Protecting Yourself with a Comprehensive Home Inventory 

Maybe you’re wondering whether you need a home inventory list. After all, you already have homeowners or renters insurance, so that should be enough, right? Well, not exactly. 

Rather than frantically trying to document everything when you suffer a loss, being prepared ahead of time will ensure you get everything from the insurance company you’re entitled to with the least amount of stress.

Insurance typically covers the cost of your belongings if they’re stolen or damaged, but how much is specifically covered depends on the type of insurance you obtained. If you have replacement cost coverage, the company will pay for new or similar items, whereas if you have actual cash value coverage, the insurer will cover the cost of the items minus their depreciation. 

In either case, when filing a claim you’ll need to describe every item, and what you paid or its value when you first obtained it. Generally, you’ll need to let your insurer know the item’s brand and model, where you got it, and the date you purchased or received it. To verify the value of every item, it helps to have supporting documentation such as a receipt, a credit card or bank statement, or a canceled check. 

While itemizing everything in your home may initially seem daunting, these suggestions will make the process a lot simpler:

  1. Create a spreadsheet that you can update regularly. As you acquire new things, you can add them to the master list, and as you get rid of others (whether by donating, selling, or recycling if they’re beyond repair), you can quickly eliminate them. If you prefer using a ready-made format, search online for “home inventory app” and a list of available ones will pop up.

  2. Decide how to organize your list. Although you can list everything in your home in random fashion, it helps to create groupings that help you easily keep track of everything. Three options are organizing everything by category, function, or location. If you use an electronic spreadsheet, you can list the different options via a drop down menu.

    Let’s say you have a set of mixing bowls and a printer. If you decide to organize everything by category, your mixing bowls could go under kitchen items, while your printer could go under office supplies. If you organize everything by function, the mixing bowls would go under cooking and the printer might go under work. Meanwhile, if you organize by location, the bowls would go under kitchen and the printer perhaps under home office.

  3. Record each item. You’ll want to name the item, offer a brief description, add its serial number if applicable, enter the cost or its appraised value when you acquired it, and mention where any supporting documentation such as receipts or warranties are located.

    In addition to the information above, you’ll want to take a photograph or video of everything. You can do this individually per item or by area such as closet, drawer, cabinet, or room. For valuable or special items, individual images or videos are useful if you end up filing a claim, while for everyday, regular items, a group photo is probably acceptable.

  4. Keep a physical copy or back up your information. Always make sure you copy or back up your home inventory. If you’ve listed everything in a paper notebook, make a photocopy that’s kept in a safe and accessible place. For electronic data, make sure you back everything up and secure it.