Flowers are blooming, the weather is getting warmer, and you begin opening windows to freshen up your home... It's time for spring cleaning!
There are many resources and tips on how to best clean your home, but this is also a time to take advantage of creating or updating your household inventory.
What is a Household Inventory + Why do You Need One?
A home inventory could prove invaluable if you lost some or all of your belongings in a fire, burglary, or natural disaster. It is a list of all the personal belongings in your home, including when you bought each item, the original cost, and any identifying information (e.g. model or serial numbers). For a small investment of your time, you can survey your belongings and be prepared in the event of a loss.
How do You Complete a Home Inventory?
It may seem like a daunting task to itemize all your belongings, but there are some tips and shortcuts you can take to finish your household inventory in time to enjoy the nice weather (and finish the rest of your spring cleaning).
#1 - There's an App for That
If you have an iPhone or Android, there are many apps available to help you with your home inventory. Information about your belongings, adding rooms, items, and photos can be entered through the app or web-based software. Make sure your information is kept in a personal, password-protected account.
#2 - Home Inventory Worksheet
If you aren't comfortable using an app or web-based software, you can use a home inventory worksheet to create a list of your belongings. Most worksheets are broken down by room and include some suggested items to get you started. You can write down the item, manufacturer and serial number, date of purchase, and price (or estimated value).
A household inventory worksheet or checklist will help you keep track of your belongings. You can add items, cross items out if they are sold, given away, or disposed of, and it is easy to make copies so you can keep one in a safe place (such as a safety deposit box, or trusted friend/family member's home).
#3 - Go Room by Room
If it seems like you just have too many items in your home to possibly keep track of everything, start small. Choose one room at a time, or one section of your home at a time. It doesn't all need to be done at once. You can choose one room a day, or one room a week. This will make it seem less overwhelming and will allow you to get started. Before you know it, you will have a complete household inventory!
#4 - Itemize by Category
Another way you can start small is to sort your home inventory by category. Start with just one at a time, such as Entertainment. In this category, you would include TVs, DVD players, iPods/iPads, etc. If you decide to complete your worksheet by category, be sure to list how many of each item you have (e.g. TV-living room, TV-bedroom).
Again, be sure to include the manufacturer, serial number, price, and any other important information. You can also attach any applicable receipts and appraisals.
NOTE: If you have many items of jewelry or collectibles, you may want to consider scheduling them on your home or renters insurance policy to be sure you have enough coverage should a loss occur. Most policies limit the amount of reimbursement for these items when they are not scheduled on the policy, and adding them to your policy is quite inexpensive.
#5 - Use Photos + Video
Taking a video of each room in your house can make taking an inventory much easier. A complete video inventory should contain verbal descriptions of major assets as well as their value. Remember your garage, attic, basement, and the exterior of the house, as well as landscaping and fencing. Save the video along with your worksheet in a secure location and send a copy to a friend or relative for safe-keeping (or save to the cloud).
#6 - List Only Major Belongings
To get started, begin with only your major belongings. It may seem like way too much work when you think about all the little things in your home, such as the items in your closet, cabinets, and drawers. Listing your furniture and electronics first, for example, will make the process seem easier.
#7 - Keep a Copy Somewhere Else
Whether your home inventory is paper, electronic, scanned to your computer, or on video, it is important to keep a copy outside of your home. This ensures that if a disaster does occur, your household inventory is safe. If you use the app or web-based version, you will not have to worry about the information being lost due to fire, flood, or theft. For everything else, save to the cloud, keep a copy in a safe-deposit box, or share with a trusted friend or family member. Be sure that you replace your copy with an updated version on an as-needed basis.
#8 - Add as You Go
Once you finish your inventory, don't forget to add new items as needed! After you complete your initial list, keeping it current is pretty easy and takes no time at all.
#9 - Review
Every few years, look over your inventory to get rid of items you no longer own and to add new items. If you get a new appraisal for an item on your list, be sure to include it as well.
#10 - Start Today
No one plans to lose their valuables and other belongings in a burglary, fire, or natural disaster. If one of these unfortunate events destroys your home, make sure you are able to report exactly what you lost to the police, to the IRS, or to your independent insurance agent. The easiest way is to get started today! It's easier to inventory your home now than to sit down after a disaster and attempt to remember a lifetime worth of purchases.
Don't forget about important documents. These should be scanned and saved, with one kept in your home or on a secure cloud server and the original (where possible) in a safe-deposit box. Important items include, but are not limited to:
- Home: Insurance policies (home, flood, boat), deed, title, mortgage documents
- Personal: Birth certificates, medical history, passports, insurance certificates, credit card numbers, will, marriage certificate, social security card
- Automobile: Certificates of ownership, finance contracts, registrations, insurance policies, driver's licenses
- Finance: Account numbers for checking and savings accounts, CDs, stocks, bonds, other significant investments
- Tax: Copies of the first two pages of your state and federal returns for the past 5 years. Complete returns with appropriate receipts and canceled checks should be kept in a separate file box.
While it does take time to create a household inventory, it will pay off in the long run. Take advantage of the nice weather and "spring cleaning" attitude to start your home inventory today!
If you have any questions about your inventory or your insurance, please give us a call at 732-380-0900.