Several years ago, my wife and I returned from a vacation to find we had been burgled.
Our house was hit hard. The burglars left no drawer unchecked and no piece of furniture unturned. The mess was dreadful.
Settling things with the insurance company turned out to be a bigger mess. The process wasn’t pleasant, but we eventually worked through it and were ultimately happy with how things turned out.
After we settled with our insurance company, we began to notice missing items that were left off the claim.
This continued for a couple years after the break-in and the list of things eventually grew long. It just wasn’t possible to make a comprehensive list at one time, probably a sign that we had too much stuff.
Creating a home inventory before a bad event occurs is imperative to ensure adequate insurance coverage. It is even more important to make an accurate insurance claim.
Our memories just cannot remember all the things we own. Out of sight, out of mind.
The best way to begin an inventory is to walk around your house with the video camera, shoot video inside every closet and every drawer. The video camera has a much better memory than you.
Once you have created a video of your home, begin to make a list of your possessions. I think the best way to organize the list is by room: Kitchen, garage, living room, etc.
Another way to organize is by value. Start with the highest-value items down to the lowest.
Some of your possessions have serial numbers; electronics and firearms are two examples.
Make a spreadsheet of these items and store them in a safe place. Some of these things will turn up from time to time, and serial numbers may help the police.
Once you have completed your home inventory, store it in multiple safe places and even in the cloud. You do not want the list to be used against you.
It can also be helpful to share the list with your insurance agent. You may discover some of your possessions are either not covered or only partially insured.
I found out the hard way that cash, coins and jewelry were not covered the way I thought. Art and other collectibles might also not be covered. Check with your provider.
Renters insurance should not change this process; make a comprehensive list, videotape and check with the insurer to make sure your coverage is adequate.
If you suffer losses and find that you have items that were not insured, your inventory is still not wasted.
You can use your list to deduct those uninsured losses on your taxes. You must itemize on Schedule A to be able to deduct the losses.
The night I entered my home and discovered what happened, I kept thinking this type of thing only happens to other people.
Eventually, you are the other person. The time to get ready is now.