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Home Care & Ownership Tips
Accounting for Your Treasures: the “how To” of Compiling a Home Inventory

In the second article in a series of three about home inventories, find out about how easy it is to account for all your valuables using this valuable service. Be sure to read our first article on the importance of having a home inventory to get you inspired to get started now!

Lighting that Fire: Inspiration to Get Moving!

In your mind, you know that a detailed home inventory is valuable and makes sense as a sensible measure that will enhance your investment portfolio as well as provides peace of mind if anything were to ever happen.

At the same time, the thought of starting to go through each room in your home and account for everything that you may have collected in the last few years can seem overwhelming. It is easy to come up with a million excuses about being busy or tired so that you put it off for that much longer. The task at hand does not have to be that daunting.

First, you can consider spending some money and having any number of companies come in and do the home inventory for you with pictures and electronic files. These home inventory companies charge by the square footage and there are additional costs for copies of the lists that can be produced in various formats.

If you do not have money to burn, there are other businesses that provide you alternative solutions that work just as well but are more cost-effective because you do the bulk of the work. You can keep a record the old-fashioned way on paper or disk. However, with the power of the Internet behind you (and be sure to read our third article in this series on technology!), it will go faster than you would expect.

Digging In: The Construction of an Online Home Inventory

When you realize just how easy it is to build an online home inventory, your inspiration to get it done will be on fire! Companies, such as Ownersite Technologies, and organizations like the Insurance Information Institute have tried to simplify the input of data so that it can speed you through each room. Many of these services are also offering a complimentary trial offer as an incentive to start protecting your treasures. Here’s what to do:

  1. Go online to one of these services and enter some basic account information.
  2. Take pictures of both the inside and outside of your home. Be sure to take a picture of each room within your house. You may also want to videotape everything in your home and narrate this recording. This, along with the photos, can be useful when you sit down at your computer and start inputting all the data into your online inventory portal.
  3. List items by room and take notes on specific information, such as serial numbers, purchase prices, date of purchase, and present value. Just get the basic information entered and put in details later once the bulk of the work is done.
  4. Upload or scan photos as well as receipts used to purchase these items if available. This can save you time by not having to enter so much under the detail section.
  5. Select a secondary storage option outside of just the online version, like a PDF version that can be stored on a secondary PC or CD.
  6. Update this inventory 1-2 times per year or sooner if an expensive item has been purchased, gifted, or sold.

Determining Value: The Benefits of an Appraiser

Depending on the type and number of valuables you have, you may want to consider involving an appraiser in the process of developing your home inventory. For example, certain items appreciate, such as antiques and collectibles, so it is important to stay current on what these items are worth. This is especially valuable when those working on your claim do not recognize the true value of certain items but will acknowledge that value if an appraiser has listed it at that price.

Since self-appraisals are not allowed due to stringent IRS regulations as well as restrictive guidelines issued by attorneys and insurance companies, you may have to involve an appraiser in your efforts to build a home inventory. Appraisers charge an hourly rate plus expenses for preparing the report, so make sure you have the items ready for the appraisal appointment to minimize the cost.

Detailing Your Life: Can There Ever Be Too Much Information?

Within the online home inventory, there should be a number of item types. Some suggested categories include:

  • Appliances
  • Art
  • Books
  • China
  • Clothing
  • Coins
  • Collectibles
  • Computer & Accessories
  • Electronics
  • Flatware
  • Furniture
  • Jewelry
  • Musical Instruments
  • Other
  • Stamps
  • Toys
  • Vehicles
  • Watches
  • Wine/Spirits

Once you have entered the main category, there should be other prompts that help you further detail the location and cost of each item. These optional prompts might include some of the following details:

  • Location in the home
  • Item name
  • Description
  • Purchase date
  • Quantity
  • Purchase price
  • Purchase location
  • Current value
  • Appraised value
  • Replacement value
  • Whether it is insured
  • Serial numbers
  • Warranty information
  • Photos and receipts

While it may seem like a lot to accomplish, the average three bedroom home can take as little as 2-3 hours to complete an online inventory. Depending on how much “stuff” you have saved up over the years or if you happen to be an avid collector, it could take longer. Compared to the amount of time it may take to get it done after everything has already been stolen or destroyed, this seems like a good return on investment in terms of protecting your valuables.

Be sure to read our next article on how technology makes for a secure and efficient solution for your home inventory.

Ownersite Technologies is happy to offer a free 30-day trial of Home Ownersite, the comprehensive, web-based tool that simplifies home inventories and recordkeeping. With plans starting at only $29.95 per year, Home Ownersite is the perfect tool to manage the complete ownership lifecycle for your home and valuables. To start your free, no-obligation trial or to review the different plans available, please click here.


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