If your home was destroyed by fire or vandalized by theft, 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 your insurance claim will be processed and the amount of your settlement will be determined by the details given on your inventory report.
It’s not difficult to compile a home inventory report, but it does require time and patience to record and document the detailed information that’s needed. Here’s how to go about it.
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 worksheet 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.
When conducting a home inventory, include the following information about each item:
- Model number
- Serial number
- Purchase date
- Initial cost
- Estimated or appraised replacement value
- Copy of receipt if available.
How to Conduct a Home Inventory
When conducting a home inventory, it’s important to be as thorough as possible in your documentation. While it might seem redundant to include both video and still images, video footage will enhance your claim by showing the items as they appear in your home while photos provide detailed information.
The steps include:
- Outside Video: This should 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 and 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 worksheet. You can group similar items together in one shot, but be clear on the worksheet what is contained within the photo.
- Worksheet: Organize your worksheet by rooms, and record as much information about each item as possible.
- Receipts: Proving ownership and value of your items is crucial. The best way to achieve this is to include receipts for each item in your inventory report. Locate all receipts, including appraisal certificates, and attach them to the corresponding page of your report. A scanner can also be used to store copies of your receipts digitally, which will eliminate the need to attach the receipt to the report.
When you have completed the above steps, load the video footage, digital photos and worksheet onto a CD, DVD, or portable flash drive. Make two copies of your home inventory report and 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 report and record any new items or delete items that you no longer own.
A detailed home inventory may be one of the most valuable investments for peace of mind they you can do for yourself and your family. If damage, destruction or theft were to occur, an inventory will eliminate the need to piece that information together in the aftermath.
For those who decide not to create their own inventory report, JLK Systems Home and Business Inventory provides a professional, third-party home or business inventory that can be used for insurance, estate, and financial planning.
- Home Inventory: How to Document Your Personal Property (article)
- How to Document Possessions in Your Home in Case of Disaster (video)
- Documenting Your Valuables (video)
- Insurance Policy Limits (video)