Easy way to document homeowners insurance inventory

Homeowners Insurance Video Inventory – Do It Before You Need It!

Homeowners Insurance; it’s not just about paying your premiums for ‘just in case’… What if you actually needed to call on your insurance company for a claim of loss? Do you have a homeowners insurance inventory of everything? (They’re going to ask). A video inventory makes it easy (easier).

Worst case, what if you lose your home in a house fire or other major disaster? When your insurance company asks for a list of what you lost, how will you possibly be able to remember everything inside the home? You’ll never remember it all! Especially during the time frame immediately following the disaster, you may not be thinking too clearly.

Proof of Contents /Belongings For Your Homeowners Insurance

The best way to be sure that your homeowners insurance will pay for your lost items (up to whatever limits you have), is to have proof of contents and belongings.

The most tedious method is to document and inventory all of the items in a list (paper or computer record). Keep it off-site somewhere – not in your home, or in a fireproof safe, or maybe a digital file in the cloud. Or on a USB thumb-drive hanging on your keychain.

Most people won’t bother with taking the time to physically list a homeowners insurance inventory. However a very simple method is to video everything that’s in your home.

Video Inventory of What’s In Your Home

This is so easy to do, that there should be no excuse not to video inventory everything – once you have read this post. Nearly everyone has a smart phone. Use it to selectively capture a video record of home contents.

Similarly you might just take digital pictures for an inventory record.

Be very methodical about the video or picture taking process so there will be no question regarding your insurance claim and homeowners inventory.

One room at a time, capture video – pan the entire room, s-l-o-w-l-y. Then, open the closets and do the same. Perhaps the contents in drawers, at least what you may consider valuable for a claim.

Look everywhere. Think about everything of value. You will not miss anything so long as you systematically go through each room and every space in the room.

Don’t forget the basement, attic, or garage where you may have stored items of value that may want as part of a homeowners insurance claim – should you ever need to…

You will be surprised at the number of items, things, belongings, that you have tucked away here and there. Many of them will have tangible value (it all adds up). There may be items that you have forgotten about too.

Tip: After capturing video or photos, it’s even better to document a list of those items. Start with highest value first. Enter a value too. The more data the better.

But then where do you keep all that proof?

Where To Keep Inventory Records For Homeowners Insurance Inventory

When you’re done with documenting (video and/or pictures, and/or other documentation), secure the inventory list from potential damage or loss.

If you’re keeping these files on a USB flash drive, don’t keep it in your desk drawer at home. If your home burns down or is damaged/destroyed in some way, you’ll lose it!

Maybe instead, you might keep it on your keychain.

A particular USB flash drive that I’ve had on my keychain for years has held up well. It’s the Corsair Survivor Stealth. The 264GB is overkill for such an inventory, but I also keep other stuff on it too.

Corsair Survivor Stealth
Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth 256GB USB 3.0
(view on amzn)

Here’s a SanDisk keychain flash drive that’s very popular today:

SanDisk 256GB Ultra Luxe USB 3.1

Anyway, the message here is how simple it is with today’s cell phones – to video capture a home inventory for your homeowners insurance. Or simply take pictures of your home’s contents, in case you need proof later on, after a disaster – and insurance claim. I do it every so often – a video capture update of what I have. I recently did it again, which inspired me to republish this.

TIP: READ YOUR HOWEOWNERS INSURANCE POLICY. Understand what they cover, and what they won’t cover… There may be limits too. Don’t be caught off-guard.

[ Read: The Corsair Stealth Survivor USB Flash Drive Key-chain Backup ]

28 Comments

  1. Great article! For our documentation of belongings, we did both a video (last minute and fast), plus the photographs done with a little more care. Making the list of belongings was the hard part. Insurance won’t pay based on a list only, because lists can be “made up”. The list will help you with valuation of your stuff.

    Also, make sure you have any appraisals of jewelry, art, antiques, etc in a safe place as well.

    Thanks again Ken!

  2. Several years ago we were hit with a large electrical spike which blew out the furnace, the electrical panel, and almost all of the electronics. Trying to list everything with their value was difficult as some items were over 20 years old. I normally purge the files of old receipts from time to time. I normally keep them at least until the warranty expires. After that episode I decided to keep all receipts until I no longer have the item.

  3. I live in a home full of very valuable antiques and artworks. It is like living in a museum with 18th century paintings and 19th century ceramic artworks all around me. I could live for years for the value of one painting. I guess I should work on this.

  4. As Beach’n mentioned about ‘jewelry-antiques-guns-specialized equipment’, they “require” an appraisal for their TRUE value.
    Other wise you receive the minimal amount listed in the HO3(homeowners policy). Just before you think it is per item, it is not, it is for all those items. Most policies will give you only $500, then if you have special clothing as a Mink coat/stole passed down in the family or new. It also will only be $500 but in another section of a HO3 policy.
    You will also discover that if you have what is termed a ‘farm package’ due to the amount of acres you have with livestock. Same rules apply there also.

    Make sure you have ‘replacement costs’ on your home & furnishings , along with your appraisals. Other wise they will give what is termed as ACV, which is ‘actual CASH value’. What it means to your pocket book, deprecation on what you bought. Basically pennies on the dollar, thought all of you should know.

    Alright here is my bill,, five USD for this knowledge, but the money is to go to Ken. 😎

    1. Antique Collector;
      You bring up an excellent point, check your insurance policy, 99.99% of them only cover Firearms. Jewelry and such for $500 or less for ALL of those items, you need “Add On Insurance” to cover them.

    2. I spent a few years writing estimates for auto insurance claims. For autos the ACV is the book value(NADA or Kelly Blue Book). They will give you a range of prices depending on the condition of the vehicle. If you have a car that is customized you must have documentation of this to raise the value. Also keep maintenance records to increase the value. If the car had any prior damage that will lower the ACV. The insurance companies are looking to cut expenses anywhere they can with no regard for you. Sorry Ken I know the topic is home owners insurance but the insurance adjusters will be the same way.

  5. Had a house fire 3/16/05 & 3/17/05. Luckily I’d grown up with the Adjuster. 2 years to submit all claims; very arduous process. Had a small side business run out of the home, jewelry, coins, antiques, etc. Because I didn’t have a “Rider” policy (add-on insurance) they only reimbursed me for the basics. Called all credit cards, utilities, etc. for a hold, received up front check from insurance to buy daily personal items and some clothes, insurance paid rent for comparable lodging until home got rebuilt. Yes, the “clean up” company ended up with a lot of the items. I wouldn’t wish this experience on my worst enemy….well….!

    1. “The clean-up company ended up with a lot of the items.”

      Happened to my mother. Flood cleanup crew found money and a gun under the carpet. Disappeared.

  6. Insurance is one of the biggest “rackets” known to man. That’s why insurance companies are among the richest companies in the world. Does not matter what kind of insurance, health, auto, homeowners, etc, it’s all a racket. Anybody that says differently is not truthful.
    If us “little people” done business this way, we would be in jail.

    1. Anonymous,
      Amen to your statement. They do have very nice office buildings and seem to drive very nice cars and have very nice homes as well. I dislike doing business with them .Unfortunately they are solid fixture in our culture.

  7. Something to consider is value vs. replacement cost.

    For example, our homeowners insurance has the replacement cost of our house as being over 2x what we paid for it. They figured it as what it would cost them to rebuild this house after a total loss, not the current market value of the house itself. Sometimes, this also applies to your personal possessions as well.
    As mentioned, any “special” items such as jewelry, firearms, furs, etc. will usually have a ridiculously low limit and thus require an additional “rider” in order to get enough coverage to actually replace them – it’s a de facto gun registry but it’s also the only way you’re going to get coverage. Yes, they will usually require make, model, serial number, price paid, etc.
    Check your homeowners POLICY- not an explanation or declarations page, and communicate with your agent IN WRITING (e-mail) so that they can be legally held to what they tell you! If you don’t understand something, ask them. If you don’t get a “plain English” answer, reply and ask again!
    You can email yourself the inventory of your home so that it is in your email account and thus accessible from anywhere you can log in from. You can use programs like PGP to create a self decrypting archive so that if your email is hacked, nobody can decrypt/view the list of your possessions.
    Good idea for an article Ken! I imagine there are quite a few poor folks suffering through this because of all of the wildfires last year.

  8. You need to always read your policy! Every state and every policy in that state is different. Usually if you have replacement cost and have a total loss, the insurance company will pay policy limits. . If you don’t have replacement costs, you will get replacement less depreciation. If you have valuables, always get appraisals and schedule them with a rider on your policy. Always contact your insurance agent if you have any problems. Usually they are just a small town person like yourself and will advocate on your behalf. Not all insurance people are crooks. Most are just small town guys and gals working to make a living. Believe me agents do NOT make a ton of money of your policies. After hiring staff and the overhead is a very small amount.

    Most problems are people wanting the cheapest insurance they can get and then when they have a loss, they just don’t understand why they didn’t have coverage. Make sure you get a good agent, have them explain the policy and don’t try to take the cheap way out! Been in the industry 30 years + and most of the time that is the problem.
    Sometimes there are crappy adjusters, just like crappy people, it happens. That’s were a good agent comes in handy. Usually your agent can handle those crappy adjusters.

  9. We lost our home 1June 18 to a very rare tornado in Wyoming. Our home was under insured by 50,000 dollars. We had cash value and replacement cost for our belongings. We still do not have our home finished. It has been a very long 9 months. We did not have an inventory of belongings, but did have many pictures. My DIL is a photograher and has taken many pictures. We had to fight the insurance company to even replace our appliances. I have learned a lot from this experience and will do things differently next time around. Patiently waiting my house to be finished.

    1. Sherri
      Those of you who have had to FIGHT your insurance companies, please go to your insurance commissioners office or call them. That is their job to protect the insured against the reprobate adjustor(s).
      File complaints against the adjustor &/or the company itself. It does help, been there in your position.

  10. Make sure your location services is activated for the camera so it imbeds a timestamp and location on the photos, insurance companies are getting smart and rejecting photos and video that cant be linked

  11. Oh yes, make an inventory of everything you have—— duh, wrong again. Be sure to list all of your fire arms and ammo so that when the ATF and FBI come to collect it all they have a ready made list of what they came for. Some liberal insurance agent would be happy to pass along your list to the government agents. Please list your night vision equipment as well, duh.

    Do not forget to list your emergency food stash so that it can be taken from you and passed along to the “give me dats”. Also, be sure to list any and all money you stashed away for a SHTF day, including silver and gold coins.

    Now, if you have stored away any medical supplies like antibiotics, well, the government would like those as well. Please note the sarcasm intended.
    I hope by now everyone gets the message

    1. I read Kens article nowhere did I see the suggestion that you share the contents of your storage device unless or until it became necessary to do so .

      1. Agreed, Bill. Keep the inventory safe and discretely stored until it may be needed. Hopefully, never.

    2. No Joke: not to be funny but actually we r screwed. i agree some of the insurance agents would love to have this wonderful info at their disposal.

  12. Homeowner’s Insurance – in Florida ?
    Are you kidding ?
    It costs a fortune, and keeps on increasing nonstop.
    The biggest legal racket there is !
    After Katrina in New Orleans, the insurance companies came in and stated they would settle for 10 cents on the dollar value – take it or leave it. A friend of mine refused it, and is still waiting for it to be settled.
    And how many years ago was that ?
    The insurance companies will screw you coming and going.

    1. Wow, yes, I’ll bet homeowner insurance prices are nuts in FL with your hurricanes… I just searched for the average price there out of curiosity, and yup – it’s a lot… about 4x what I’m paying (and of course it depends where you live, home value, etc…)

      1. I can add some color to the cost of homeowners insurance in Florida. We were recently quoted $13K to cover a nothing special 2300 sq ft home on 1/4 acre with just basic coverage plus “wind” (storm, hail, hurricane), and even that coverage was considered a stretch find.

        I am learning that some folks confronted with this situation are self-insuring, setting aside what they would otherwise pay in premiums during normal times as a reserve to be deployed when that get hit with a peril.

        Ouch.

        One lesson learned for a preparedness-minded person is to build your house on rock, not sand. Hmmmm. Reckon that advice has been around for a while…..

    2. Florida home insurance…couple of points
      1. buy flood insurance about $600 for my home 2 miles from beach
      2. mold biggest problem..read policy..there are limits
      3. any event, hire outside adjuster..insursnce compamies HATE to pay out
      4. all Homeowners insurance sucks if cat 5 hurricane crushes area your screwed….just get policy
      5. if cat4 to 5 hits will take 6 months to several years to rebuild
      Note: Mother in law’s home in Key West took 6 months to rebuild took in 18 inches of water, we got there 2 weeks after, mold from floor to ceiling. Friends in pandhandle lost home on water twice took years to rebuild, they lived in 5th wheel trailer. Getting contractors after storm, hard too find.

    3. you should thank them for providing converage in the state vs. pulling out. You also can self insure if you have the assets.

  13. my homeowners insurance is through Farm Bureau. if something were to happen to the house or other buildings it pays X amount of dollars on the house, X amount of dollars on the contents and X amount of dollars on other buildings, no questions asked.
    it all depends on the coverage you get and of course, the insurer. review your coverage with your insurer and shop around every few years.
    also this is another good reason to not keep everything in one building. spread it out if you can.
    best of luck all

  14. Good article and reminder Ken, thank you. I put together a Word file with all my ‘big rocks’ items, along with description, purchase date, price, S/N as appropriate, with color photos of each item. I keep printouts (color) along with a digital version on a thumb drive at home (Sentry fire resistant box) and at my work place (locked in my desk in a discreet file). The probability of both my home and workplace (~13 miles distant) both being destroyed is pretty nil, so I’m reasonably confident of at least one copy surviving. The inventory is part of a larger important files binder which includes copies of all financial records, copies of insurance policies, vehicle titles, medical records, prescriptions, estate documents, etc.

    About 12 years ago a fire suppression sprinkler pipe burst in my place, in mid-December, and flooded the place out. I called my insurance company, Pemco, and showing them the property inventory and photos was all that was necessary. Claim was paid quickly with no hassle (and no premium raise!).

    I think I need to update the inventory to include the car prep items, clothes, kitchenware, etc.

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