June 25, 2018
Hopefully, you'll never have to do a home insurance claim. But if you do, a bit of preparation will make it much easier for you to document your claim and get your settlement much faster. Among the key documents: a detailed home inventory – that is, an itemized list of everything of value in your home, proof of ownership and an estimate of its insurable value.
For many years, homeowners have either neglected the home inventory altogether, or created a paper or spreadsheet inventory, which was hopefully stored offsite – so that it cannot be destroyed in the same event that destroyed or damaged the home and contents.
Most homeowners and renters policies only cover up to a set amount of damages – but you’ll have to document those damages. Without some level of documentation, you’ll find that it’s very difficult to get fully compensated by the insurance company, unless your belongings are very basic.
Fortunately, we now have a number of tools that make generating and updating a home inventory easy for homeowner’s or renter’s insurance purposes – which you can download right to your mobile device.
Why You Need a Detailed Inventory
Having a detailed inventory of all your valuable possessions in your home can come in handy in many ways. Even if you never file a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance claim, your inventory can be useful when you prepare your last will and testament, when your children or heirs must settle your estate, and even determining an appropriate amount of insurance to carry in the first place. You can even use your inventory as a moving checklist and packing aid.
And if you do have a claim for a casualty loss not covered by insurance, your inventory will make it much easier to deduct those losses against your income on your tax return.
Today’s online and mobile applications make it very easy to document your possessions for all of the above situations. Here are some of the best and most popular apps.
The Complete Home Journal
The Complete Home Journal
is about the most complete inventory product for the hardcore record keeper. The home inventory module lets you input critical details and photographs of all your belongings, including electronics, seasonal gear, jewelry and appliances. But that’s just one of several modules. Other modules include home improvement tracking, home and seasonal to-do lists. This program also stores contractor information and information on real estate agents, lenders and can even help you calculate cost basis for income tax and real estate sales.
You’ll need Windows XP or later to run it, or run Virtual PC for Mac on a Mac. The cost is $29.99, with a 30-day money back guarantee and a free trial period.
This easy-to-use app works on iPhones, Androids and Blackberry devices, and also via a Web portal. Although it’s stripped down for ease of use on a cell phone, it does support multiple properties, and you can organize items by room.
It also supports multiple photos per item, so you can photograph the item and your receipt. According to Encircle Inc., in about an hour or less the average user can create a complete picture inventory of a property and generate detailed reports. The account can be accessed via smartphone, tablet and web interface (encircleapp.com
). Encircle can be used for insurance purposes, estate planning, relocation and moving or decorating. The cost is free.
This solution supports drag and drop interface, making it the most Mac-y of all the offerings so far. It also supports unlimited hierarchical locations, so you can note an item’s location in an envelope, in a briefcase, in a sack, in the closet or in the second bedroom. The interface lets you drag and drop items from one location to another. You can also associate items with each other using tags, such as #borrowedobjects, #electronics, #cables anything else you need to be able to get your hands on fast.
So far this one only works on iOS devices at the moment. Cost is $2.99.
Fundamental Things to Accomplish
- Document everything you want to replace after a disaster. Start with the most valuable items, of course, and those items that are most attractive to burglars or those that are most vulnerable to damage – such as items in your basement in the case of a flood. But don’t neglect things as basic as your clothing. You may have hundreds or thousands of dollars in clothing alone at stake – and you’ll want to replace it if it’s lost.
- Photograph everything you can. Fortunately, digital cameras and smart phones make this easy.
- Document serial numbers, where applicable. For example, serial numbers on musical instruments may be invaluable in establishing their fair market value, because they can establish the year in which they were made. Serial numbers are vital to have on hand in case your items are stolen, because you will need this information to alert local pawnbrokers and get your items back.
- Store the inventory information offsite. Even the best inventory is worthless if it exists only on paper and it’s destroyed in the same flood or fire that destroyed your home.