A household inventory-well worth the time

Q: Why do I need a household inventory? What exactly is it?

A: A household inventory could prove invaluable if you lost some or all of your household belongings in a fire, burglary or natural disaster by assisting you in recalling and reporting to your insurance company exactly what you’d lost. A personal household inventory can provide you with a record of your household furnishings and belongings, when you purchased them and their original cost. For an investment of just a few hours you can survey your belongings and be prepared in the event of a loss.

Q: How do I take my own inventory?

A: There are three basic steps. First, list all of your major belongings and furnishings, room by room. Record a brief description, any serial numbers, purchase prices and dates, and current value. Attach any receipts and appraisals.

The second step is to back up your inventory list with photographs. Remember, a picture can be worth a thousand words and, sometimes, dollars!! Take a photograph of each wall of every room, with closet or cabinet doors open. Write the date, contents shown and location on the back of each picture. Photograph your belongings for a visual record.

You also may want to videotape your household inventory by borrowing or renting a video camera and recorder and videotaping each room carefully.

As you are taping, make a verbal commentary on your belongings and the date you are taping.

Third, store the inventory and photographs, or the videotape, in a safe place away from your home, such as in a safe deposit box in a bank. Keeping a copy of the list or tape at home is fine, but it is wise to keep the original inventory and receipts in a secure location in case a fire or natural disaster destroys your home. Of course, you should likewise protect certain valuables and hard-to-replace documents such as deeds, bonds, stocks and insurance policies by storing them in a safe deposit box.

You also should be aware that homeowners policies generally limit the amount of coverage on fine jewelry, furs, silver and other possessions of high value, and you may want to purchase additional coverage in the form of Personal Article Floater policies. Floaters are purchased as an endorsement to the regular homeowners policy or as separate policies.