Why you need a home inventory … now

Editor's note: Adapted from the Minnesota Department of Commerce and http://mn.gov/commerce/insurance/images/Home-Inventory-Checklist.pdf:

Putting together a home inventory...It is easier before a disaster than afterwards.

You’ve just finished enjoying the New Year’s Day bowl games on that big high-definition flat-screen TV you got for Christmas. And the accompanying home entertainment system probably made it feel and sound like you were there in person. It would be a shame if you lost these expensive new toys to a house fire, or flooding, or a wind storm. Worse still, what if your insurance settlement paid you less than the value of your possessions because you didn’t know what exactly you had?

It’s a lot easier to take stock of your insurance coverage and possessions now rather than after a fire has gutted your home, or spring floods have set it afloat, or a wind storm has blown it all away. There’s enough to think about without having to try to remember everything you owned once the insurance adjuster arrives. Many people also mistakenly believe their homeowners insurance will cover them in the event of a flood; it does not.A 2008 survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) found that 48 percent of U.S. consumers did not have a list of their possessions.

Revisit your policy or call your insurance agent to be sure. After a disaster, an insurance adjuster is going to hand you a piece of paper and a pencil and say write down all your possessions. This is when you will wish you had a home inventory list. Whether you rent or own, having such a list ready to hand to the adjuster can speed up the processing of your insurance claim by days. The list doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, but it helps.

Taking pictures is handy, because they can show the brand and model. Some homeowners or renters may shoot video, and as they focus on each item, they describe it. Make a note of the brand, model number, serial number and what you paid for each item. And remember those commonly overlooked belongings such as clothing, which can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.

Once you’ve made your list, don’t forget to update it when you buy that new TV or bedroom set.

Tips for taking inventory of home possessions:

  • Document each item as completely as possible, including brand and model number.
  • Include receipts and/or cancelled checks to prove what you paid for items.
  • Remember to include items you don’t use regularly, such as holiday decorations, sports equipment or tools.
  • Review your insurance policy to know what is covered and whether your possessions are insured for actual cash value (the amount it would take to replace or repair the item minus any depreciation) or for replacement cost (the amount it would take to repair or replace the item without deducting for depreciation).
  • For rare or valuable items such as jewelry, antiques or art, you may want to consider adding additional insurance—a rider—to your policy.
  • Keep the completed list outside of your home. Store it at your office, a family member’s house or safe-deposit box.
  • Update the list annually.


A free and simple home inventory software program is available from the Insurance Information Institute - http://www.knowyourstuff.org/iii/login.html

For flood insurance information 

Free Printable Home Inventory Worksheets: