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The Life Transition Blog

Your Household Inventory Prevents A Second Disaster


Imagine that it’s the morning after Hurricane Messy. You venture out at first light and find that while your house is mostly intact, a tree has fallen into the roof over the back and your master bedroom is open to the sky with two feet of standing water covering the floor. You immediately call your insurance agent who begins the process of filing a claim with your carrier. As part of the claim, you’ll have to list all of the items in addition to the structure of the house itself that were lost or damaged as a result of the hurricane. That’s when the fun begins. Eventually, an adjuster will appear to inspect the damage and you will ultimately receive an offer from the company to settle your claim. Without good records, it’s likely that you will be unpleasantly surprised by the amount you are offered for your things. Now think about having to go out and replace all of your clothes, all of your shoes, not to mention your furniture and carpet.

It’s bad enough when your home is damaged or destroyed by fire, flood, earthquake, or hurricane. But it adds insult to injury when all of the proof of what you had was destroyed too. This is a completely preventable scenario if you create and maintain a household inventory. The idea behind your household inventory is to document the items you have in your home so that in the event of a loss you can quickly move through the claims process with your insurance carrier and be on your way to repairing or replacing the items.

The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is very true for household inventories. The best way to build your household inventory is to go room by room and take still photos or a video, preferably with a visible date stamp. Be sure to open closets and cupboards to show what’s inside, and for particularly valuable or rare items, it’s worth taking the time to take a close-up. If you do nothing else, this at least provides proof of what you had in your home as of the day you took the photos. If possible, go one step further and gather all of the receipts for the more costly items and scan them into electronic format. If you have appraisals for any items, go ahead and scan them too. Keep the electronic medium such as a disk or flash drive in a safe place outside of your home like your safety deposit box. Another option is to give your insurance agent a copy. This way, not only do you have visual proof of your possessions, but you also have proof of what you paid for them and when you bought them. Doing so will not only help you prove your loss, but might also show you whether you are over- or under-insured. As you build your household inventory, don’t forget to document what you have in your garage, basement, or attic.

So now that you’ve done the big job and built your initial household inventory it’s important to maintain it. As you acquire new items, be sure to scan the receipts for major purchases and put the original receipts in a safe place. If you dispose of items it’s a good idea to make a note of that too. Many people find it helpful to have a spiral notebook in their kitchen junk drawer or on their desk where they can write down the “stuff” they add or delete, the date, and the price they paid for the item. This makes it much quicker when it’s time to make a formal update to the inventory. Then, at least annually, make the changes in the master inventory, take new photographs if necessary, and store the results in a safe place outside of your home.

If the idea of creating and maintaining a household inventory seems overwhelming to you, consider hiring someone to help. A household transitions specialist can come in and do the project for you quickly and efficiently. Many will use special tools which safely and securely store all of the information electronically where it can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection. Don’t let your lack of a household inventory become a second disaster.
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