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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Making a List and Checking It Twice - Why you should create a home inventory.

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay
Three of the crises that most homeowners dread most are fire, flood and storm.  That’s because these are the three quickest ways to lose all their possessions in one fell swoop.  Especially in hurricane-prone Florida, having a total loss isn’t that much of a stretch of the imagination.  Not by a long shot.  While you can have your home and your property insured for all of the above, the secret to getting your money’s worth in compensation is to be able to document the value of your possessions.  To do this right takes a bit of forethought and effort on a homeowner’s part, which many fail to do only to come to regret it later.

1.      Why keep an inventory list? – The first problem most homeowners face after a major calamity is being able to provide their insurer with a valid list of their belongings along with their value.  Face it, after your home has burnt to the ground, it’s going to be a bit difficult to come up with a list of everything that was destroyed.  While the carnage can be documented by shooting photos or a video with your smartphone, it’s going to be kind of hard to tell what was what after the fact.  Even if you knew a hurricane was coming and snapped photos of your possessions before you ran for cover, presenting your insurer with the photos, while better than nothing, isn’t going to get you top dollar for belongings that wound up gone with the wind either.  That’s because a photo alone isn’t necessarily going to show what an item was worth when it was lost. You’ll quickly come to find that as far as the insurer is concerned, the devil’s in the details when it comes to establishing a valuation,

Image courtesy Pixabay
2.      What kind of items should you list? – When it comes to listing your valuables, the first thing you need to do is to decide what is valuable.  If not, you could find yourself shooting a feature-length film.  Believe it or not, most homes contain thousands of items.  That’s because most people tend to accumulate stuff for years.  Why do you think there are so many yard sales every Spring?  Even a first-time home-buyer usually comes equipped with enough clothing, furniture, electronics, artwork and keepsakes to give an elephant a hernia.   Most of these collections are not well documented.  In fact, with the exception of the latest acquisitions, most aren’t documented at all.

3.      The Big Picture – To keep you from blowing up your smartphone, the best way to initially document your possessions is to go from room to room to shoot three or four still photos from different angles.  This will help your insurer get a bead on what you own should worse come to worse.  Once you’ve accomplished this, you should next open every drawer, closet and cupboard to document what each of these holds.  Unless you own scads of designer gowns or a shoe collection that would have impressed Imelda Marcos, there is no reason to photograph each item of apparel separately.   

Image courtesy flickr
4.      How to document big ticket items. – That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some items you’ll want to document in greater detail.  This list should include furniture, major appliances, electronics, antiques, high-priced artwork, jewelry, collectibles and firearms.  In addition to photographing these items, you should whenever possible include the date of purchase along with the purchase price.  If the item is really valuable, it wouldn’t hurt to have it appraised.  The reason to go through all the time and trouble to extensively document your most prized possessions is that should these valuables be lost, destroyed or stolen and it comes time to get your insurer to cough up payment for them, the more detailed the valuation, the more you will get from the insurance company.

5.      How to make a master list. – Once you’ve gone through all the time and trouble to photograph and value your possessions, now what?  Now it’s time to build the master list.  While you can create a spreadsheet on your home computer, if the computer should wind up lost, stolen or destroyed along with your possessions, you’re out of luck.  My advice is to store the information on the cloud.  I keep mine in a Google Drive folder, along with a backup copy on my laptop. 

6.      Making your list doesn’t have to be all that complicated.  You should create a spreadsheet that includes such fields as Item, Quantity, Description, Date of Purchase, Cost, Serial Number, Location and Replacement Cost.  Once you complete the master list, it‘s a snap to add or subtract an item, as well as updating any pertinent information as time goes on.  One last detail to note is to make sure you print a hardcopy.  Not only will this come in handy should your information be compromised or your device hacked, but it can serve as a backup as long as you keep the hardcopy somewhere other than in your home.  I keep mine in my safe deposit box.  While you can get a smartphone app to use to create and store your master list, I don’t recommend this since smartphones are not only more likely to be hacked, they’re also more likely to be lost or stolen.

7.      You don’t have to own a home to benefit from a home inventory list.  If you rent your home and have renter’s insurance, you too need to document your possessions.  Apartment and condo dwellers are even more likely than those who live in houses to experience a loss due to fire or theft.  Should the tenant that lives above you allow their kitchen sink or bathtub to overflow, the water could wind up doing major damage to your unit and its contents.  Don’t expect them or your landlord to cough up the cash to replace items damaged or destroyed.  The onus will be on you.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at


  1. The only thing worse than losing everything you own is not being able to get it all back.

  2. Bad things can happen to us as we plan and live our lives - This is a FREE way to protect your assets and who doesn't like free.


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