How to Create a Home Contents Inventory List for Insurance Claims
When dealing with a major insurance claim, you may need to create a home contents inventory list.
Your home inventory list catalogs your belongings and includes all relevant details about each belonging.
An accurate, thorough home contents inventory list can add thousands of dollars to your insurance claim – and this money is rightfully owed to you by your insurer.
A vague, unclear, or incomplete home inventory list, meanwhile, could reduce your claim by thousands, taking money out of your pocket and making it harder to replace your possessions.
Keep reading to discover the best practices, tips, and tricks for creating a home contents inventory list.
How Home Insurance Covers Your Possessions
Home insurance doesn’t just protect the structure of your home; it also protects the contents within your home – including all of your possessions.
If your home has experienced a major disaster – like a fire or flood – then you may have thousands of dollars in lost or damaged items. Home insurance should cover the cost of replacing these items.
Home insurance covers the possessions inside your home in two different ways: actual cash value or replacement coverage.
Actual Cash Value Coverage: A standard homeowners insurance policy has actual cash value coverage, which covers the value of your items minus depreciation. If you purchased a brand new TV for $5,000 ten years ago, then you wouldn’t receive $5,000 for that TV today in a home insurance claim; instead, you may only receive $250 because that’s the value of the TV minus depreciation.
Replacement Coverage: Replacement coverage, also known as replacement cost coverage, is a higher-end home insurance option. With replacement coverage, your insurance covers the cost of replacing your items without deducting for depreciation.
You choose which coverage you like when setting up your home insurance policy for the first time.
How a Home Contents Inventory List Works
A home contents inventory list is a list of all of the items in your home – from your jewelry to your furniture to your cups and plates.
Ideally, you’ll create a home inventory before a loss. Experts recommend doing the following on a regular basis:
- Go through each room of your home with a checklist.
- Write down each piece of furniture and fixture within each room.
- Add any relevant data to your inventory list, including receipts, serial numbers, the date of purchase, and the price you paid.
- Take photos of large or high-value items and add those photos to your inventory.
At the end of this process, you should have a document with dozens of pages of your belongings along with their accompanying value.
It’s impossible to accurately guess the value of every item in your home – especially items you purchased years ago. However, every bit of evidence helps – including the serial numbers, model numbers, and other accompanying information to identify any specific items in your home.
Tips & Tricks for Managing a Home Inventory Checklist
An accurate home inventory checklist can add thousands of dollars to your insurance claim.
After a loss, it’s hard to remember everything in your home. You’ll remember the major items – like your couches and TV. However, your home may have thousands of dollars’ worth of smaller items.
A home inventory helps you keep track and ensures you receive the money rightfully owed to you after a loss.
Here are some of the tips and best practices for managing a home inventory checklist:
- Review Your Home Inventory Every 6 to 12 Months (Or After a Major Purchase): The more updated your home inventory is, the better. Review your home inventory every 6 or 12 months, walking through rooms to verify any additions or subtractions. Remember to add any new, high-value items to your home inventory after you purchase them.
- Can’t Remember How Much You Paid? Check for Model Numbers & Other Info: You may have inherited an ancient piano from your grandparents, and it’s hard to assess the value because you have no idea how much it cost in the first place. However, check your possessions for model numbers, serial numbers, and any other identifying information. Write down the barcode number and any other unique numbers you can find. Even for obscure items, you should be able to find at least some information online about the item’s original value.
- Maintain a Digital Inventory with Remote / Cloud Backups: The best home inventories are digital. You can easily update a spreadsheet, add and remove information, and attach accompanying details to each listing. You can add links to images, attach receipts, and link to the online store from where you purchased the item. If you’re maintaining a digital inventory, be sure to keep a remote backup. If there’s a single digital copy of your home inventory on your computer and you lose your computer in a house fire, then your home inventory is worthless.
- Download a Mobile Home Inventory App: iPhone and Android apps can help you create a home inventory for free. These apps let you track possessions, organize data, and simplify the management of your possessions. If you want to avoid creating a spreadsheet, then a mobile home inventory app could help.
- Record One Room or Area at a Time: Categorizing all of your possessions can be overwhelming. Instead of trying to list everything you own at once, go room-by-room. It may take a few days – especially if categorizing clothing, electronics, collectible items, or other areas of the home with lots of individual items. Organizing your inventory room by room also helps you check your inventory list in the future – especially if damage was localized to one room or area of the home.
- Get Into the Habit of Recording Recent Purchases: Did you just buy a new TV? Get into the habit of recording it into your home inventory. That way, instead of completing a massive home inventory project every year, you can create a living document with everything inside your home with minimal added work.
- Include Items in Garages, Vehicles, & Sheds: After you’re done compiling a list of items in your home, move onto items in your car, shed, and other outbuildings. Home insurance covers possessions stored in and around your home – including in your car (even when it’s not parked at home).
- Inform Your Insurer of Any Items Over $500: All home insurance policies have a per-item maximum limit. If you have an item that exceeds this maximum limit, then you need to add an endorsement to your insurance policy. You pay slightly more for home insurance, but your policy covers the full value of your item. Without an endorsement, you might only receive $500 for your $5,000 engagement ring, for example.
- Take Pictures & Videos: Maintaining an accurate home inventory is easy with a smartphone. Take photos or videos of all your possessions, then add them to your home inventory. The more proof you have, the better. Your insurer might not believe you recently purchased a $500 handbag, for example, unless you have video and photo proof along with an accompanying receipt.
Home Contents Inventory Checklist Template
The New York Department of Financial Services has created a home contents inventory checklist template that anyone can use.
Alternatively, United Policyholders has a home inventory spreadsheet template that makes it easy to create and manage an inventory of your possessions.
You can print off these checklist templates and start using them immediately. Or, you can edit them and make them your own.
Each home inventory checklist contains 30+ pages – including pages for different rooms of your house (like your living room and dining room) and different types of possessions like jewelry, hobby items, and electronics).
Final Word: Public Adjusters Help Create a Home Inventory Checklist and Maximize Its Value
Your insurance company is required to cover all of the items in your home up to the limits of your policy.
However, the way you organize your home inventory list can affect your claim. Some insurers use vague home inventory checklist information to reduce the value of your claim. Other insurers demand excessive proof, challenging the value of every item on your checklist.
If you need help, contact a public adjuster for a free consultation.
ClaimsMate’s public adjusters can walk you through the claim, organize a home inventory checklist for maximum value, and ensure you receive every penny you are owed for your insurance claim.