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Take a Home Inventory

February 20th, 2014 Posted in Financial News

shutterstock_34421131Pause for a moment and make a mental list of the items in your home. Electronics, furnishings, art and collectibles; it’s probably a fairly extensive inventory of items that are all worth protecting. If you ever need to file an insurance claim in the event of damage or theft, an actual home inventory can make the process easier. Here are some tips to get you started.

Go room by room
The Basic Way: Pick a room and make a list of everything that’s in it. Use a computer spreadsheet, simply write it on a piece of paper, or download a form (the National Association of Insurance Commissioners [1] has a good one). Each entry should include a description of the item, how many you have, the date you purchased it, where you purchased it, the original purchase price and the current estimated value. When it’s relevant, record model numbers and serial numbers.

Once you’re done with the list, do a walk-through with a video camera, identifying all your stuff. Alternately, take detailed pictures—including those serial numbers—and attach the photos to each room’s list.

Organized Home Inventory: KnowYourStuff.org [2], the free home-inventory program from the Insurance Information Institute, walks you through the home-inventory process, allowing you to add rooms and view and manage your items. It also has a new iPhone and Android app that helps you quickly add necessary information.

Extra Security: If you need help to get a bit more detailed, try Asset Panda [3]—an asset management product that tracks the entire lifecycle of your valuables. It features a helpful home inventory report that allows you to record everything from models and serial numbers to photos and video footage—even intended heir designations.

According to Rex Kurzius, Asset Panda’s founder and president, what sets the service apart is this: “A modern asset inventory software must have cloud storage and access. In case of catastrophic loss it is useless to have the data stored in a PC or in a phone that can be stolen or lost.” Simultaneously, he notes, mobile app availability is critical to speed up data entry and allow continuous updating. Asset Panda combines cloud storage with iOS/Android app access.

While you’re doing your walk-through, consider marking valuables according to the directions of Operation ID [4], a program recognized by law enforcement for 30 years. Operation ID suggests engraving or indelibly marking valuables with an identifying mark (not your Social Security number), such as your driver’s license with the state abbreviation followed by the number. Example: CA-B1234567.

Collect your receipts
You may not be in the habit of keeping receipts, but here’s a new reason to start: Some insurance companies may expect a proof of purchase for big-ticket items like electronics, furniture, jewelry and tools. Include in your inventory the things you don’t use often—or that might be in storage—such as holiday decorations, sports equipment or tools.

Get your stuff appraised
Naturally, you won’t have receipts for some things, like the emerald earrings you inherited from your grandmother, or a painting with no provenance that’s been in the family for generations. An appraisal can give you insight into the fair market value of the items you treasure personally, whatever they may be.

Secure your inventory
Your inventory won’t do much good if it’s in the same house that gets ransacked, fire-damaged or flooded. That’s where services like Asset Panda and Know Your Stuff come in handy. Both have cloud storage and mobile apps, but Asset Panda also includes features such as a bar code scanner, social sharing, attaching voice notes, asset history tracking and customizable import templates from Excel.

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