In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc up and down the East Coast and left billions of dollars in damage in its wake. Filing homeowners insurance or renters insurance claims in the aftermath of a super storm or other natural disaster can be a complicated process, especially if you haven’t taken inventory of your home valuables. Whether or not you’re in Mother Nature’s path, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead.
Following are five basic steps to inventorying home valuables for insurance. Visit the Dex listings to find an insurance agent to discuss specific policies and claims.
Grab a pen and paper
First, take some time to go around your house and make a list of your valuables. Start with obvious big-ticket items like computers, flat-screen TVs, video game consoles and other electronics (note that these depreciate over time), as well as firearms, fine jewelry and artwork if you own any. Don’t forget about family heirlooms and sports memorabilia.
Write down the following for each item:
- A detailed description
- A product number (serial or model number, if any)
- The date you purchased the item
- The purchase price
A site called Know Your Stuff, published by the Insurance Information Institute, offers a room-by-room tutorial on documenting your home valuables.
Choose documentation methods
You can either keep the inventory list in your notebook or transfer it to an electronic format like a word processing or spreadsheet program.
If you have a lot of valuables and are computer savvy, download a free copy of OpenOffice or similar software and build your own database, and be sure to keep it updated. Also keep printed and electronic copies of your most up-to-date list so you don’t have to start over from scratch in the event of a computer crash. You should also take photos and/or video of each item, and keep those on file as well.
Keep receipts and update your inventory list
You’ll need documentation with regard to the value of your items to back up any loss claims. Save and photocopy your receipts at the time of purchase and keep them with your inventory list. You should also update your list as you buy or sell items.
Store your inventory documentation in a safe place
Once you’ve compiled your list, receipts and images, burn a CD or DVD with all of your electronic files. Print out the inventory list, clip your receipts to the printout and keep it all stored off site in a lock box or with a trusted friend or family member.
You could also store your electronic files with your insurance company online or a cloud service (HomeIndex™ from State Farm is just one example), but not everyone feels comfortable recording their big-ticket items online, no matter how secure a site may be. Ultimately this is your call.
If disaster strikes…
Although it may be the last thing on your mind in the wake of a disaster, you should report your losses to your insurance company as soon as possible. Providing an updated and itemized list to them will help minimize your losses and red tape.
Also note that a standard homeowners or renters policy may be limited in its replacement coverage of your valuable items — there may be a cap on the dollar amount you can claim, in other words. You may need to purchase extended coverage. Check with your insurance agent for specifics.