Making a Home Inventory

Keep track of your possessions with a home inventory so you know what you have and where it's located. Don't be overwhelmed at the task, take it slow and steady and bite off one area at a time.

By Gene And Katie Hamilton

Making a Home Inventory

Anyone who has experienced a property loss and had to make an insurance claim knows how important it is to document your possessions. An inventory is a record of what you own with a description of the articles and their value and justifies a claim to your insurance company. While the task may seem daunting, it's made easy with a digital camera or cell phone. "Very few people are able to remember everything they own," says Kip Diggs of State Farm Insurance, "so having an inventory gives you one less thing to worry about."

A digital camera or cell phone with a camera helps create an itemized record of possessions because it generates an image that can be printed, embedded in a printed document, or stored and saved on a CD. The image can be manipulated and enlarged so it can identify details like the serial number on electronics or intricate markings on a piece of silver.

What should be included in an inventory? Everything inside your home: furniture, jewelry, artwork, antiques, collectibles, appliances, kitchen contents, clothes, linens, carpets, computer equipment, televisions, DVDs, VCRs, CDs, audio and audiovisual equipment, musical instruments, lawn and garden equipment, tools, sports gear, and any other items of value.

The goal is to document this information:

  • Item description and quantity
  • Manufacturer or brand name
  • Model or serial number
  • Description of where (or how) the item was obtained
  • Date of purchase or age of item
  • Receipt or other proof of purchase, showing cost
  • Current value or replacement cost
  • Photocopies of any appraisals

Creating an inventory is time consuming so break it down into workable segments. Make sure the digital camera's time and date are set correctly and use the safeguard feature to prevent deleting any pictures by mistake. Tackle one room at a time. First shoot an overview of the room from several different locations, then take individual shots of each item as you work your way around the room. Open cabinet doors and drawers and shoot what's inside. Remove any items difficult to see and shoot them on a tabletop where you can get close-ups of identifying features.

To store the inventory you have some options. Burn the file onto a CD or DVD and save it in a safe deposit box, save it on a hard drive and give it to a family member for safe keeping, or make a printout of the report to have a hard copy. Best advice: do all three.

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