How to do a Home Inventory

While many of us can think of better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon, completing a home inventory may turn out to be one of the most important things that a home owner or renter can do.  In the event of fire or theft, would you be able to remember every item in your home? What size is the item you lost? What brand is it? Where did you buy it? How long ago? These are all questions that need to be answered in the event of loss.

Being proactive about taking a home inventory has many advantages beyond knowing the value of your belongings. Having a clear idea of the correct value of your home inventory can also ensure that you have the proper level of insurance coverage. Other benefits include getting your claim settled faster and being able to accurately declare losses on your tax return. One can only hope that you never have to use this list, but in case you do, here’s what you need to know in order to complete a thorough home inventory list.

There are several ways to take a home inventory including a written log, software-based cataloging, or filming your inventory. Utilizing software will achieve the most accurate inventory due to the necessity for specifics in the record. However, the other methods are still highly beneficial and no matter which method you use the steps will be the same.

1. Photograph or Video Everything – You can do one or the other or a combination of both. The benefit of using a camcorder is that you can give an audio description of each item as you film it. Start by getting an overall view of the room, so that you can see the items in the room and then take detail shots.  While documenting the items of higher value is a given, don’t neglect the everyday items such as pot and pans, towels, clothing, etc.  

Items that are frequently forgotten but are important to remember in recording inventory include: outdoor items, gardening equipment, patio furniture, appliances, seasonal items, and things stored in hard-to-get-to areas like the attic or crawl space.  With each of these items, it is important to show the context of where they exist in your home. For instance, if you are photographing your barbecue make sure that it is clearly shown on your deck.

2. Document the Details – As suggested earlier, whether you are writing this information in a notebook or a spreadsheet in a computer program, the information needed will be the same. Make sure to record the name, description, quantity, model and/or serial number, date the item was purchased, original price paid, and the current value. Include a photo with this information for reference. Also, save receipts and keep with this information.

3. Have Special Items Appraised – Jewelry, family heirlooms, and art may need to be appraised to ascertain the most current value as well as to determine if the insurance coverage for them is adequate. This is especially useful when some items need to be insured separately.     

4. Keep the Record Safe – Keeping the household inventory in the house may not be the safest choice in the event of a disaster that could ruin the house and everything in it.  Consider a safety deposit box for hard copies and off site back-ups for software data if optimum security is your concern. Otherwise, copies and flash drive backups will be adequate as long as they are kept in a trusted place away from the home.

5. Keep the Record Current – Once you have your initial inventory, it will be easier to keep the list current. Briefly skim over your recorded inventory every six months or so to make sure nothing has changed too drastically in value and to update the list when needed. Whenever you get rid of something delete it and whenever you get something new, save the receipt and add it to the list.