Natural disasters can strike us at any time. Homeowners can insure they are best prepared by documenting their home inventories. Home inventories are detailed list of household and personal belongings with their proximate value.
“The format is not nearly as important as just having some kind of list” said Jeanne Salvatore of the New York based Insurance Information Institute, a nonprofit that helps educate the public about insurance.
“Just going around your home with a pen and paper taking notes, or making a video with your smartphone of yourself walking around you home and describing the things around you, can make a world of a difference when you need to make a claim.”
Inventories are recommended for homeowners, renters, and even places of business.
“Regular people, whether they’re homeowners or renters, need home inventories way more than the wealthy, because they need the money more.” Salvatore said. “People always say they don’t have a lot of stuff. But If you add up the cost of your bed, with your mattress, mattress cover, bed frame, and maybe a few suits hanging in your closet, some high-tech items or small appliances, and bike or golf clubs, it easily adds up to thousands of dollars. And you’re going to really depend on that money to get up and running again after a disaster.”
Experts estimate that less than 40 percent of households have compiled a detailed inventory of their belongings. Having an inventory may decrease the time it takes to process a claim and can even mean the difference of whether you are reimbursed for your loss.
The goal is to value your personal property that was destroyed or damaged in the least time-consuming and painful way possible.
Creating a home inventory is as easy as putting together a list of belongings and their estimated value. It is also recommended that you save receipts when you buy valuable items and get in the habit of taking photos. In the occasion that you did not keep receipts, copies of credit card bills, serial numbers, or even notes on where and when item was purchased can be of great help.
Taking on the task of creating an inventory list will take time to put together. Salvatore suggests that if you have children to get them involved as well. Have the children take pictures of their own rooms, taking photos of their sporting goods, computers, gaming systems and, all other personal belongings.
There are also software programs available to help prepare inventory which are free or inexpensive. However, experts say there are benefits to hiring home inventory companies to get the job done. Hiring a home inventory company can generally cost $500-$800 but can save thousands of dollars in potential losses. The great advantage of having an experienced expert to do the inventory is that there is no dispute of the claim. Having a third-party eliminates the burden of proof that it is not fraud.
Homeowners may also want to send a copy of their inventory list to their insurance agent to assure they are carrying adequate coverage. If possible, update your home inventories annually. Do it at the same time every year so that it is easy to remember.
“Take a look at your garage and ask yourself what you’d want to claim if it went up in smoke. It might be as simple as detailing and photographing gardening and sporting equipment,” said Salvatore.
Make sure to include your wardrobe, which can add up to a lot. Take into account sentimental or irreplaceable items, such as painting and jewelry. Although they may not be replaceable, it is possible to replace it with another item of the same value.