No one likes to think about the bad things that could happen to their home.
But if you live in a region prone to bushfires or severe storms, you should consider putting together an inventory of the contents in your home.
In fact, all homeowners should consider a contents inventory.
That’s because, should your contents be stolen or destroyed, your insurer may ask you for proof of ownership and value.
So, what’s the best way to create a record of your possessions?
This guide explains some basic principles to follow and different methods of taking stock of your belongings.
Keep Records of Your Stuff
It’s important to keep a record of your belongings.
One reason is that it can help your insurer settle any claim faster and more easily.
It also means any contents that are covered for repair or replacement are not overlooked when you lodge your claim.
It might sound a little obsessive, but going from room to room and making a list of all your possessions is essential.
At the very least, you should list your most valuable possessions. Include not only those items easily seen, but also those in your shed, under the house, or in the attic.
Keep all your receipts for large and valuable purchases, such as furniture and electrical goods.
You can file your paper receipts, take photos of them, or scan and store them online.
Try to remember to update your inventory when you purchase new, expensive items, or remove valuable items from your home.
If you can’t find the receipt for a particular item, you can always look through your credit card statements or bank account records for the purchase details.
You may have items in your home that were gifts or inheritance.
Now is a good time to have them appraised, if you believe they’re valuable. This appraisal can then be added to your inventory.
Don't Forget the Nondescript Items
When moving from room to room, big items are obvious and are rarely omitted from home inventories.
However, you could be sitting on a goldmine when it comes to the value of nondescript household items.
The following list contains valuable items that are sometimes overlooked:
- office equipment not in regular use (e.g. fax machine, extra landline phone)
- clothing (e.g. wedding dresses, suits, leather jackets, handbags, shoes)
- collections (e.g. teacups, coins, stamps, comic books, wines and spirits)
- sports equipment
Consider a Paperless Content Inventory
Apps enable us to do myriad things on our smartphones, tablets and laptops, including content inventories.
Here are a few ways you can digitally record your belongings:
- iTrackmine: A free inventory app. It walks you through your home, asking you to document all your items, even the ones you might forget.
- Delicious Library app: This allows Mac users to scan barcodes or add items manually.
- Evernote: A great place to keep all your files, including content inventories. You can take photos of your contents and add them to your notes
- Specialist software programs, including Home Inventory Pro 2011 and HomeManage 2011.
Or Use a Good Old Fashioned Spreadsheet
If you’re already familiar with spreadsheet programs such as Excel and Google Sheets, you might decide to inventory your contents this way.
Spreadsheets are ideal if you simply want a list of all your belongings.
They’re also flexible, allowing you to customise the columns and rows to suit your needs.
Take Photographs of Your Possessions
If you don’t like apps or spreadsheets, grab your smartphone and take photos or videos.
You don’t need to get creative! All you need is a record of your belongings.
Make sure you record serial numbers, makers’ marks, etc.
Inventories take time, so get the family involved.
Says Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute, in an article for ClaimsJournal.com:
Kids can do their own rooms… photograph their computers, electronic devices, sporting goods and other belongings.
Once you’re done, store the photos or videos on a computer stick kept off-site, or even better, the Cloud. That way, if your house burns down, you won’t lose your inventory.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to use your inventory. But if the worst happens and your home is destroyed, you’ll have more than your memory to rely on when you make an insurance claim.