Published: November 2015
You probably don't expect your home to be broken into, but it's important to be prepared: In 2014, more than 1.1 million U.S. residences were burglarized, according to the FBI.
What if your belongings were stolen or your property was damaged by a fire or tornado? Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover personal property (up to the limits stated in the policy), but to file a claim, you'll need to know what's gone. Would you be able to list the specific items that were stolen or damaged and how much those items were worth?
The answer to that question could make all the difference when it's time to file your insurance claim.
Insurers will often request a list of items that have been lost or damaged. You might be asked to provide some type of proof that you own these items, such as receipts or bills.
This is why it may help to think ahead and create an inventory of your belongings and periodically update it.
If you haven't done this yet, you're not alone. In a survey of more than 1,000 homeowners conducted by Allstate in 2014, 41 percent said they hadn't done a recent assessment of the value of their possessions — or documented them in the first place.
Here are some tips for creating and safekeeping your home inventory:
Make a list of your possessions and back it up with relevant information. You'll want to include the type of item, the year you purchased it, its original price and any other relevant details.
Attach sales receipts, purchase contracts and any appraisal documents, advises the Insurance Information Institute (III).
When it comes to your clothes, tally the number of items you own by type, such as shoes and pants, the III recommends. Write down the make, model and serial number of appliances and electronic equipment.
Make sure you keep your inventory list in a safe place, like a safety deposit box or with a trusted friend or family member. Remember to update your list whenever you make a big purchase.
You don't need to be a professional filmmaker to videotape or take photos of every room in your house.
If you choose to videotape, narrate as you go along. Discuss each item and note its features and conditions.
If you are concerned about losing your paper list, think about using a software option or mobile app to create a digital record of your possessions.
An electronic inventory program can help you organize and store your information. If you create a digital file, be sure to back it up and keep a copy in an online storage account or external drive.
Taking stock of what you own now can help give you a clearer picture of what you own and give you the peace of mind that your documentation is in order, just in case the unexpected occurs.