Home Inventory: How to Document Your Personal Property

A home inventory is a comprehensive report which includes detailed descriptions and photos of the personal property in and around your home. While considered a key component in documenting insurance claims, a home inventory is also valuable for estate and financial planning.

Importance of a Home Inventory

If you were to step outside your home, could you list all the items you own? Even if you could list everything, would you be able to provide detailed information—including the purchase date, cost, model, and serial number—on the contents of your home?

A home inventory ensures that homeowners are sufficiently prepared, in terms of their insurance coverage, to deal with potential losses. A detailed list of all the items destroyed, damaged, or stolen is required for an insurance claim. Proper documentation ensures a faster and smoother claims process, as well as maximizing your insurance reimbursement.

In fact, you must provide documented proof of ownership to receive a settlement covering the full extent of the loss. According to the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, most policyholders do not realize that the burden of proof rests with them.

Benefits of a Home Inventory

Obtaining a comprehensive home inventory:

  • Ensures you have the necessary amount of insurance coverage.
  • Identifies items—such as jewelry, coins, antiques, artwork, and silverware—that have limited coverage. The decision can then be made to purchase additional coverage (known as a “rider”) so the items will be insured for their full value.
  • Allows an evaluation on whether to insure your property and contents at “replacement cost” or “actual cash value.” Replacement cost is the amount it takes to replace or repair your home and possessions with materials of similar quality. Actual cash value is a lower amount that consists of replacement cost less depreciation.
  • Results in a higher appraisal for your home, since it documents and provides proof of home improvement projects which add value to your home.
  • Verifies the condition of your assets before moving or placing them in storage in case of loss or damage.

Home Inventory in Estate and Financial Planning

A home inventory also acts as a valuable resource and supplement for wills, trusts, or other legal documents:

  • The home improvement report provides a detailed breakdown of personal property—including beneficiary designation and contact information for each item—to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
  • Important documents such as wills, life insurance policies, deeds, and stock certificates can be scanned into the inventory report, along with the location of the documents.
  • The probate process is simplified, faster, and less stressful since all the information needed is clearly defined.
  • Because the home inventory is a complete list of your personal assets, it can be used for loan applications or determining your net worth.
  • A home inventory provides a valuable resource for estate sales and auctions.

Information Included in an Inventory Report

The information gathered in a home inventory report includes:

  • Description
  • Model
  • Serial number
  • Cost
  • Purchase date
  • Manufacturer
  • Photos and video footage
  • Heir designation
  • Estimated or appraised replacement value
  • Scans of receipts and important documents

Compiling Your Own Home Inventory

While you can create your own home inventory, it is often put off or partially completed since it requires a substantial investment in time. It also requires the proper equipment (scanner, camcorder, and camera) and software to create a detailed and comprehensive inventory which will be accepted by the insurance company.

Hiring an Inventory Specialist

An alternative to conducting your own home inventory is to hire a reputable company to compile it for you. Advantages include:

  • Credibility: Using an inventory specialist lends credibility to your inventory for insurance companies, financial planners, and law enforcement.
  • Time: The inventory can be taken and compiled within one week.
  • Expense: Hiring an inventory service is affordable and is money well spent when damage, theft, or death occurs.
  • Information: Complete and detailed information for each item—including photos and scans of receipts—is compiled to assist in claims or probate. Video footage is also taken to support ownership of property.
  • Security: Data from your inventory is encrypted and stored at a back-up facility—ensuring security should your copies be lost or destroyed.

How to Choose an Inventory Specialist

When hiring an inventory specialist, be sure they have and provide the following:

  • Performance bond.
  • Insurance coverage against accidental damage to personal property.
  • Signed guarantee certificate that the client’s information will be kept strictly confidential, and the steps that will be taken to ensure this occurs.
  • Statement of work defining what is to be inventoried and how the information will be delivered.
  • The means used to secure the data is clearly defined.
  • Renewal policy that details the cost of updating your inventory.
  • Review a sample inventory portfolio so you can see what you will be receiving.
  • Ask any questions that you may have concerning what will be provided.

Keeping a Home Inventory Secure

Once your home inventory is complete, store the information in a safe location away from your house such as a safe deposit box, at your insurance agent or lawyer, or by uploading it to a secure data backup provider.

Further Information


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