Household: Home Inventory
Our least favorite type of business in the world is the insurance company. The salesperson and the claims adjuster always seem like they work for two completely different organizations. The salesperson works for a company that is friendly and helpful and that knows how to smile. The adjuster seems to work for a different company – one that often treats you as if you were a thief and a liar and where, regardless of the amount of your claim – it is too much. Where the salesperson will cheerfully and gladly sell you an insurance policy to protect your home and all of its contents, immediately after a loss, the adjuster will demand that you produce a receipt for every single item you claim to have lost.
Think about it. With homeowner’s insurance the insurance company suggests that you insure the contents of your home for an amount equal to 15% of your home’s value. In our experience 15% of the value of the home is rarely accurate. Wouldn’t the insurance company be more honorable if they asked for a list of the contents of your home — up front? No list – no insurance. Well, if they asked for the list up front, then the exact value of the contents would be determined up front – before the premium was paid. If such were the case there would be less need for the proverbial “adjuster from hell”. Instead, the insurance company uses an average value as a means to sell you a policy and then uses the adjuster to reduce their costs at the time of the claim – you dirty liar!
You probably know the make and screen size of your TV, but chances are you don’t know the model or serial numbers. And, if you are like most Americans you probably don’t have the receipt to prove that you purchased it either. In any event, these are the questions that your insurance adjuster will ask about each item you claim as lost. Be it fire, theft or natural disaster the question always occurs after the fact. How do you get the model number off the back of a stolen TV? You don’t. So how do you get full value for your loss. You argue?
There is a better way. It is called a home inventory. And with the advent of video cameras and computers the home inventory is easier than ever to create. And often it won’t take more than a weekend or two of your time. You will probably discover that you need to modify the amount of your personal property insurance coverage to align with the true value of your home’s contents. Once you have provided your insurance company with a priced list of your property then the questions the adjuster would normally ask would already be answered.
And remember, the insurance company isn’t the only organization that you will have to deal with after a loss. There are tax deductions to consider that could be substantiated if an accurate inventory exits.
The easiest way to produce a home inventory is to begin is with paper, pencil and camera. First, make a location list that defines each area of your house and yard – room by room – area by area.
Each individual listing should include Quantity, Item Description, Purchase Price and Replacement Value. For example: Dining Room, 8 – 5 piece place settings, XYZ Brand Bone China-Yellow Rose pattern, $640, $850. Once the list is complete, items such as fine china and crystal, furs, jewelry, art, antiques and other collectibles should be appraised. At each room or location list the large items first. In the dining room for example: first list the table, the chairs, then any free standing or built-in cabinets. Once larger items have been listed then decorations should be catalogued. Finally, the contents within each cabinet should be indexed – one drawer or section at a time. And, don’t leave the room until absolutely everything has been compiled right down to the smallest item.
A picture is worth a thousand words and a video camera can produce a thousand pictures in an instant. Use it to get overall views of the room and then individual views of each major item. With some video cameras you can zoom right in on the serial number plate of an appliance or electronic device – also capturing brand and model number at the same time. In conjunction with your verbal description of what is being photographed there can be no question about what you own. The process is faster when you have a couple of muscular assistants moving large items in and out of place to facilitate rear and side views. By the way, if you are able to get help, do all the large pieces in the home first. Then go back to each room and do the small stuff later — when your help is no longer available.
Don’t forget the garage, storage shed, patio, attic, subarea and basement. You may find more in these locations than all the other spaces combined.
If you have a computer then you can list your property in a home inventory program or you can make your own inventory program using a spread sheet or database manager. Computerized lists are especially easy to update as new purchases are made. Each time a major update is made the revised inventory list should be forwarded to your insurance carrier for review. Also, when it comes to important files like inventory lists make sure to store a backup of the program and data in a safety deposit box or in a fire – and heat-proof — safe. And, good luck!