Before a catastrophe strikes and you're faced with a loss, make a home inventory - lists, pictures or a videotape of the contents of your home. After all, would you be able to remember all the possessions you've accumulated over the years if they were destroyed by a fire? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.
According to a 2012 survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), more than half of Americans don't have a home inventory of their possessions, putting them at risk for inadequate home insurance coverage, should severe weather strike.
Survey results show 59 percent of consumers have not made a list or inventory of their possessions. Of those individuals with a home inventory, 48 percent do not have receipts; 27 percent do not have photos of their property; and 28 percent do not have a back-up copy of the inventory outside the home.
Additionally, 59 percent of people with inventories have not updated their inventories in more than a year, meaning new purchases and gifts may not be covered.
Start by making a list of your possessions, describing each item and noting where you bought it and its make and model. Clip to your list any sales receipts, purchase contracts, and appraisals.
For clothing, count the items you own by category pants, coats, shoes, for example - making notes about those that are especially valuable.
For major appliances and electronic equipment, record their serial numbers usually found on the back or bottom.
Don't be overwhelmed! If you are just setting up a household, starting an inventory list can be relatively simple. If you've been living in the same house for many years, however, the task of creating a list can be daunting. Still, it's better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all. Start with recent purchases and then try to remember what you can about older possessions.
Big ticket items: Valuable items like jewelry, art work and collectibles may have increased in value since you received them. Check with your agent to make sure that you have adequate insurance for these items. They may need to be insured separately.
Take a picture: Besides the list, you can take pictures of rooms and important individual items. On the back of the photos note what is shown, where you bought each item, and the make. Don't forget things that are in closets or drawers.
Videotape it: Walk through your house or apartment videotaping and describing the contents. Or, do the same thing using a tape recorder.
Use a personal computer: Use your PC to make your inventory list. Personal finance software packages often include a homeowners room-by-room inventory program.
Storing the list, photos and tapes: Regardless of how you do it (written list, floppy disk, photos, videotape or audio tape), keep your inventory along with receipts in your safe deposit box or at a friend's or relative's home. That way you'll be sure to have something to give your insurance representative if your home is damaged. When you make a significant purchase, add the information to your inventory while the details are fresh in your mind.
Creating Your Inventory
You can list your items by category, or by room. For many items like books, CDs, bed sheets or pots and pans, you can make a general estimate of how many you have. For expensive items, note the make and model, the store where the item was purchased and the approximate date.
Sample list: Living Room Inventory
||ABC Electronics, 1995
||Panasonic, srl # 1234567
||Antique Turkish 6' x 8'
||Anniversery gift 1991
||ABC Electronics, 2004