Imagine for a moment that your home catches on fire and is completely destroyed. The house and all your personal possessions are either burned or a soggy wet mess. Think it will never happen to you? We certainly hope so too, but this scenario does happen and far too often. To protect yourself, take a home inventory!
A Devastating Fire Claim
In 2009 we had a customer with an older home that caught fire and was almost completely destroyed before the fire department even arrived. The home had an original wood shake roof that was over 30 years old. This particular fire was one of the worst our agency has seen in over 20 years of business. Everything in the home was ruined either by fire and smoke or the water used to extinguish the blaze. The customer had lived in the home from the time it was new and they had a lifetime of possessions tucked away in every nook and cranny.
Now imagine that after suffering this kind of terrible loss the insurance adjuster asks you to make a list of everything that was destroyed. Could you possibly remember every little gadget, gizmo, memento, trinket, and all the other stuff that is in your home now? If not, you need to consider performing a detailed home inventory.
The Importance of A Home Inventory
The home inventory is one of the often overlooked elements of homeowners insurance and it is something we simply can’t do for you. Fortunately, it is not a terribly difficult process and can usually be accomplished on one Saturday. There are a number of software programs that can aid you in the process including a free web-based version that offered by the Insurance Information Institute: www.knowyourstuff.org. There is even a smartphone version here that allows you to take photos on-the-fly, and syncs between multiple devices. (Update 10/2011: the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has released a free iPhone and Android app called MyHome Scr.APP.Book). We recommend a web-based inventory because it keeps the data stored somewhere other than your home computer (which is very likely to be ruined in a fire). If you choose to use a software program that stores data on your computer, please make sure you keep a backup stored away from the home.
A very good alternative to using a software program is to video the entire home. Start in each room and capture all the furniture. Open up drawers and describe the contents. How thoroughly you document should vary based on the value of the items. For instance, an adjuster is not going to question that you had 20 pencils and 2 rubber band balls in your junk drawer. They will, however, question your collection of 15 high-definition televisions unless you have proof. Your record of high-value items, like appliances and electronics, should include the make, model, serial number, purchase price and date. If you have expensive clothing, lay items out on the floor or a bed and describe each one in the video including the cost new. Make sure to include shots of the clothing labels. Don’t forget all the stuff in your garage, basement or attic. If you have a manly collection of expensive tools, take the time to document each item. Take the video camera outside and record the items stored in a shed or on your patio. Video the exterior of the house to show the condition and architectural details. Most importantly, keep a copy of the video stored away from the home!
Remember that there are some items that simply cannot be replaced with any amount of money, such as family photos, home videos, and computer documents. Invest in a good scanner and make backup copies of photos, birth certificates, social security cards and other important documents. If possible, have home videos converted to DVD format and then store an archive copy on your computer. Consider a web-based storage or backup solution such as Carbonite or Crashplan. For around $5 per month, you can have an incredible amount of data backed-up remotely.
Reasons to Take a Home Inventory
A good home inventory serves two purposes. First, it ensures you receive a fair settlement for your claim simply because you will remember all the stuff in your home. Second, it helps speed up the claim process by proving ownership of your possessions. Make the time to take a home inventory. The few hours you spend doing it today can make a world of difference in the future should you ever suffer a devastating loss to your home.
If you would like additional information about how to take a home inventory, please contact us today.