Keep & Update Your Home Inventory

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Living RoomDo you keep a home inventory? When was the last time you update it? If the answer was “no” or “last year,” it’s time you thought about keeping or updating your home inventory. Without it, you could be spending lots of valuable time trying to remember, and prove, the things in your home if you ever are the victim of a burglary, Mother Nature, or bad luck.

The purpose of a home inventory is to document the personal property in your apartment or home so that, in the event of a loss, you can expedite the recovery process with your insurance company. It also can give you an idea of how much insurance to purchase, where too much can be as bad as too little insurance.

Your Home Inventory

There are many ways to keep and maintain a home inventory but they all need to satisfy certain conditions:

  • What the item is – make and model information.
  • When you bought it – to figure out the present value of the item.
  • How much you bought it for – include the receipt if possible, this knocks out the “when” question too.

You decide how much information to collect. The more information have, the better. You can decide to only retain detailed information on the more valuable items, say $100 and up. It’s a decision for you to make but if you want to claim something, either on an insurance form or as a loss on your income tax return, you will need this information.

How to Store Your Inventory

How you keep and maintain your home inventory is up to personal preference, but here are a few options:
Video: The easiest way to maintain complete a home inventory is walk around your apartment or house and take a video of all the rooms. I find it’s easiest to take one video per room. This lets you give an individual name to each video file, rather than trying to figure out at what time you enter each room.

Make sure you highlight anything of value in the room (for me, it’s anything worth more than $100) by pointing it out and saying what it is. I own a Flip Mino handheld video camera so I used that. If you don’t have a video camera, your digital camera probably has a video record feature.

Photos: If you don’t want to or cannot take a video inventory, photos are probably even better because the resolution is sharper. Take a picture of the entire room and then a closeup of each item of value. Write the make, model, and other salient details on the back of the photo (or in the filename if it’s digital). Then organize the pictures by room with folders for the kitchen, the master bedroom, the living room, etc.

Home Inventory Software: In addition to video and photos, you can use software to help track your property. Some people prefer something simple like Microsoft Excel. Others download special programs that let you link up products with your photographs. Use whatever you feel most comfortable.

Update It

Finally, remember to update it at least once every six months, once a quarter if you feel ambitious. You can also update it as needed, such as after a big purchase. It’s a question of balancing your time and the detail of your inventory. The more detail you have, the better, but you may not want to spend hours a day on home inventory upkeep. 🙂

If you have a home inventory strategy you use that differs from this one, or particular insight I’ve missed, please let us all know in the comments!

(Photo: fleur-design)

{ 10 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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10 Responses to “Keep & Update Your Home Inventory”

  1. Roy in Virginia says:

    “you can use software to help track your property.”

    I have been using Know Your Stuff, a free site sponsored by the Insurance Information Institute. I advise taking the guided tour first because it allows you to see the great tool set they have included. Organize by room, add items, paste photos of items, keep track of purchase price, estimate current value and produce a summary of the results. The summary can be printed for personal records, but you can also copy to CD and distribute redundant copies to your insurance agent and to family members for safe keeping.

  2. This is well worth doing. One of our neighbors had significant flood damage and the insurance company battled them on nearly everything they claimed.

    And that was a situation where the items in question were damaged, but still in existence. Had there been a fire and possessions were destroyed completely it would have been far worse.

  3. Ellen says:

    This is also a great way to de-clutter your life. When you have to go through everything in your home, you realize how much of it you just don’t use.

  4. This is an excellent post. I definitely NEED to do this. Plus the point from the previous poster about de-cluttering is also great. This is going on the to do list ASAP.

  5. Jace says:

    If you use the video / photo / home software methods, make sure you store copies of your inventory on the internet, with family members or in a bank deposit box! If your house burns down or gets robbed and they take your computer (they probably will), your inventory is pretty useless!

  6. Tim says:

    I video tape or photograph everything, because the lists just don’t cover everything. Video and photos also shows the condition of the items and can prove that on x day the items like expensive electronics were operational and not broken. You can also check with your insurance company to see if they accept video/photographic archives to maintain with your account. Some do.

  7. Nice post! I would guess less than 10% of the people out there have a formal inventory . . .

  8. Really good idea. Once I buy anything major, I make a folder and put all related info (such as manual, warranty, receipt etc). However, I don’t know if keeping the inventory updated (with its current price – need some work) is something most people will do or want to do.

  9. says:

    Especially with outdoor equipment and sports items, you NEED to go through it frequently and clean and air it. Mold, mildew, mice and other issues are risks for items stored for months at a time without attention.

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