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How to perform a home inventory

Posted On Thu, May 30, 2013

While insurance quotes provide individuals with the information they need to know about how much coverage will be, it's often difficult to know how much to get without an idea of the property one has within the home. The best way to determine the value of one's personal possessions is by conducting a home inventory.

A home inventory is essentially a long, detailed list that chronicles everything that a homeowner owns that is of some value. Whether it's appliances, furniture, antiques or electronics, all of these things are accumulated over the years in which someone lives in a home. The problem is that these things are rarely fully accounted for, in which the buyer makes note of where it was purchased, the amount and the date in which it was purchased.

That's where a home inventory can help. There are a variety of ways in which homeowners can take note of what items they have. The approach all depends on what's preferred.

Use a multi-pronged approach
Insurance experts recommend using a several of them. For example, it's often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. So when going over all of the possessions, it's a good idea to take a photograph of it in its original form. Should it be lost or damaged, the insurer will be able to have a better idea of what it looked like so the appropriate replacement can be made.

But words are just as important, which is why a list should accompany these pictures. For each item, it's recommended that homeowners detail the exact name of the product, the model, an approximate time in which it was bought and the dollar amount.

Electronic items often have specific information that can help customer support services determine when something was made. These pieces of data are ideal for insurers as well. Serial numbers may be etched into the product itself or printed on a sticker, which may be on the back or on the bottom.

Consider making a home inventory video
But if still pictures and lists don't sound convenient, there's nothing wrong with chronicling what one owns with a video camera. Just about everyone has some form of digital recorder, many of them providing only a few minutes worth of footage. However, items that specialize in video recording provides hours of time, enabling homeowners to go from room to room to capture what they own in visual form. And instead of writing down when they were purchased and for how much, they can just say it out loud.

Alternatively, tech-savvy homeowners may want a home inventory that's streamlined and organized. The Insurance Information Institute offers web-based home inventory software - called "Know Your Stuff" - which can be downloaded at its website or from Apple's iTunes store. This tool can provide consumers with a sense of security, as their home inventory can be synchronized with their portable devices, such as a tablet, laptop or smartphone, enabling them to access it at a moment's notice.

Ensure home inventory is saved
No matter how the inventory is stored, however, it's crucial to keep it in a safe place so that it can be put to use when necessary. There are many places in which to keep one - such as in a filing cabinet, folder, safety deposit box or at a friend's home - but whichever is chosen, it should be at a place that's protected and reliable.

Feedback or questions? Email the editor here.

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