How to Make a Home Inventory for Insurance

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When it comes to insurance claims, making a home inventory gives you the best chance of recovering from property damage or theft. A home inventory can help you understand the value of your personal property, ultimately making it easier to identify and replace what was damaged or stolen.

You should record the names and model numbers of each piece of property, along with each piece's value, including a receipt if possible.

It's relatively easy to compile a household inventory for insurance. There are countless home inventory apps and software programs that help make the process straightforward. You can also create a personal property inventory list by hand if you prefer.

How to create a home inventory

If you experience property damage and you're forced to replace your things, you should be able to use your home inventory to provide your insurer with comprehensive evidence of the value of your lost property. The best way to do this is by making lists of every item in your home.

Your household inventory should include:

  • Name and model of each item
  • The item's serial number if it's available
  • A description of the item and its function
  • The cost of the item—with a receipt if you have it
  • Place and date of purchase

It's a bad idea to make a list containing only your property's general characteristics. Your homeowners insurance provider has to replace property damaged by covered perils with suitable alternatives, but making a home inventory with generic details can lead to getting back poor replacements.

If you were making a claim on a ruined TV, you could get a lower-quality model if you only tell your insurer that your old one was a flat-screen that was about 40 or 50 inches. Providing proof of the TV's brand, model and extra features increases the likelihood of receiving a satisfactory replacement.

The best home inventory software

We found that the best home inventory software is Encircle. Some homeowners insurance companies also give their customers access to downloadable home inventory forms. If you don't want to use a home inventory app, these lists are great alternatives.

Best free home inventory app — Encircle:

Encircle gives you everything you need to create an extensive home inventory list, including the ability to add pictures of your property to the app. Encircle also allows you to track an unlimited number of items for up to two properties, including a list for every multiple rooms in your home.

There's not much downside to the app. Its cross-device capability allows you to log onto your account on your phone, laptop and home computer — a service other competitors charge upgrade fees for. You can also export your data into a spreadsheet program or PDFs.

Best paid inventory app — 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 make home inventory lists with an unlimited number of items, along with pictures and videos. You can also create QR labels for your property. Once you print your labels, stick them to the boxes you're using to store or move your property. Using Sortly's barcode scanner for home inventories, you can scan these QR codes to reveal what's inside the boxes.

Other home inventory apps

If you don't think either Encircle or Sortly will work for you, there are still other options you can check out. You can make a home inventory using any of these programs:

  • Nest Egg
  • MyStuff
  • Magic Home Inventory
  • Allstate's Digital Locker

Why do you need a home inventory for insurance?

Although your insurance company is obligated to provide you with suitable replacements for your ruined items, they may not necessarily replace your old items exactly without a thorough home inventory.

A home inventory with detailed entries increases the chance that you'll be fully compensated after making a homeowners insurance claim. When you experience property loss and file a claim, your homeowners insurance provider would require proof of your losses.

Imagine that your home catches fire and you lose much of your property. You put in a claim for a toaster, but you're not able to remember much about your old one except that it was black and could toast up to four slices of bread at once. Without more specific details, the toaster you receive might indeed be black and have four bread slots, but could be inferior to your old toaster in unforeseen ways.

Compiling a household inventory also allows you to evaluate your insurance coverage. If you have a homeowners insurance policy with a limit of $250,000, you'll easily be able to see when the value of your assets eclipses your policy with a detailed home inventory. When this happens, you'll know you should consider purchasing more coverage.

Andrew Hurst

Andrew Hurst is a Technical Writer at ValuePenguin who specializes in home and renters insurance. He previously taught composition and research at Wright State University.

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