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Creating a Home Inventory List for Homeowners Insurance

A home inventory makes it easier to file homeowners insurance claims and can help you find gaps in your coverage.

creating inventory list

To file a homeowners insurance claim, insurers usually require documentation of the damage. That’s where a home inventory comes in. Having a detailed list of the items in your home can ease pressure in the stressful scenario of filing a claim. It lets you focus on what matters most: protecting your home and family.

Compiling a home inventory is a daunting task, but there are a handful of ways to make it less painful. The following tricks, tools and apps can help make your life easier.

Creating a home inventory

Homeowners insurance covers your personal property, so if it is damaged, you'll need proof of your loss to file a claim. That means you’ll need a record of your belongings, including details like their value. Imagine a fire devastates a bedroom in your house: can you remember everything that was in the room and how much you paid for it?

In order to be reimbursed for your belongings, from your mattress to electronics to clothes, the insurance company will most likely require proof of it. When it’s time to start your home inventory, we recommend including the following information for all of your belongings:

  1. A few photographs and videos.
  2. A description.
  3. The make, model and serial number.
  4. Receipt (or approximate purchase date and location).

These four pieces of information are not exhaustive, but are a great start. Some possessions — custom jewelry, for example — may need additional documentation, like an appraisal from a jeweler.

Don’t forget to list stuff in your basement, attic and garage as well. If you have belongings stored in a rental storage unit, make sure to include the items in your list, too.

Every item you don’t document is an item for which you cannot be reimbursed if it is destroyed. That means in order to maximize your claim amount, a detailed home inventory is one of your most powerful tools.

Tips for getting started

We know getting started can be a daunting task, so here are several ways to make it more manageable:

Break it down: Picking a single room or part of a room is a great way to begin making a home inventory. Choosing a single closet or desk area, for example, can help you gather momentum and find an organization system that works for you.

Stay organized: Finding a system that works for you is key to having a successful home inventory. If you like and understand the system you choose, it will be easier to keep your inventory updated.

Include photos and videos: Photos and videos that show the undamaged condition of your belongings is a quick and easy way to document them. You can take photos and videos of individual items, but also entire rooms. We recommend saving these photos and videos in a clear, organized way, including descriptive file names.

Keep a backup: You should keep a backup copy of your home inventory, especially if you decide against a digital home inventory. Keeping a copy at a friend’s, neighbor’s or family member’s house can insure your home inventory isn’t lost in a disaster. If you have a digital home inventory, make sure it's saved on more than just a single, locally stored file — what if your computer is damaged or stolen?

Update it: Updating your home inventory as you purchase new items is important. Disaster strikes at unpredictable times, so you should always be prepared. If you purchase an expensive item, add it to your inventory quickly. Reviewing your inventory once a year — maybe as part of renewing your homeowners insurance policy — can help prevent any of your valuable possessions from slipping through the cracks.

Home inventory apps and online tools

Handwritten lists are no longer the only option for keeping track of your belongings. There are many home inventory apps for Android and iOS smartphones, as well as software available to quickly put together a clear, comprehensive inventory list.

Here are a few popular options for home inventory services:

  • Sortly
  • Encircle
  • Nest Egg
  • Itemtopia
  • MyStuff2 Pro
  • HomeManage
  • BluePlum Home Inventory
  • Magic Home Inventory
  • Smart Inventory by NonZeroApps
  • Memento Database

Using one of these services can take some of the pain out of organizing your own home inventory. Many of them make it easy to organize by room and item type, and some even come with barcode scanners. These let you scan an item to keep track of serial numbers.

If working with pen and paper is still your preferred means, there are plenty of options for you. Take a look at what your home insurer has on its website. If a hardcopy list is the way you want to go, they might have a home inventory list template they prefer using.

Lastly, if you find that you don’t have the time or your inventory is unmanageable, there are companies that come to your house to create your home inventory for you.

Home inventory of special items

Most homeowners have a standard home insurance policy, which is called an HO-3 form. The HO-3 has “Special Limits of Liability,” which are coverage limits that apply to specific item categories. These items are classified differently than the rest of your property and may not have as much coverage. Included items are:

  • Money, bank notes, bullion, gold and coins.
  • Watercraft and related furnishings and equipment.
  • Trailers and semi-trailers.
  • Theft of jewelry, watches, furs, precious and semiprecious stones.
  • Theft of firearms and related equipment.
  • Theft of silverware, goldware, platinumware, pewterware and flatware.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it highlights some important categories. You should ask your agent about your policy’s limits of liability. For example, the jewelry limit of liability is often $1,500, which can easily be exceeded. Making a home inventory is a good way to find out if you have gaps in your coverage.

If you find that you have insufficient coverage for some of your belongings after reviewing your policy with your agent, you have a few options.

You can try to increase your coverage with a rider or endorsement. Riders and endorsements increase your special limits of liability on certain possessions. For example, many companies allow a jewelry rider that increases your coverage limit.

If you can't add a rider to your current homeowners policy or think it's still insufficient, another option is a separate insurance policy altogether. There are insurance policies for valuable items like art, jewelry and other collectibles.

Bottom line

A detailed home inventory is one of your most powerful tools if you have to file a homeowners insurance claim because it proves the condition of your belongings before a loss.

Keeping a list of your stuff also helps you verify that you have enough insurance coverage for your property. It can identify gaps in your coverage, which could prevent you from receiving a full reimbursement after a loss.

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