Inventory your home in case of theft or fire
The Arizona Republic
Insurers generally want an itemized inventory before they will pay for your losses, but most homeowners have nothing detailed in hand after a fire strikes or a burglar pays a visit.
The good news is that modern technology makes it easier than ever to document what you own in a detailed inventory. Here is some advice about how to do it:
Stick with the job: Unless you have a very small home, this could be a time-consuming task. Recognize that it could take you more than a week to complete it and that you’ll probably need some patience to finish your inventory. Even if it’s not a perfect list, at least it will give you something to go on in a crisis.
Make a visual record: Start by using a digital or video camera to shoot photos or videos of every area of your home. Include every room, wall and closet. If necessary, go through your attic, garage and any areas outside the house, like a storage unit or a guest house in a separate building. Be sure to zero in on special art objects or pieces of furniture. Try to use ambient lighting without a flash.
While doing this -- or in a second pass through each room – use the macro option on your camera to take close-ups of model and serial numbers on particularly important items that have these ID marks. This can include distinguishing marks like a label on a handmade rug.
Be sure to take separate shots of valuable electronic equipment, antiques, jewelry or heirlooms like grandma’s silverware. If you have receipts or appraisals for items, photograph those as well. If you have some items with no label, use an inexpensive carbide etching pen to put some small identification marks on your property. Do not use your Social Security number, however.
Combine the pictures with words: In most cases, your completed visual record can stand on its own as verification with your insurance company. But it’s better to combine photos with a written record of some kind. You can create a home inventory spreadsheet on your computer yourself; you can download a home inventory software program; or simply fill out a checklist provided by your insurance company.
To establish value for expensive individual property, your list should include the following information as much as possible:
- Identify specific items by room or by type and describe them including brand name, model name and serial number, if available.
- Record when you bought or acquired each item. Photocopy receipts and appraisals and scan them into your computer to include with your list.
After you look over your list, you may decide to add a rider to your insurance policy for some of your valuables.
Make backup copies for your records: After storing all these materials in your computer, copy these records onto a DVD or CD; you may want two or three copies. If you have a computer backup service program, your records will be recorded on that service as well, of course.
But it’s good to have those discs physically in storage somewhere away from your home. They will be useless if a fire destroys your house with your documentation inside. So send a disc to a trusted friend or a family member. Put one in your bank safety deposit box, or store one in a secure place at your office.
And don’t forget to update your list over time to remove some objects or add others.
Once all this is done, you will definitely have more peace of mind. We may not have hurricanes in Arizona or tornadoes that can destroy our homes, but we do have burglars, floods and fires that can be just as devastating. Having a record of what you own can help you put your life back together again after a crisis.
Watch for next week’s column when we talk about how to make your home the least attractive target on the block for burglars to hit.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8-11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix, KQNA-AM (1130) in Prescott and KAZM-AM (780) in Sedona, KAFF-AM (930) in Flagstaff and KNST-AM (790) in Tucson. Call 888-767-4348.