Insurance, Personal Finance, The Home 
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Home Contents Inventory Strategy

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Home and renter’s insurance cover your personal belongings in the event of theft (and other bad things) if your home is ever broken into. One of the bad things about theft is that the items are now gone and unless you have an inventory, it’s very hard to remember every last thing you know is missing and go through the painful claims process. I’ve read several strategies online throughout the years and have settled on the easiest method I know of, taking photographs and writing on the back.


With a digital camera this process is pretty simple. I’ll go through every room of my house and take a photograph of the entire room and then individually photograph everything in the room of significant value. I’ll write down the value of the item, the date I purchased it, photocopy a receipt if I still have it, and put them in a shoebox or envelope with the name of the room labeled on it. In a few hours on a weekend, I should be done.

I’ve seen complicated systems involving Excel spreadsheets and extensive lists, but I think the easiest way is to use the shoebox full of photo printouts. If something moves from one room to another, I simply move the photo to the other room. If only one room gets raided, I’ll have everything of value in an convenient location along with proof of value, if I have it. I’m at a point right now where I don’t have much of value, perhaps an old TV worth maybe $70 and some old computer parts, so the inventory isn’t as important as if I had a nice LCD TV or some bling bling sprinkled around.

Anyone have a particularly good home inventory system you think trumps the simplicity and ease of this one? I think at one point I might get bored and decide I do what to throw it into an Excel spreadsheet (with links to images and documents) but for now this simple method will probably suffice.

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12 Responses to “Home Contents Inventory Strategy”

  1. nickel says:

    Where do you store your inventory pictures? If your house burns down, and the pictures go with it, then you’re pretty much out of luck.

  2. Tony says:

    I agree with Nickel. Though your advice is good and I’ve done pretty much the same thing it’s absolutely essential that you keep those pictures offsite.

  3. Rob Lewis says:

    Hmmm… I’m thinking some sort of online storage system for digital images is required…

    Why not upload all of the digital photos and receipts to Flickr, mark them as private (unless you want the whole world to see what you’ve bought). You can tag them with keywords or add them to a group, to make finding them easier in the future.

    You might need a Flickr Pro account, but I think it would be worth the money. I’ve also been thinking about scanning in important documents (statements etc) and uploading them to Flickr (or maybe a similar service if I could find it), but not sure whether that would be wise / secure. It would be nice to have all my statements etc scanned in, dated and searchable though.

  4. jim says:

    Good point about the fire, I’ll keep the photos/files offsite or even just sitting in my web hosting account. Zipped up it wouldn’t be too big (not enough to put a dent into the gigs the hosts give nowadays)

    Rob – the only concern I would have with storing important documents with an online service, even if the transmission itself was secure, was if the data was compromised at their site. It’s like when the credit cards use tape backup and the tapes fall off the back of the truck…

  5. Rob Lewis says:

    Yeah, that’s a fair enough point Jim – probably ok to do for insurance purposes mentioned above (where no personal details are scanned), but not bank records etc. I have recently been thinking about home scanning solutions, to see if there’s a quick and easy way to index scanned documents on my local, haven’t seen anything that would be reasonably easy to do yet.

    Rob.

  6. Insurance and Inventoring

    With all of the damage being caused by hurricane Katrina, I’ve been thinking about insurance and what it means to know you’re covered. If you ever experience a disaster or robbery that results in loss of your posessions or your…

  7. Matt says:

    Check out the III’s software – it’s pretty thorough:
    http://www.knowyourstuff.org/

  8. Beaker says:

    I realize many of us who are techno-savvy consider doing a home inventory, but how many of the “lay” public actually do one? Personally, I had a fire in my home 13 years ago and didn’t have an inventory. While I ultimately maxed out my renter’s policy without the inventory it was a huge hassle. Would peoplewith resources pay someone to do an inventory? I’m currently nurturing the idea of starting a business to do just that. Comments???

  9. jim says:

    I don’t think being tech-savvy has anything to do with someone doing a home inventory, sometimes it’s a matter of simply remembering and actually getting around to doing it. I don’t know if it would be a good business idea because the homeowner would have to give you extended access to their home for several hours as you rummage through their personal belongings, something they probably wouldn’t be comfortable doing.

    Perhaps you’ve already considered that roadblock?

  10. Lisa says:

    I’ve just finished a home inventory. Access 2007 has a template for Assets that is very simple to use. If you know how to manipulate Access, you can do custom reports and add your own fields. It also already has links for pictures.

    A good scanned document organizing program that I found is called DocsVault.

  11. melme1 says:

    what items are considered as “contents” for insurance purposes?

  12. William says:

    You can hire a reputable company to do your inventory for you. My company hosts all the information offsite, coordinates the information with your insurance company, provides digital and tangible portfolios, and the information is NEVER transmitted digitally through the web. Our host computer has no network connections and our mdia files are backed up and stored in safe at a 3rd party location. While it is more expensive in some cases than doing it yourself, the insurance benefits often outweigh the cost, making it essentially free. Plus a membership with any company worth its salt offers an annual update and review to ensure your posessions inventory remain up to date. These inventories also serve multiple purposes in the cases of Marriage or dissolution of marriage or business partnership, estate planning, and drafting of a thorough will (beqeathments). It is just an option that wasnt listed. I am not trying to push the service, but do your research to decide which best suits your needs.


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