It feels like our lives are run by lists. There are shopping lists, to-do lists, grocery lists and life lists — just to name a few. Some lists are fun (like a “What to pack for Cuba” list) and others, not so much (say, a ‘Things I need to sort to file my taxes’ list). Today, let’s talk about insurance lists, or more specifically, a home inventory that you can present to your insurance company in case something terrible happens. Because if you find your home flooded or burned down, you’re going to have to prove to the insurance company you actually owned the things you lost so you can make a claim. How do you create this kind of list? And what do you put on it?
A home inventory may not be the most exciting kind of list to make — but if you’re paying for home insurance, it’s definitely one that’s necessary. Below, our tips for creating an inventory that will meet your insurer’s requirements.
What to know before getting started
“Home insurance claims are primarily driven by property damage, or break-ins and thefts,” says Farahana Jobanputra, director of smart home and cyber security at, AmTrust North America. She says that a good home inventory checklist is a detailed list of your possessions, including receipts, descriptions, pictures and/or videos of each listed valuable. When it comes to the more valuable items, the more paperwork the better.
“In the case of collector’s items, artwork or jewelry, it is recommended that homeowners also include appraisals. It is important to include as much detail as possible, including manufacturer, model and product name, serial numbers, model numbers, and any detail to validate a unique identity to the item,” says Jobanptura. That’s because there are often price differences between the same type of item. A ‘60-inch television’ has a wide price range depending on whether the television is a top-of-the-line purchase or the store’s house brand.
What to add
We know that the fancy stuff should be added to the home inventory but what else should you add? The Insurance Bureau of Canada has a list of items, including a few you may not have considered worthy:
- Musical instruments
- Pots and pans
Once you know what items you want to document, what is the best way to itemize your inventory? There are several options, each with its own set of pros and cons:
Create a video inventory. The pros to this method is that it provides a visual inventory including the make and model of each item. The con is that it can be a very long video, meaning unless you’re time stamping the video, you might be forwarding a long time trying to get to a specific item you need to make a claim for.
Use an inventory app. There are dozens of inventory apps like MyStuff, Sortly and Magic Home Inventory that allow you to photograph, detail and itemize your inventory. The pro is that apps are already set up for inventory. The con is that an app may require you to pay for a monthly subscription, especially if you use up all the space that’s given to you in the free version of the app.
Excel or Google files. This is the most basic option. The pro to this method is that it’s free. The con is it’s the most labour-intensive, as you have to make an inventory template from scratch.
It’s about the details
Whatever method works for you (and you can even use all three methods), Jobanputra recommends providing as much detail and context as possible when creating your inventory, because that will strengthen your insurance claim. Making an inventory in advance is also useful when you’re going through the stressful process of filing a claim and can’t remember all the details of an item. “Photographs should be labelled and dated, and include detail on any customizations or aspects which add value,” she says. “The homeowner should include photos and/or videos of each room, including inside closets, storage buildings, attic, basement and garage. When making structural or cosmetic improvements to the home, it’s also a good idea to include photos before, during and after the improvements are made, not to mention any permits awarded for the authorized work.”
Other tips to remember when you make an inventory list:
- Don’t list the sale price of an item — list the full value. That applies to gifts, too.
- Include your policy number(s) and insurance company’s contact information so that you don’t have to search for them.
Where to store your list
Once you’ve made or updated your home inventory list, where should you store it? Yes, you should definitely keep a copy at home on your computer and in a fire-proofed safe, but Jobanputra says that you should also make additional copies to keep with a trusted family member or friend who doesn’t live with you. In addition, digital copies should be stored on a cloud drive such as Dropbox, which can be accessed anywhere. Finally, Jobanputra says copies should be filed with your insurance agent, your lawyer or with your financial advisor.
Creating an inventory can take a while, especially if you own a lot of stuff. Should anything happen, however, you’ll be glad that you’re prepared and won’t have to figure out what you own while you’re filing a claim.