This article has been updated from a previous version.
It feels like our lives are run by lists. There are shopping lists, to-do lists, grocery lists, and bucket 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).
There are also insurance lists, or more specifically, a home inventory that you can present to your home 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 your home 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 necessary. Here are some tips for creating an inventory that will meet your home insurance provider’s requirements.
What constitutes a good home inventory checklist?
“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.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada also suggests including the following items on your inventory:
Pots and pans
How to format your home inventory checklist
What’s the best way to itemize your home inventory? There are several options, each with its own set of pros and cons:
Create a video inventory. This provides a visual of your contents, including the make and model of each item. One drawback of this approach, however, is that it can be a long video, so unless you’re time stamping the video, you might be fast-forwarding a while 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. These apps are already set up for inventory. But they 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.
Make sure your home inventory list is detailed
Whatever method works for you (and you can even use a combination of all three), Jobanputra recommends providing as much detail and context as possible when creating your inventory, because that will strengthen your home insurance claim.
“Photographs should be labelled, 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 a home 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 home inventory list
Once you’ve made or updated your home inventory list, you should keep a copy at home on your computer and in a fire-proof safe.
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, lawyer, and/or with your financial advisor.
Creating a home inventory can take a while, especially if you own a lot of items. Should anything happen, however, you’ll be glad that you’re prepared and won’t have to figure out what you lost while you’re busy filing a claim.
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