Moving? Time to Take Inventory

A little more work now will save you time and effort should you ever have to file a home insurance claim.

By Katherine Wood

While you pack for that move, even if it’s just across town, take a home inventory of your possessions. We know what you’re thinking: Why make the moving process any more complicated? But a little more work now will save you time and effort should you ever have to file a home insurance claim.

Why do the inventory now? Because most people evaluate their possessions when they move — in hopes of pruning the amount of stuff that goes into the boxes. That makes it a great time to do inventory.

What is a home inventory?

A home inventory lists your home’s contents, descriptions of the items, dates of purchase, their cost at time of purchase, make, model and estimated current value. It serves as a guide to understanding and protecting what you own. An inventory works with your home insurance coverage to protect your possessions, whether they’re stored in or out of your home.

If you don’t already have a home inventory, you’re in the minority of American homeowners. According to a 2012 poll by the Insurance Information Institute, 61 percent of U.S. homeowners have a home inventory.

Why do you need one?

There are many reasons to make an inventory. It can make things easier for you in at least three ways:

  • To determine the right amount of insurance: In addition to covering the structure of your house from perils including fire, hail and theft, homeowners insurance covers your home’s contents. A home inventory helps you determine the value of your home’s contents — contents coverage typically is set at 50 percent to 70 percent of the amount it would take to rebuild your home. If your inventory reflects that you need higher limits, you can purchase more coverage.
  • To remind you what you own: Quick, try to remember 85 things you own. For everyday life, you don’t need categorical knowledge of your home’s contents. When property damage occurs unexpectedly, however, that knowledge comes in handy. In the chaotic aftermath of a disaster, a home inventory can help you (and your insurance adjuster) remember everything.
  • To simplify claims filing: In the same vein, a home inventory can simplify the claims filing process. When you file a claim, you’ll make a disaster inventory cataloging destroyed or damaged items, their purchase price, their description and their estimated current worth. With a home inventory, you already have a comprehensive list of exactly that information. Your adjuster can compare the two inventories and get you back on your feet much quicker.

How do you make one?

When you move, you can simply add an inventory to your packing or unpacking process. As you put possessions into (or take them out of) boxes, snap a photo of each item and add it to a list. This way, you don’t add hassle while starting your inventory. You’ll need to go back to add details, including:

  • A description of the item, along with its make and model.
  • The location, approximate date and price of the purchase.
  • The approximate current value of the item.
  • Any receipts you have regarding the purchase of the item.

If you haven’t yet moved, take photos of each room in your house. This can help you unpack everything as it was in your old place and assist you in creating your inventory.

Where should you keep it?

Once you create a home inventory, make copies. You’ll want a master list easily accessible in your home so you can update it occasionally. Store other copies somewhere safe outside the home — in a safe deposit box or at a family member’s house, for example. Your inventory won’t do you much good if it’s destroyed in a fire.

If you save a copy digitally, make sure you can access it through multiple computers in case yours is damaged or stolen.

Sometimes the hardest part of doing a home inventory can be getting started. The task can seem pretty daunting, but combining it with packing to move allows you to make the most of your time. If disaster ever strikes, you’ll be glad you seized on the opportunity.

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