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An Often Missed Prep: Your Home Inventory

inventory-listOne area of preparedness that I don’t think we preppers take as seriously as we should is inventorying our household possessions for an emergency situation. I’m not talking about organizing your supplies (I’ve written about that in the past here). This post is purely about “what happens if it’s all lost and now I need to file an insurance claim?”

It’s a seemingly simple act, no doubt. List everything you own or, at least, everything of significant value. This should include, furniture, electronics, prepping equipment (of course!), jewelry, dishes, firearms, precious metals, books and dvds, clothing, yard and garden tools… you get the idea. I also recognize that there may be some things you don’t want to list so it’s entirely up to you what you include.

The problem occurs when you go to file a claim and your insurance agent wants you to PROVE IT. Can you? Do you have receipts, a record, pictures, video recordings, etc?

There are actually quite a few tools you can use to better inventory your stuff and I’ve tried plenty of them, from Excel files to online databases to writing it down, pictures, video, and I can’t remember what else.

What have I found that works the best for me and didn’t cost an arm and a leg? I actually do two things.

Action 1

The first thing is to list in some fashion (I like spreadsheets) the more expensive things we own, including those items mentioned at the start, furniture, appliances, firearms, etc. I won’t bother to list each and every DVD we own but, rather, simply estimate the number and combined cost. It’s just not worth the effort. The same can be said for lumping things like kitchen dishes together… I just estimate. However, taking a moment to list our couch that cost a few paychecks is worth it to me. The same can be said for the television, stereo equipment, etc. It is quite possible to go overboard when listing what you own and spend way too much time here. That’s not the point. Hit the major things, lump what you can together, and leave the rest to the video tape (discussed later).

What to include?

Usually the more details the better. They like to see make, model, serial number (if available), date purchased, and cost. Receipts are greatly appreciated. One thing I’m told they like to do to you is to give you the actual cash value of your possessions which deducts deprecation and, therefore, gives you less money. What you WANT is replacement value coverage which attempts to give you the money needed to replace what you’ve lost in today’s dollars. The moral of this story is to CHECK YOUR POLICY for what type of coverage you have and accept nothing less than replacement value. Regardless, you could be very surprised at how much stuff you actually own. Therefore, ensure your coverage is actually enough to replace everything you own!

Action 2

The second thing I do (about once a year) is to take my video camera and go room-by-room briefly narrating what inside as best as I can because we’re always bringing in new items and even discarding old possessions. The more up-to-date this video is the better off you’ll be if/when you need to deal with your insurance company. You don’t need to get fancy here. Just do a good pan of each room, open drawers and cupboards, and mention important specifics as you deem necessary. You know the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” then a video has got to be worth ten thousand. If you can’t do a video then take plenty of pictures.

Additional Steps

Once you have everything chronicled in multiple ways, it’s best to get this information off-site. After all, the whole point is to have something to fall back on in the event of a catastrophic situation. Send this information to a trusted family or friend or perhaps a bank box is a good choice. Even if you choose to keep this information in a fire safe on your property, please choose to make a copy and send it somewhere else as you never know what could happen to your primary list/video if on site.

And, remember to occasionally update your information. Write it on your schedule, such as when you replace your smoke alarm batteries or at each New Year or whatever works for you. You don’t have to completely re-do everything; even a short five minute video update of your possessions is better than nothing. Of course, be sure to date each tape so you know when it was last done.

Damian Brindle

Blogger at reThinkSurvival
Blogging about all things survival and emergency preparedness, including experiences with DIY projects and ideas, gear reviews, living frugally, cooking in unconventional ways, and more! All while linking to the best videos and articles each day to help YOU get better prepared.

Take a moment and click here to read why you should stick around as well as what to expect in the future. Learn from my experiences, share your own in the comments below, and otherwise have a good time here. :)

7 comments to An Often Missed Prep: Your Home Inventory

  • Bev

    Jay-Jay,

    You don’t understand your policy! Guarantee you!

    Bev

  • Bev

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE!

    My home burned two years ago now. I too thought I was covered under “lump sums”–you know, what it says on your Dec Page NOT!!!

    Those are the LIMITS of your coverage, with a whole lot of riders!

    The insurance company is NOT your friend! They are going to limit their liability to the max! The insurance adjuster, no matter how friendly he/she is, is NOT your friend! They will smile and take your info and, oh, if the originals get lost, poor you. You should have given them copies even if they requested originals!

    Yes, I had photos in my bank box, but not receipts. How do you list 25 years, a lifetime, of accumulation! And they don’t do collectibles, sentimental value, etc.

    SUPER ARTICLE DAMIAN! “Scrotum Juice”, maybe that is all you are! You obviously have no real world experience with being flooded out, burned out, having a tornado rip everything you’ve built down, or been robbed! What are you? A kid!

    From one who has lost it all! And been thoroughly ripped by the insurance company and contractors!

    Bev

  • JayJay

    I say lame too-our insurance policy covers all house items in one lump sum..I would think that amount on our policy is to prevent all such nick-picking over little things;
    antique pendant from great-granny?
    Better have that appraised and have extra insurance on that.

    • Again, maybe those who think this post is lame (and maybe it really is) should listen to some people who have actually had this problem and then decide how important a home inventory really is. Maybe your insurance covers it all, but is it enough? Do you even know what you own? It’s my understanding that a lot of things have riders and not necessarily convered without them. I say it’s better to have the info than to just expect everything is fine and your insurance company will cover you… it’s not always like the tv commercial. Insurance companies are in business to make money, period. And if that means denying you a part of your claim because you can’t prove anything or didn’t have enough coverage (things cost more than you think to replace) then what? You’re shit out of luck and wishing you spent even a few minutes doing something proactive; after all, that’s what prepping is all about. Consider listening to this podcast: http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/marc-hallee-on-fires-aftermath. It’s been quite a while since I listened to it myself but I do remember the myriad of problems this guy had as a result one of which was dealing with his unsympathetic insurance company. Good luck to all who think a thorough home inventory isn’t something to bother with. Let’s hope you never need it.

  • Will E

    @scrotum

    You have never been robbed? I was on Thanksgiving 2 years ago. I had done what I thought was a good inventory, but still fought with the insurance for the better part of a year. What I learned was…

    1. With the photos of all high end pieces put the receipt in the photo, then scan the receipt as well. Receipts fade over time.

    2. Make sure you have damage coverage as well as theft. I thought it would all be covered, but if they just trash your stuff and not steal it you can be left out in the cold.

    3. Just to reiterate from the article check coverage limits. Silver coins may be lumped into jewelery putting you over your coverage or treated like cash and not replaced.

    4. I have heard that insurance claims and police reports can become or are available as public record so just keep opsec in mind.

    just my .02 and a great reminder prepping is not just about zombies

  • Scrotum Juice

    What a lame article

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