How To Make a Home Inventory List for Insurance

First Time Home Buyers, Industry Insights, Real Estate

Accidents happen all the time; it’s just a natural and unpreventable part of life. Homeowners might not be able to prevent all the accidents, but they can prepare for them. Creating a home inventory list is one of the most important steps you can take to prepare. Trust us, your future self will thank you!

When it comes to owning a home, you’ll need homeowners insurance to protect your belongings in case of a fire, a natural disaster, a robbery and more. 

If anything like this happens to you, you’ll file a claim with your insurance company that lists all the valuables involved in the incident – and their worth – so you can get reimbursed. Unless you already have a detailed home inventory list, it could be hard to remember everything you own – especially when you’re overwhelmed from dealing with a traumatic event. 

The good news is that there are no downsides to taking the time to create a home inventory list. Pro tip: It’s better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it. 

Hopefully, you’ll never have to reach for this list. But if you do, you’ll be happy it’s there. 

What Is a Home Inventory List?

A home inventory list is a comprehensive, detailed list of all the personal belongings in your home. Often, people choose to categorize their list by room, item type, worth or other criteria. 

The general description and categories that will go into your list include: 

  • Item description
  • Item make, model or serial number
  • Item cost at the time of purchase (or the current appraised cost) 
  • Place and date when item was purchased
  • Item receipt and warranty
  • Item videos or photos
  • Estimated cost if you bought the item today

Antique or irreplaceable items (aka custom-made or inherited items) need to be itemized on a case-by-case basis. You should talk to your insurance agent about how best to itemize and detail these unique items – and be sure to clarify that your policy covers them.

Why Do You Need a Home Inventory List?

The entire point of a home inventory is to make sure you have everything you need to file a complete homeowners insurance claim in the event of a disaster. 

A home inventory list has two clear advantages. First, it increases the chances that the insurance provider will fully cover your claim. 

To reduce fraud, insurance providers have gotten stricter about checking the authenticity of homeowner claims. An inventory checklist that includes item details, like the item’s purchase date and model number, lets the insurance company easily verify your purchases. 

The second benefit of a home inventory list is that it ensures that every single household item has been itemized. There may be items you don’t think about a lot – like the $500 Vitamix sitting in your cupboard or the gold jewelry you inherited from your grandparents that’s tucked away in a jewelry box.

Not seeing or using those items every day doesn’t make them any less valuable. Your list helps make sure you don’t miss anything worthwhile.

Also, creating a home inventory list can help you when you need to update your insurance coverage to account for your possessions. If your current insurance plan only covers up to $2,000 in jewelry but you own over $3,000 in jewelry, you’ll want to call your insurance provider and ask about increasing your coverage so it covers all of your items.  

Consider a home insurance policy that offers the replacement cost of each item rather than its actual cash value (ACV). 

ACV takes the years you’ve used an item into consideration. So, if you paid $5,000 for a refrigerator but used it for 10 years, your insurance provider might estimate your fridge’s ACV to be $1,000. A replacement cost policy would give you enough money to buy a new refrigerator that’s the same quality your old refrigerator was when you bought it brand new. 

When Should I Make My Inventory of Household Items?

The best time to make an inventory – and we cannot stress this enough – is right now. Even a basic list that you build out later is a good start that will offer you some coverage.

Challenges are all the rage these days, especially on social media. Challenge yourself to #AddToTheInventory every couple of days until it’s finished. Spreading the task out over a few days (or weeks) should help make your itemizing project feel less overwhelming. #SiSePuede! 

First-time homeowners, make a list before you even move into the house. Your itemized list will give you a sense of the total worth of all your belongings. When it comes time to purchase home insurance coverage, you’ll already know the amount of coverage you’ll need and if you’ll need coverage for special items, like vintage, custom or antique items. 

A 2020 Insurance Information Institute consumer poll found that 43% of homeowners have a home inventory list.[1]

How Do You Create a Home Inventory?

Create your home inventory in the way that makes the most sense to you. That can be a handwritten list or an inventory stored in the cloud. 

There are many tools you can use to create a home inventory, including inventory apps, free online tools and printable inventory lists.

Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to create your home inventory list, you’re ready for the next step: itemizing. Follow these steps to create your list:

  • Record when the time is right. If you’re moving, you can create your list as you unpack. If you’re already settled in, you might try building your list by going through your home one room at a time or as you redecorate. As time goes on, and you get more stuff, you’ll be able to easily update the list.
  • Make a point of itemizing what you’ve got in storage, too. This includes self-storage locations as well as storage in your home (maybe a basement, attic or shed). Make sure your insurance provider covers all these locations. Storage in your yard or a shed may not be covered because they are technically outside of the house. 
  • Create classifications that you’ll apply to every item. Some general fields you should always include are: where you bought the item, the make, model and serial number, how much it cost (with receipts, if possible), the total of each item type (how many sneakers, pots, towels, etc.), current appraisal value and pictures of each item. 
  • Now it’s time to calculate each item’s value. Hopefully, you have receipts for everything you bought because the last step is to tally everything up. This tally will focus on replacement costs (the amount you originally paid for each item), not actual cash value (the amount the item is worth today in its used condition). 

Where Should I Keep My Home Inventory Checklist?

Whether you decide to go digital or keep it analog, you should keep your inventory list in a place that’s safe and accessible. If you went the paper-and-pen route, remember that you might need this list after your home has been damaged in a fire or a flood. You don’t want your list to get damaged.

We recommend storing your list in either (or all) of the following ways:

  • In a physical place you trust: Consider a fireproof safety deposit box in your home or a photo inventory on a backup flash drive that’s not in your home. 
  • In a digital place you trust: Consider storing the list online in a cloud file-storage system. If you have a partner, make sure they also have access to the file. 
  • In the care of someone you trust: Send your insurance agent an email with the list, so they always have it on file. You can also share the file with someone else who lives in the home or a friend or family member who doesn’t live in your home.  

BTW, if you’re going the “tech” route, make sure to review the privacy settings for any apps, databases or storage systems you use. You’ll want to make sure that your sensitive information is in a safe and reliable space. 

Do Your Future Self a Favor and Make Your Home Inventory List Today

Everyone hopes they won’t ever need to use their home inventory list. But when you need it, you’ll be grateful that you planned ahead. 

There’s a reason you pay insurance every month – it’s for the protection and peace of mind that you’ll be covered in the event of an emergency. Without a home inventory list, having an insurance claim approved can be incredibly challenging. Invest the time today, so you don’t have to worry tomorrow. 

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