

At least twice a year, review your home inventory. Record any new items or delete items that you no longer own.

Further Information

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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