How to Make a Home Inventory

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It might be difficult to make an inventory of your home's contents after you suffer property damage. If a large amount of your stuff is missing or destroyed after an accident, you could have trouble remembering all of the things you own. It would be even harder to know what you paid for them.

Fortunately, it's relatively easy to keep track of your household inventory. There are many apps and software programs, like Encircle and Sortly, that help make the process easier. You can also keep a physical list by moving through your house's individual rooms with a spreadsheet, pen, and paper. You should also use a camera or video-recording equipment to document your things.

What to list in your household inventory

Whether you use electronic or physical means to create your list, it should contain the same information. Ideally, you should be able to use your home inventory list to recreate your home if you needed to replace everything.

Compiling this type of list also allows you to evaluate your insurance coverage, or to adjust future policies. If you have a homeowners insurance policy with a limit of $250,000, you'll be able to easily see when your assets eclipse that total. If this happens, you'll know you should think about purchasing more coverage.

Your list should include:

  • The item's name and model
  • The item's serial number if it's available
  • A description of the item and its functions
  • The cost of the item -- with a receipt if you have it
  • Place and date of purchase

Imagine that you're listing the stuff in your kitchen. An entry for your coffee maker should not simply say:

coffee maker, black, not very expensive

Instead, you should record as much information about each item as you can. Your entry for the coffee maker should look something like this:

Herr Coffee brand coffee maker, Model: V-00000, black exterior with quick-heating body and delay-brew function and 12-cup carafe, purchased 16 June for $35.

Why do you need a home inventory list for insurance?

A list with detailed entries like this one increases the chance that you'd be fully compensated for your homeowners insurance claim. If you experience property loss and you want to file a claim, an insurance adjuster from your provider would inspect your property damage and decide whether to approve your claim.

If you can't give the adjuster details about what you lost, it's less likely that you'll be compensated enough to recover the cost of your old things. If your claim is accepted, your insurance company is obligated to provide you with suitable replacements for your ruined items -- but not necessarily to replace your old items exactly. Your home inventory list helps to give your insurer a sense of the standard that any compensation must meet.

For example, if you were making a claim on a ruined TV, you could get a lower-quality model if you were only able to tell the adjuster that your old one was a flat-screen that was about 40 or 50 inches. On the other hand, if you informed your adjuster of the model and brand of the TV, along with any additional or extra features it had, you might have a better chance of receiving a more suitable replacement.

What's the best home inventory software?

There are a lot of ways to compile a home inventory list electronically if working with paper isn't for you. There are a number of paid and free applications available online. Some insurance providers also give their customers access to downloadable lists.

Best free software-Encircle:

Encircle provides you with everything you need to document all of your property, including a camera function that stores pictures of your things. Encircle also allows you to track an unlimited amount of items for up to two properties. The app allows you to keep track of multiple lists for each room in your home. You can upload photos or videos of your stuff using Encircle, too.

There's not a lot of downside to the app. Its cross-device function allows you to track your account on your phone and your laptop or home computer -- a service other competitors charge upgrade fees for. You can also export your data into a spreadsheet software program or as PDFs.

Best paid software-Sortly:

Although the home inventory app Sortly does have a free version available for download, its premium version is far more useful and is worth its $3.99 price. For a lower fee than what competitors charge, you can subscribe to Sortly's services and receive access on unlimited devices.

Sortly's premium option allows customers to document an unlimited amount of items with accompanying pictures or videos. You can also track warranties. You can also create scannable QR labels if you're moving. Stick these labels to your boxes. When you unload your stuff, you can scan the QR code to reveal what's inside the box.

If you don't think either Encircle or Sortly will work for you, there are still other options you can check out. You can find extensive resources for different prices from Nest Egg, MyStuff, Magic Home Inventory, and Allstate's Digital Locker.

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