Homeowners Inventory and Making Sure You Know What's Inside Your Home

The primary reason to have a comprehensive inventory is in case of an insurance claim. When you make an insurance claim for damaged, lost, or stolen property, your policy will require you to show the quantity, description and amount of loss associated with each item. Depending on the type of coverage you have, either full replacement cost or actual cash value, you may have to provide a depreciated value for your item. Where possible, you’ll also be asked to provide copies of bills, receipts, or other documentation to support your figures. If you forget some items or fail to include an adequate description of others, you may receive less than you should for your losses.

What is the Best Way to Arrange My Inventory?

Generally, it is best to arrange your inventory by room. It helps to ensure that you don’t miss anything. For each room, make a list of each item:

  • Opening drawers
  • Closets
  • Any other type of storage.

Be as descriptive as possible. For example, don’t simply note that a bed exists: describe the headboard, footboard, mattress, and bedding, and write down colors and dimensions. Don’t forget the attic, hall closets, basement, and outbuildings like garden sheds.

What Should My List Look Like?

Your list should include any of the following, note that this list is not comprehensive:

  • Your furniture
  • Jewelry
  • Artwork
  • Antiques
  • Appliances
  • Kitchen contents
  • Clothes, carpets, and drapes
  • Computer equipment
  • Television sets, CD players (and other audio or audiovisual equipment).
  • Musical instruments
  • Clocks, mirrors, and linens
  • Lawn mowers, snow equipment, tools, sports equipment, and any other item of value.

Homeowners Inventory and Making Sure You Know What's Inside Your Home

Try to include the following information for each item:

  • Item description and quantity
  • Manufacturer or brand name
  • Model number or serial number
  • Description of where (or how) the item was obtained
  • Date of purchase or age of item
  • Receipt or other proof of purchase, showing cost
  • Current value if you know it
  • Replacement cost if you know it
  • Photocopies of any appraisals

Can I Videotape My Possessions?

A picture can make the difference. It often helps to photograph or videotape your possessions, especially if the items are hard to adequately describe on paper or if you don’t have a receipt. If you use a camera, label each photo with information about the item shown. If you use a phone to videotape on, provide a commentary about each item in view. Save the videos in a file that allows you to see the date and time of when it was taken place, all the small details will matter.

Once you have your inventory, the trick is to keep it in a safe place. An inventory will do you no good if it’s lost in the same disaster that damages or destroys your home! Consider keeping a copy at work or in a safety deposit box. Include copies of your receipts and other supporting documentation. While you may never have to do a complete inventory from “scratch” again, you will want to update it. If you keep your files on your computer, updating the lists should be fairly easy. You should update your inventory at least once a year, to ensure it faithfully reflects what you have in your home.