Imagine that all your belongings are destroyed by a house fire. Fortunately, you have insurance. But to file a claim and get your refund, you need to make a list of everything you’ve lost. How many of your possessions would you be able to remember?
I tried it on a smaller scale, memorizing everything I could think of in my home office. I found 51 items. Not bad, I thought, but once I got back into the room, I discovered 25 other things that had escaped me.
“All the things we collect as people over the years… often amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. And remembering all these little things is next to impossible, “says Steve Severaid, president of The Greenspan Co./Adjusters International, a public adjustment firm serving California, Nevada and Arizona. Public insurance adjusters help policyholders negotiate insurance claims. fair.
To make sure your claim isn’t paying underpay, consider setting up a survey of your belongings, often called a home inventory.
The benefits of a home inventory
In the aftermath of a disaster, you will likely suffer the loss of your home, look for a temporary place to live, and struggle to figure out what happens next. In addition to helping you get full refunds for your belongings, having a home inventory can ease your burden during a stressful time.
“It’s difficult [make an inventory] now? Yes, “says Katherine Navarro Wong, owner of a State Farm agency in Santa Rosa, California.” But after losing everything, it’s really hard. “
Since you’ve already done most of the work, having a home inventory in place makes it easier and faster to submit your claim, says Wong. “You’ll get your money faster.”
Putting your inventory together can also help you make sure you have sufficient insurance coverage. You may not realize how much your stuff is worth until you start documenting it all, says Wong. So if you find that yours personal property coverage that’s not enough, you’ll have time to raise your limit before disaster strikes.
How to create a home inventory
Listing all of your possessions may seem like a daunting task, but there are ways to make it more manageable.
“One of the … fastest and easiest ways to do this is to spend 15 or 20 minutes with a video camera or your iPhone,” says Severaid. He recommends walking into each room and narrating as you go, zooming in on the labels of high-value items. Don’t forget to take out the dresser drawers and open the closet doors to show what’s inside.
In addition to being faster to produce than a written record, a video also offers a way for your insurance company to see the quality of your articles, Severaid says.
Taking photos instead of video is another option. For example, many home inventory app allow you to upload images and information about each item, such as the serial number or date of purchase.
My favorite is the Encircle app, which lets you quickly scan each room with a series of photos and then add details on specific items. It is available for iOS and Android.
You can also create a spreadsheet, from scratch or by downloading a template from the web. For example, United Policyholders, a consumer advocacy group, offers complete inventory spreadsheet with hundreds of suggested articles divided by room.
If trying to count every kitchen towel makes you want to give up altogether, “focus on the most valuable items,” says Wong. This could include jewelry, artwork, musical instruments and collections, as well as furniture and electronics. Items in a tool shed can also add up quickly, she watches her.
Whichever method you choose, make sure your home inventory is stored somewhere outside your home, such as in the cloud or in a bank safe. Having an inventory won’t do you any good if the computer it’s on burns down in a fire.
Your insurance agent may also be willing to keep a copy of your inventory, Wong says.
Severaid recommends updating your inventory every year or two, or sooner if you’ve made major purchases or remodeled your home.
Make a claim without an inventory
If disaster occurs before you’ve managed to create an inventory, you can try the following to get the most out of yours request for home insurance:
- Ask friends and family to share photos taken in your home, Severaid suggests. “The photographs are never meant to document the house, but it’s always in the background,” she says. “It’s a great way to get details when you weren’t prepared.”
- Check your phone (if it survived the disaster) and social media accounts for photos of your home’s interior.
- Look for a list of common household items, like the United Policyholders inventory above, to help you refresh your memory.
- Check the order history in the online stores where you shop most often. Your email account may also have receipts for past purchases.
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Sarah Schlichter writes for NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The article Why you shouldn’t wait to take a home inventory originally appeared on NerdWallet.