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How To Take Inventory Of Your Valuables

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How To Take Inventory Of Your Valuables

Imagine your home has been severely damaged in a fire, major storm, or other "act of God." You're trying to file insurance claims, rebuild your home, and just get by. In such a state of extreme stress, could you recall every valuable you lost just from memory?

We couldn't either. That's why a home inventory checklist is your saving grace.

If your home gets burglarized or reduced to a pile of rubble, you can't just say, "I lost my grandma's heirloom ring. Please replace it." As much as insurers want to help you (since you've diligently paid your premiums), they have to go on more than your word. They need proof. If you don't keep a record of what you own, you'll have to jump through far more hoops to get compensated for everything you lost.

Besides getting the right amount of homeowners insurance, creating a personal property inventory is the most important step you can take to safeguard your home.

Here's how to catalog your most prized possessions.

1) Make A Game Plan

When you do a home inventory, you're documenting an entire life's worth of valuables. You don't need to finish the task in one day. Dedicate a couple hours each week to go through your home, so you don't get overwhelmed or overlook something because you're in a hurry.

2) Make A Checklist

Pull out your possessions from the attic, garage, safe, drawers, and closets. Dig up your receipts and warranty information, too. As you go room by room, make a list of everything you own that you would want replaced in case of burglary or natural disaster.

Here's what your list might include:

  • Electronics: computers, laptops, tablets, cameras, TVs, video game consoles, stereo equipment, movie and music collections
  • Appliances: office equipment, power tools, kitchen appliances, washer, dryer
  • Indoor and outdoor furniture, dishes, silverware, cookware
  • Your yard, garden, outdoor structures
  • Your wardrobe, especially designer clothing or family heirlooms
  • Artwork
  • Antiques
  • Jewelry, especially anything that's been handed down to you
  • Your medicine cabinet
  • Collections: artwork, guns, coins, silverware, stamps Hobby equipment: musical instruments, boats, kayaks, weights, golf clubs

When you list each valuable, include its price, brand name, model, size, unique features, and where you bought it.

Unless you have antique silverware or high-end clothing, you don't need to catalog everything in your wardrobe or kitchen drawers. Lay out your less expensive items, and take photos of them in groups. Then count each piece of silverware, dishware, and clothing item, and estimate their total value.

3) Take Video

Do a video walk-through of your home. Go through each room, including the closets, attic, basement, garage, and backyard, and narrate the video as if you're giving your insurer a guided tour. The more evidence you can give of what's in your home, the more likely you are to be compensated for what you lost.

4) Take Photos

After you record video footage, take photos of each valuable item you own. Take a close-up of their serial numbers, manufacturer's tags, receipts, warranties, and appraisals. When you create your checklist, write down their price and any unique features they have.

5) Download An App

Once you've documented your assets, you'll probably have hundreds of photos to organize. Download a home inventory software or app. These programs let you store and label your photos, type a description of each photo, scan barcodes, estimate a total sum of your assets, and manage your checklist of valuables. They also let you export your photos and documentation as a PDF file, so you can easily save, print, and share your checklist with your insurer or your family members.

KnowYourStuff, Encircle, and Nest Egg are three of many free inventory apps. Insurance companies also have apps that are free to download, whether or not you buy a homeowners policy through them. Ask your insurer if they have any tools to help you track your personal possessions.

6) Store Your Inventory In A Safe Place

You can always document your valuables the old-fashioned way, by printing out your records and storing them in a file cabinet. Just beware that those hard copies won't do much good if your home gets flooded, or a fire reduces them to ash.

No matter how you decide to catalog your valuables, you need to save your inventory list in more than one spot. Print out multiple hard copies, and give them to trusted friends or relatives. Organize your records on your computer desktop, and save them to a hard drive or CD. Give that hard drive or CD to your relative, lock it in your safe deposit box, or send it by email. If you use an app, download your inventory as a PDF file, and email that PDF to someone else.*

*Remember that if you save anything online, you need a secure password to protect the sensitive information you store. Double-Check That Your Policy Covers Your Valuables

When you search for homeowners insurance, don't choose a policy based solely on price. If you opt for the cheapest, most basic plan, you also get minimal coverage for your valuables. If you have personal items that are worth much more than what your plan pays for, add personal property insurance to your existing homeowners policy. It will help cover the replacement cost of those personal items you couldn't stand to lose.

Don't Give Up Your Valuables For Good

Seeing your most prized possessions get lost or damaged is upsetting enough. When you file a claim to replace them, you want the process to be as simple and hassle-free as possible.

Don't rely on your memory as your record-keeper. Create a home inventory checklist, and you can recover your most precious valuables.