Laura Mueller for, 5/18/2020

start a home inventory

Have you ever wondered how to start a home inventory?

The longer that you live in a home, the more that you tend to accumulate things without realizing what you already have. A home inventory, which can take a few hours up to a full day depending on how thorough you want to be, is a great way to get on top of your belongings, offering helpful benefits that go far beyond just having a basic accounting of what you own.

If you’ve got some time on your hands, put it to use by undertaking an updated and accurate home inventory. This simple process doesn’t require much, and will be a major time-saver later on if catastrophe hits.

So why is a home inventory so important? Below, we’ll cover the purpose behind a comprehensive home inventory, plus tips on doing it right—including home inventory apps that can take all of the guesswork out of creating and itemizing your list.

What Is a Home Inventory?

A home inventory is simply a complete list of all the items that you own in your home. This includes valuable items like furniture, electronics, and jewelry, as well as essentials such as clothing and linens. The idea is to have a total breakdown of what you own so that have a quick point of reference when and if it’s needed, particularly when you’re moving or filing a Homeowner Insurance claim.

There are lots of reasons that you’ll want to have a home inventory, as well as situations where having one is pretty much a necessity. These include:

Moves. When you hire a moving company you’ll need to provide as accurate an inventory of your belongings as possible so that your movers can provide you with a quote and ensure they send over the right size truck and number of employees. While many moving companies will perform a general inventory of their own (either in person or virtually), having a handy home inventory can save a ton of time on both ends.

Insurance claims. Natural disasters like floods, fires, and tornadoes have affected about 70% of U.S. residents, and yet 44% of them don’t have a home inventory list. Home inventories can make all of the difference however when it comes to your homeowners insurance reimbursement claims after a disaster or robbery, giving your provider a full breakdown of what was ruined or taken and the value of those items. Not only will it be easier to document your claims, but you’ll also likely have a much better chance of getting a proper reimbursement.

Home maintenance and organizing. You don’t have to be facing a major upheaval like a move or a natural disaster in order to benefit from a home inventory. Lots of homeowners undertake the process as part of general maintenance and organizing. It’s always good practice to set aside time once a year or so to take an accounting of your possessions and get rid of things that you no longer want or need. A home inventory will help you do this, and will also make it a quicker and more efficient undertaking.

How To Do a Home Inventory

Now to get to work. To do your home inventory, you will need to go room by room in your home and log each item, as well as its general description and estimated value. As you go, gather any receipts, purchase contracts, or other documentation that can help you with your inventory assessments, and store these documents with your home inventory so that you’ve got everything you need in the event you have to file a claim.

Images are beneficial too, so take pictures of your belongings and store them in a designated file that you can easily access later on if need be. In particular, be sure to take pictures of your high value items, since your reimbursement will be based in part on their condition.

We recommend using a template like this one to keep yourself organized as you go through your home, which includes a useful room-by-room spreadsheet for you to fill out. Do be sure however to add on with rooms that aren’t covered, including your basement and garage.

Perhaps your best option however is to utilize a home inventory app. These apps, which range from free to about $40, provide you with a one-stop shop for logging and storing all of your inventory descriptions and images, and because they’re digital, you won’t have to worry about losing your inventory in the event of a catastrophe.

Tips For Doing Your Inventory

Even with the right tools or templates a home inventory can be an overwhelming process to get started with—especially if you have lived in the same home for many years. Here are some tips to help you get going.

Start with the big stuff. Starting with bigger items will help you make good progress right from the get-go so that you’re motivated to keep going. And while value isn’t always directly correlated with size (case in point, jewelry, cell phones, and other small but highly valuable possessions), it’s likely that a lot of the big ticket items in your home are also big in stature. So as you go room by room, inventory the big stuff first and then move onto small items in drawers and closets.

Store multiple copies. A home inventory isn’t going to be much use to you if it gets destroyed, lost, or becomes otherwise inaccessible. To cover as many bases as you can, keep multiple copies of your inventory, including both a digital and paper copy. If possible, have at least one copy that is stored outside of your home as well, such as in a safety deposit box. With home inventory apps, you may want to consider exporting the data to an alternate file. As you update your inventory, update your copies as well.

Update and review. We’ve already mentioned that it’s important that you update your home inventory with new items as you obtain them. Additionally, you’ll also want to review your home inventory list to remove any items that you no longer have. If you sell a possession or update it with something new, make sure that it is no longer logged on your inventory.

Don’t forget about documents. Key documents don’t necessarily have a price tag value, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to log them. List and describe everything from marriage certificates to titles, taking images for reference later on. Be sure to note in the description where these items are stored too in case you’re ever struggling to find something that you need.

Homeownership comes with a lot of responsibilities, and that includes maintaining an accurate home inventory. While it can be quite a bit of work to put together the first time around, if you’re one of the many Americans who faces loss of belongings due to a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event—or even if you’re just trying to plan out a move—you’ll be incredibly glad that you took the time.

For more information how to start a home inventory, contact us here.

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