Ask the Expert: What Is a Home Inventory?

Quick, tell us the make, model, and serial number of your TV. How about the name of the paint you used in your upstairs guest bath? Can't remember? Okay, one more. How much longer do you have on your hot water heater's warranty? Any idea? Sounds like you need a home inventory. It can be crucial when it comes to restoring your home and belongings after a disaster. We asked the experts over at HomeZada to give us the low down on how to make a home warranty of your own. Here's what they had to say:

What is a home inventory, anyway?

A home inventory at a minimum is a detailed list of your belongings. For a comprehensive home inventory, track the details about the structure of your home both inside and outside and any other items that you may have in other buildings like storage sheds. This data will be used to present claims to insurance companies should a theft, disaster or damage happen to your home that results in a loss of your belongings.

What should be included on your inventory?

A detailed home inventory consists of:

  • Photos of your items
  • Any documents that may provide details about your items like receipts, certificates of authenticity, appraisals of items, warranties, and owner’s manuals
  • Any details that you recall about the items but may not have documentation

These details can help in an event of a loss or damage. For instance, if you have a photo of your television and a photo of your serial number you can potentially recover the item when filing your report to the police for a theft because they now have the necessary data to recover the specific item.

In the event of damage to your home, by documenting the details prior to this situation, you have an inventory ready to go rather than memory recall of the items in and around your home. Memory recall generally results in forgetting all that you own in order to file your claim.

Tracking the details about your home’s structure can also be valuable. If you recently remodeled your kitchen, knowing the details of the tile, cabinets, and appliances can go a long way should any damage occur to the home.

How can you make one?

Compiling a home inventory is as simple as taking a lot of photos of the items in your home and storing them in a safe location outside of your home. This can be a thumb drive or a CD in a safe deposit box or a third party generic software that hosts data in the cloud. Or you can use systems on the market, like HomeZada, to track not only photos but also all documents and details associated with your inventory. Online solutions walk you through the process of how to use their solution and often times are free to use.

When might you need it?

Taking an initial home inventory may take a bit of time, but in the end, you have a detailed account of what you own for many needs.

  • Disaster, theft, and home damage, like a broken toilet or pipe that causes flooding in your home. Documenting the details of your home will help you identify how to replace the damaged portions of your home.
  • When you are moving, how do you know what actually makes it to the new home? Taking a home inventory of your possessions can help understand what you own and what you need to look for at the new home.
  • Did you ever want to remember where you purchased a particular piece of furniture to add similar pieces to your home’s design? This is another valuable reason to track the details of your belongings. Where and when you purchased the piece can help you find the one-off furniture store to request more pieces.
  • This same principle applies to paint and wall décor. You absolutely love the paint of your home but cannot remember the manufacturer nor the color. Because we all know there is a menagerie of white paint colors let alone all the other colors. How do you remember exactly what you have on your walls to add touch ups? Documenting these details can help when the time comes for these touch-ups.
  • Understanding what you own can help you manage your money and your storage more efficiently. By having a documented inventory of your belongings and accessing that information on your smartphone can help you manage what comes into your home. How many times have we all purchased an item, to realize three of the same kind of items are already in your home and now you have no place to put this new purchase.
  • For some, they are in the stage of life that involves estate planning. Tracking a home inventory can help define what goes to whom. It a favorite painting is being willed to your daughter and your son really wants a special motorcycle and some items need to go to charity, how are you defining these allocations. Using a home inventory system, that helps you define this process can help everyone in the long run.

Visit Zen of Zada for 33 more reasons to have a home inventory.

Do you need to have it verified by an insurance agent to be allowed to use it in case of an insurance claim?

Having your inventory verified by your insurance agent will ensure that you are adequately insured. Additionally, some insurance companies do not cover all items in your home and may require riders to insure these pieces. Many of us are aware of jewelry riders, but sometimes high-end carpets, valuable paintings, silver, and antique pieces require additional coverage. Sharing your inventory with your insurance agent can help them understand what you own to help make sure you are insured prior to a situation occurring.

How often should you update it?

We recommend you update your inventory at least once a year, as changes or additions to your home may occur during the year. With some systems, you can quickly update your inventory as it occurs. For instance, you decided to buy a new chair for your home office and you want to update your home inventory using your smartphone. This is a simple task that can be done immediately. Taking a photo of the receipt can easily be uploaded along with the photo and details of the new chair.

Elizabeth Dodson is the co-founder of HomeZada, a cloud-based home improvement, and organizational software tool. HomeZada strives to educate and provide resources for homeowners in all areas of home management, including home improvement projects, maintenance, inventory, property information, and property value. Check out HomeZada to get started tracking your home inventory for free!