It’s Still Hurricane Season

Do You Know Where your Home Inventory Is?

By Laura Chiesman

In 2004, two friends were victims of that year’s multiple storms. The good news was that they were both fully and properly insured for these events. One had a home inventory, the other did not, and they had very different experiences when filing insurance claims for items lost and destroyed. The first presented their inventory to his agent and had a full claim paid out very efficiently. The other spent many difficult hours, once she could get back to her home, cataloguing and photographing her wet, moldy belongings, and it was many months and insurance-related conversations before her claim was settled.

For years prior to that storm season, we had been advising those we care about to prepare an inventory of their home contents, but the real life stories of these two households comes to mind every summer and keeps me motivated to raise the topic with clients and friends.

As of June 2014, according to the Insurance Information Institute, 48 percent of those polled have a home inventory. I was a little surprised, and happy, that the number was that high, but that leaves half of us less prepared and protected than necessary.

Compiling a home inventory is a strategy we include in financial plans. This is a task that is easy to put off and seems to overwhelm many, so it tends to hold its spot for years on the “Actions in Progress” list longer than most recommendations.

Over time, we’ve come up with various ideas to make it easier to complete an inventory. Years ago, we bought a nice little video camera and lent it out with encouragement and instructions to keep the resulting mini cassette tape in a safe place. That was pretty high-tech 10 years ago! For the tech-shy, we advise taking pictures and writing descriptions on the back of each photograph, or keeping a list that describes the contents room by room. These days using your phone’s video camera capability makes it easy, but don’t forget to save the video to a flash drive or to the cloud.

You can keep it simple or get very detailed. Your insurance agent may provide a preferred method or form, or you can “Google it”. Searching “home inventory” will take you to a variety of solutions and articles – maybe too many! Here are two, of the many, available resources:

  • Allstate Household Inventory Form

So here’s my confession: For a long time I ignored my own advice and didn’t have a home inventory either. One morning, I finally decided to bite the bullet and “just do it” and, as I had been preaching for years, it was easy!

I followed my own often repeated instructions and just walked through my home with my phone video camera running. I talked my way, room by room, around the house describing furniture, appliances, artwork and other contents. For some items I gave a short background story; for new items I mentioned where they were purchased, and I provided some detail for original paintings and collections of items. Admittedly, I could have been more detailed and “someday” I may add a spreadsheet to the project, but for now it’s done. If the next big storm visits my neighborhood I’ll have evidence for a claim and won’t have to experience the stress of trying to remember what was where and which possessions are missing or destroyed. And, my insurance agent will love me!