By Kristen Buchman on March 3, 2017
Many of us in the Midwest have an annual spring ritual of preparing our storm shelter and restocking emergency supplies. These are life saving and life sustaining measures. But many people may not realize that a little extra preparation can help protect our property, as well. Some basic documentation can save a lot of hassle, heartache, and even money, in the event that disaster does strike.
Rather than relying on your memory, you may want to prepare a home inventory — a detailed record of all your personal property. This record can help substantiate an insurance claim, support a police report when items are stolen, or prove a loss to the IRS. Here are some tips to get started.
Tour your property. A simple way to complete your inventory is to make a visual record of your belongings. Take a video of the contents of each room in your home and spaces where you have items stored, such as a basement, cellar, garage, or shed. Be sure to open cabinets, closets, and drawers, and pay special attention to valuable and hard-to-replace items. You can also use the tried-and-true low-tech method of writing everything down in a notebook, or use a combination approach.
There are even mobile inventory apps available to guide you through the process. We don’t endorse any single app, but here are images of some that are available. Clearly, someone found a way to turn what could be a tedious process into a fun project!
Be thorough. Your home inventory should provide as many details as possible. For example, include purchase dates, estimated values, and serial and model numbers. If possible, locate receipts to support the cost of big-ticket items and attach copies of appraisals for valuables such as antiques, collectibles, and jewelry. Some of the available mobile apps allow multiple photos to be uploaded for a single item, and some even provide SKU scanning capability.
Keep it safe. If your inventory method is a written, photographic, video, or combined record, be sure to have two copies: one in your home where you can easily access it, and another copy stored elsewhere to protect it in the event that your home is damaged by a flood, fire, or other disaster. This might mean putting it in a safe deposit box, giving it to a trusted friend or family member for safekeeping, or storing it on an external storage device that you can take with you, or on a cloud-based service that provides easy and secure access. If you use a mobile app for your home inventory, just make sure you will still be able to access the data in the unfortunate event that your phone gets lost or damaged.
Update it periodically. When you obtain a valuable or important item, add it to your inventory as soon as possible. Review your home inventory at least once a year for accuracy. You can also share it annually with your insurance agent or representative to help determine whether your policy coverages and limits are still adequate. Some insurance companies offer their own home inventory apps for free. If the ease of a mobile app is attractive to you, ask your provider if they offer one.
Of course, safety is paramount. Always make sure your emergency preparations are completed first. If you’re all set, then make sure your possessions are documented “just in case.” In the long term, a home inventory can save significant time and trouble if it becomes necessary. In the short term, it will provide peace of mind that you’ve done all you can to protect your possessions as well as your family.