Do you have a household inventory? This documentation is critically important if/when disaster strikes. We’ll show you what it is and how to create one easily.
What is a home inventory?
By definition, an inventory is a complete list of items. Inventories are commonly used in stores to monitor how much they have of each item.
A home inventory is similar, except that it tracks your belongings in case they are damaged or stolen. This information can be used to help you file police reports or insurance claims.
Why do you need a home inventory?
If you ever need to make a homeowners insurance or renters insurance claim, you will be asked for a home inventory. This documentation can also be required when you apply for financial assistance or file your taxes after a disaster.
The reason insurance companies love these documents is because they quickly and concisely explain what you own. Some of this information cannot be gathered after certain disasters, such as a fire. Assembling a home inventory in advance makes the entire insurance process much faster.
Disasters happen everywhere. Everyone needs to prepare.
Many people think that major disasters, such as tornadoes or wildfires, simply won’t happen to them. Even if you know the risks in your area, you may simply trust that you may not experience a major disaster in your lifetime.
However, disasters can happen anywhere and at almost any time. It is better to be prepared and never experience a disaster than to experience a disaster unprepared.
How do I create a home inventory?
Creating a home inventory doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ll break it down step-by-step.
It isn’t necessary to detail every single thing in your home, especially if that item is perishable or the quantity is frequently changing. For example, your list does not need to include how many loaves of bread you currently have.
Step 1: Take a few photos of each room.
Start with the big picture. Take two or three photos of each room in your house, with each photo from a different angle. This will give the insurance company a general idea of what you own.
Step 2: Take pictures of the drawers, cupboards and closets.
Open the drawers, closets, shelves and cupboards. Take photos of the belongings inside these hidden spaces to make sure that you’ve properly recorded everything you own.
Step 3: Gather extra details for your “big ticket” items.
Items that are expensive should be documented in detail. These items include appliances, electronics and furniture. It also includes anything that is antique, custom-made or difficult to replace.
Whenever possible, do your best to identify the product’s serial number, purchase date, purchase location and price. If you still have the receipt, take a picture and add it to your inventory.
The more information you have about these special items, the more fairly you will be compensated by your insurance company. If you simply tell them you have a “40 inch TV,” they will compensate you for the cheapest 40 inch TV they can find. However, if you know the brand name and serial number, you will be compensated for the actual replacement cost of your TV.
How should I track my home inventory?
There are several approaches to creating a home inventory. Namely, you can create a free Google Drive folder with a spreadsheet or you can try one of many household inventory apps.
Create a Spreadsheet
I am a big fan of Google Drive but you can use any spreadsheet software that you prefer. Simply open a new spreadsheet and label the columns as follows:
- Serial Number(s)
- Date of Purchase
- Location of Purchase
- Purchase Price
- Replacement Cost (if applicable)
You will fill in the spreadsheet room-by-room as you inventory your home. You can also upload images to your Google Drive folder.
Choose an App
When you are choosing an app, there are some important things you need to consider.
First, it’s important to select one that will allow you to print information for your records also. If it doesn’t offer a printing feature, it’s not worth using.
Second, you’ll want to be aware of the security settings for the app that you are using. You will be listing the value of all the belongings in your home. Many apps track your location by default. An unscrupulous or untrustworthy developer could potentially exploit this information. Always be very careful when you’re putting information online!
There are several home inventory apps that can help you keep track of your belongings. It may be wise to try a few before you decide for certain which one you want to commit to.
Sortly is a free app for iOS and Android that can help you manage your home inventory. It uses tags and folders to organize your information. The app also allows you to store photos, which are very helpful. The information you add to Sortly can be exported to DropBox, PDF or Evernote.
Memento Database is my personal favorite because it can be synced with Google Sheets. That means you can update the information and organize your data away from your smartphone! With Memento, you can sort, search and filter your list in different ways. It’s extremely versatile.
Encircle: Home Inventory is another free app. It’s available on both Google Play and the iTunes store. This app will allow you to access your list on any device and can export your inventory into PDF and Excel formats.
Remember it’s better to have some information than nothing at all.
If the idea of creating a detailed home inventory overwhelms you, don’t panic. Just start with general photos of the rooms in your house. In the event of an emergency, it’s better to have something than nothing at all.