Every year one in 15 insured homes suffers a loss or damage large enough for the owners to file an insurance claim. In 2013 the average claim from such incidents was $8,823. Yet fewer than half of Americans know what’s in their homes!*

Why do you need a home inventory?

In a worse-case scenario like a devastating home fire, could you remember every item that was in your attic, or in your garage? Probably not.

The simplest way to document loss of or damage to household goods is to create an inventory of your home’s contents before something happens. A home inventory is simply a list of your personal possessions, along with their estimated financial value.

Having an inventory on hand puts you 10 steps ahead when filing an insurance claim. It can also give you some peace of mind after a disaster. It’s at least one thing that you don’t have to stress about.

Free Home Inventory

This printable guide features common household belongings and space to add your own

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How do you create a home inventory?

step 1

Document your belongings

Take photos or video of your belongings and/or receipts. Shoot close-ups of high-ticket items, noting brand names, model and serial numbers.

step 2

Write it down

Download our Home Inventory Evaluation, with a section for each room of your home. Refer to your pictures or walk from room to room filling it out. Using the evaluation ensures you’ll get all the details needed to make filing claims easy. When you document the contents of each room in your house, don’t forget items that are in closets, cabinets and drawers.

step 3

Add more details

Now sit down and fill in the details of each item, such as amount, price paid, serial numbers and year acquired. The Insurance Information Institute recommends saving noteworthy sales receipts, contracts or appraisals with your inventory. When you inventory clothing, count the items you own by category (coats, shoes, etc.), and note any pieces that are especially valuable. For major appliances, record serial numbers. If you have any questions about which items are covered by your policy, contact your insurance agent.

step 4

Store in many places

You need to store it somewhere other than inside your home—in a safe deposit box or with another family member. If it’s saved on your computer, be sure to back it up and keep a copy on an external drive or online storage account.

step 5

Update your inventory frequently

Once you have a base list, it’s easy. Just add any new acquisitions — like the new Blu-ray player you got for Christmas or a new vintage dress — to your home inventory to keep it current. Valuables like jewelry, art and collectibles may have increased in value since you acquired them. Make it a habit to update your inventory at least once a year. To be certain your new purchases are covered by your insurance policy, be sure to share this inventory with your agent as updated.

step 6

Update coverage as needed

Check with your insurance agent to ensure you have adequate coverage for any updated items; they may need to be insured separately, and it's important that your agent know about them before a potential loss. Your insurance policy has a limit on how much of your personal property it will cover. If you find that the contents of your home are particularly valuable, you may want to increase your coverage so that you are protected in the event of a theft or fire. You can work with an agent to make sure the valuables you own are covered in case of an emergency. They can also help you secure riders for that precious guitar or high-cost painting.

3 Reasons Everyone Needs a Home Inventory

1. Guide you in buying the right kind and amount of insurance.

Having an accurate list of your possessions allows you to have a more productive conversation with your insurance agent when making decisions about homeowner or renter’s insurance coverage. After all, if you don’t know what you have, how can you insure it properly?

2. Reduces stress when filing a claim.

When you file a claim, you need to provide information about what was lost. This is difficult to do right after experiencing a loss. Imagine you've been the victim of a burglary. Someone broke into and ransacked your house, stealing some of your valuables. You’re stressed out, and you don’t feel safe. Now imagine trying to figure out what the person took! Certain items will be obvious, like a missing television, but others won’t be as visible at first. Figuring out what items are missing is much easier if you have a list of everything in each room of your house.

3. Show financial losses for tax purposes.

You’ll need to provide documentation to get an income tax deduction for unreimbursed losses come tax time.

Read more about why you should keep a home inventory in our Insurance Information Center.

One Last Tip:

Numerous home inventory apps are available for use on smart phones and tablet computers. The III also has the free Know Your Stuff® Home Inventory Tool that enables you to create and maintain a home inventory on any digital device or computer and safely store it online for easy, secure access—anywhere, anytime.

*One in 15 insured homes suffers a loss or damage large enough for the owners to file a claim via Insurance Information Institute. Average claim in 2013 via Insurance Research Council study. 41% of American’s don’t have home inventory from the National Association of Insurance Commissions survey.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The information is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified professional. This information dos not create a contract of insurance nor does it modify any terms and conditions ofany existing policy you may have. Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.