How and Why to Create a Home Inventory

Illustration for article titled How and Why to Create a Home Inventory
Photo: emyerson (Getty Images)

Another hurricane season is underway, and it’s likely to be a bad one. Wildfires are also raging across California, and the pandemic means the rest of us are spending more time than ever at home, increasing the likelihood of house fires and other accidents leading to property damage. If you’ve been thinking lately about securing—or increasing—insurance for the contents of your home, you’re one step ahead: It’s never a bad idea to document your possessions in case of burglary, damage or fire. But how should you go about it? Well, the best tool for the job is the one you’ll actually use.

Taking a home inventory isn’t hard, but it is time consuming. It’s also extremely important; maintaining a complete and accurate inventory will speed up the insurance claims process and ensure your insurance takes care of everything you lost. (You do, of course, need the insurance.)

Many tools can guide you through the process of taking an inventory and storing it somewhere secure (we’ll list some below), but the basics are pretty simple: You’ll want to take pictures of all your stuff (including the serial numbers for your electronic gadgetry. In the age of smartphones, this is no problem: simply walking through your home and filming its contents will get you off to a good start.

In addition to the video, you’ll want to keep a details on makes and models for your pricier items—along with receipts, if possible (take pictures in case you lose the originals). As we’ve pointed out before, simply listing “toaster over” isn’t enough if what you actually own is a $600 convection oven; the insurance company will be happy to price out a cheap $20 replacement model if you aren’t able to prove the true value of your losses. This is especially true for unique and valuable items like jewelry, wine and firearms (though it’s important to note that coverage may be limited for these items; for example, a typical insurance policy will only provide up to $1,000 per piece of jewelry and $5,000 per incident).