Using Technology to Create a Home Inventory

May 6, 2015

If it's been a while since you have created a home inventory documenting your valuables, you're going to be pleasantly surprised about how much easier the process has become.

And if you haven't created a home inventory before, now's the time. If you ever lose your valuable belongings due to fire, flood, theft, windstorms or other hazard, you'll be glad you took the time.

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.

Here are the fundamental things you must 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.

Fortunately, modern technology makes accomplishing all these things a snap, through the use of the Web and smartphone technology.
Your first stop: Your homeowners insurance, landlord insurance or renters insurance carrier may have a ready-made application you can use - usually for free. Just ask your agent for information, or download it from your carrier's website.

Your carriers will design their inventory programs to meet their adjustors' requirements for documenting claims and getting them paid. If you use your carriers' program, fill in all the blanks, document each item completely, and keep your policy paid up, you should have little trouble getting your claim quickly processed, up to the maximum dollar amount insured.

As an alternative, you can use www.knowyourstuff.org, which is a free web-based program created by the Insurance Information Institute. This program will guide you step-by-step through the whole process. It's compatible with iPhones and Androids, as well, which makes it easy to upload photos right from your phone.


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