Ten Free Tips for Making a Home Inventory1: Talk to your insurance agent before you have a claim.
Many insurance companies recommend that you have a home inventory, but before you count all your toothpicks it's a good idea to find out exactly what type of inventory your insurance company and your agent recommend. Find out what proof is needed to establish that you have had a loss. Is an inventory listing alone adequate for high-cost items? Must you have a receipt? Will a photograph or video be acceptable? Is there a lower cost limit, say $75.00, below which no documentation other than the inventory is required to establish that you actually owned the item? Do you need to file a police report?
Different insurance companies, and even different agencies within the same company, can have different policies
2: Don't try to do everything at once.
If you try to prepare a thorough inventory of everything you own at one sitting, most likely you will get discouraged and never finish. Take it by steps. For example, start by listing everything in your living room. Most of the items there are large and in plain sight. Sort them by type: furniture, decorative items, rugs, etc. Add a ballpark estimate of the cost of each item. Quit for lunch.
Or start by listing items you know are the most expensive and vulnerable, like original paintings or antiques. Find the appraisals or receipts and take them to your safety deposit box. Go out to lunch. Make it a priority to finish the inventory, but give yourself a reasonable amount of time and set reasonable interim goals.
3: Do as much as you can by sitting in one place.
Going through your house with paper and pen is a sure way to get tired and distracted. Instead, walk through your house mentally, and record each item as you come to it. You might miss a lot of small things, but you will catch most of the big things and most of the expensive things.
This is especially easy to do with Keep It SafeTM home-inventory software. Keep It Safe has a built-in database with more than 1000 item names, sorted by category. It's quick and easy to look at each item name, decide whether you own one of those, select a price from a drop-down list, and click "Add." You can do a preliminary inventory in about a day, and then come back and fill in the details at your leisure. Don't forget to print the preliminary inventory and keep it in a safe place.
4: Once you have completed a preliminary inventory, add any documentation your insurance agent requires.
A simple list of everything you own can expedite any insurance claims or police reports that you have to file. For maximum effectiveness, however, you will probably need more information on some items. Photos of rare or unusual items may facilitate valuation or recovery. Serial numbers of appliances or equipment may help in establishing ownership.
Keep It SafeTM lets you attach digital photos or scanned-in receipts to your inventory. It also allows you to type in brand names, serial numbers, and notes of any length.
5: For large collections, start by counting everything and taking a group photo.
Let's say you have 200 antique dolls, or 700 baseball cards. Set them up in rows and take a digital photo at the largest number of pixels your camera will give you. Burn the photo to a CD and put it in your safety deposit box. You will probably be able to zoom in on each doll or card and show your agent that you owned it. You've already talked to your agent, so you know whether you need further documentation on each item. This also works for books in a bookcase or CDs or DVDs on a shelf.
6: Use your inventory for financial planning and estate planning.
Do you need more insurance? Do you need insurance riders for specific items? Do some items need to be mentioned specifically in your will or in a codicil, or is a note in your inventory adequate? If you are planning to downsize your house, send copies of the inventory to your children asking whether they want some of your things. It's easier than having a garage sale, and maybe they'll come and visit.
The Notes field of Keep It SafeTM is ideal for recording information about family heirlooms and who gets what. The dollar totals for each category and for the complete inventory let you determine how much insurance you need.
7: Use the inventory process to de-clutter your home.
Instead of listing four duplicate copies of your favorite Kingston Trio album, take this opportunity to give three of them away, or sell them on eBay. Probably you will come across items that you borrowed, or that someone left behind after a visit. Ship it, don't store it.
8: Use your inventory to avoid buying duplicate items in the first place.
Before you buy yet another copy of that Kingston Trio album, check to see if you already have it. This is especially useful for collectors who must make rapid buy/sell decisions.
9: Keep a copy of your inventory in a safe place.
Don't keep the only copy of your inventory in your home. If anything happens to your home and its contents, the inventory will be gone, too. Keep a copy in your safety deposit box, or give a copy to a trusted family member or friend. If you live in a part of the country subject to floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural events that can damage large areas at once, try to keep this copy of your inventory in another city or state.
10: Update your inventory regularly.
When you replace large items, change the copy of the inventory that you keep in your home. Delete the old item and enter the new item. Take this opportunity to include warranty information, a serial number, a photograph, or a receipt for the new item. On some regular schedule, say at tax time or on New Year’s Day, evaluate your inventory to see if you have deleted all items that you no longer own and added all new items. Make a new copy for safe storage away from the home.
Copyright 2007, 2012 by Ducks in a Row, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Why users prefer Keep It SafeTM home-inventory software
"I have probably downloaded over 20 home inventory programs and yours is the easiest to enter data that I have found."
- Patricia L.