Last week’s Emergency Preparedness article is the first step to what Colorado may have in store for you when it comes to “disasters”. Part of being prepared for an emergency is having your possessions well-documented for insurance purposes.
Benefits of Home Inventory
We’ve all heard we should gather an inventory of our personal belongings and property but how many of us actually do it? Putting together a home inventory is beneficial and can bring a sense of order to your home in the event of a major disaster or even with moving. Having an up-to-date home inventory can be helpful with:
- Keeping track of items during a move
- Home fire
- Finding warranties
- Tax purposes: verifies losses or property owned
- Natural disasters: speeds up claim process
- Going through a divorce
- Preparing for a garage sale
- Memory jogger (can help you find something you’ve lost depending on how your information is organized).
Where is my…..?
If you are in the military, or you just happen to move frequently, you know that it is rare to have everything you packed make it to the new destination. I’m convinced there are moving gremlins due to all of the missing items I have had over the years. An organized home inventory system can alleviate many headaches – especially now that technology has made it so easy to keep track of all your possessions. Many inventory apps help you keep track of what items you have in each room of your house. Wondering if those ski’s you had in college are still in the garage? An inventory app can save you time from digging through dusty boxes. Packing to move? Instead of organizing your items by room, organize them by box numbers! Keeping an up-to-date inventory can be very useful in fighting off the moving gremlins.
Gathering Your Information
Insurers highly recommend investing the time to track your property. If you suddenly find yourself in the midst of a situation where you have experienced a loss, trying to recall what you have and recovering the proof of those purchases will be a nearly impossible task. Set aside a day of un-interruption to go through your house and assemble all the information for your Home Inventory project. The first time you do this will take several hours, however once it is set up, maintaining it will be a breeze with the phone/tablet apps we will point out later.
Many Colorado Springs residents have had the misfortune of having to endure frantically trying to gather proof of purchase information, recalling all their property, and going back and forth with their insurance companies after recent wildfires and floods in our region. It is unfathomable losing everything you have, but then to deal with the stress of gathering all that information can be emotionally exhausting. Spend the time now to ease the stress later.
Gather these items before you start:
- File folder
- USB drive (optional)
- Receipts of purchases
- Model/serial numbers
- Purchase date
- Description of an item
- Estimated value of major purchases
- Smartphone or camera
By far the best way to organize your home inventory is with a smartphone app. (We have reviewed a few apps for you at the end of this post.) You can go old-school by going room-to-room and writing everything down but the apps streamline this process and organize it in a way that can’t be done easily otherwise. In addition to using a phone app we recommend taking a video of everything in your home once or twice a year. You will definitely need photos of every item in your house, and that is where the phone app is handy, but a quick back up video is also smart to have on hand.
Where to Begin
- Create a file folder labeled, “Home Inventory”.
- Dig up as many receipts and warranty papers you can find and file them.
- Every time you make a purchase for your home, file the receipt away.
- Video your entire property, inside and out. Mention the date as you are making your video. Tip: Walk slowly while filming and zoom in on smaller items. Remember to capture items in drawers, cabinets, jewelry cases, under beds, and closets.
- Make 3 copies of your video and upload to a USB drive. Keep one at home, one in a safe deposit box, and another one with family or a friend.
- Update your video and home inventory list at least once a year. Make it part of your spring cleaning routine.
- Download a home inventory app on your smartphone.
- Order some take-out and get started going through your home!
As you begin the process of identifying your content, remember to consider what you have in your garage, sheds, storage units and look around the outside of your home. Patio furniture, grills, tools, cars, boats, bikes, motor homes, – all these items are susceptible to being lost in the event of a disaster.
Remember Older Photographs
If something should happen to your home, the greatest loss will be older photographs that are not backed up on social media or cloud storage. You know, the photos that were taken before the digital age. Gather your family photo albums and pull down photos off your walls and video each one. It still will not replace the loss of those photos, however you will treasure that video if, God forbid, you were to suddenly lose your home and all it’s contents. Ideally, it would be better to convert all of those photos to a high-res digital format, but the reality is that most of us will not do that. It only takes a moment to capture those treasured memories with a quick video. Tip: This would be a good time to ask older family members to join you. Have them share memories of the images while you are videoing them. Not only will you have a video record of your family photos, but you will capture the history and story behind them!
Home Inventory Phone Apps
Many insurance companies offer free apps to organize the content of your home. Allstate, State Farm, and Liberty Mutual all have free apps. Utilize these tools that they provide as a service to you. In addition, you can find a few good independent apps available for your electronic device. Before you download an app take a look at KnowYourStuff.org . It is very detailed and can be used on your desktop.
I looked through several apps and I found two that caught my eye; both apps have excellent reviews. Encircle is available for both iOS and Android devices. It is free and has a very nice layout. I love that you can add notes and details, plus you have the option to capture details of multiple items in one image. It also allows video (you don’t need to worry about video copies to a USB drive!). This is a GREAT app if you own multiple properties because you can organize your photos by property. The app organizes all your insurance information as well, and you can download reports.
Home Inventory is a paid app and a little pricey at $24.99. It is a one-time fee but has rave reviews and won the best-app award in 2013. It organizes your information by room and allows you to upload photos of your receipts (so you can throw them away instead of keeping a file folder!). This app also gives you a total value of your inventory, which is nice to know, and can break those numbers down by room. You can also add warranty info and schedule maintenance tasks. It’s the most comprehensive app if you don’t mind paying for it.
No matter what app you choose or if you decide to write it all down – just do it! Living in an area that has been struck by floods and fires 4 times over the last 4 years has been a painful reminder to our beloved residents of the importance of making a detailed and accurate home inventory list. Of the families I have come across, the worst part of going through a disaster was the headache of taking care of insurance issues regarding property damage and loss. While you are working on your Home Inventory Project, this is the perfect time to contact your insurance agent and review the coverage on not only your home, but the contents inside your home and around your property. This may be an inconvenience now, but there may be a day when you are glad you did it!
Valuable Intangible Items
You might think: What in the world is THAT? Think of all your digital items (photos and documents), your passwords, any libraries etc. While these items might not necessarily have a monetary value, the might have sentimental value, or they would be just tough to reproduce. Many people have migrated to cloud services to store their book or audio libraries, however, you might still have items on your computer systems that are not backed up. Consider signing up with an automatic backup service such as Carbonite. You can set up the automatic back up to be conducted daily and therefore never lose anything – even if your computer dies, or maybe gets stolen. You could also have an external portable hard drive to back your computer up to. They are fairly inexpensive at roughly $50 for 1TB.
We love helping families settle down in to their perfect home. Purchase a home with me and I’ll help you get started on your project by purchasing an inventory app for you. Call me, Susanna, at 719-321-0800