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From the ordinary to extraordinary, necessities to luxuries, the "stuff" that Americans purchase today truly runs the gamut. Some of these possessions are indispensable for today's homeowners, such as ovens and refrigerators, while others might have sentimental or entertainment value, like jewelry or gaming systems.
Regardless of what they are or why they're used, the items are yours and deserve protection with the proper insurance. However, if you're like a majority of Americans and have not conducted a home inventory, you may not know how much coverage is enough or the best policy to buy.
According to polling done by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, less than half of all homeowners have a home inventory. Additionally, 56 percent have never so much as gone over their policies to see if what they have is sufficient.
What is a home inventory?
One of the ways of going about determining the proper amount is by conducting an inventory. As its title suggests, an inventory is a formal method that helps you keep track of your belongings in terms of how much they cost, when they were purchased and how many you have.
Performing an inventory is an important aspect of homeowning or renting, not only for the due diligence aspect of it but also because your things are potentially vulnerable to being damaged or ruined. And when possessions aren't protected with the right insurance, you'll have to pay for replaceable items yourself. Between 2005 and 2015, an average of 800 weather-related disasters resulted in $24 billion in insured losses, according to the NAIC.
Mike Consendine, chief executive officer at the NAIC, said doing an inventory is particularly important in recent years, as major weather events seem to be happening with greater regularity.
"During the past decade, the U.S. has experienced significant shifts in the frequency, severity and location of natural disasters," Consendine noted. "According to our survey, most consumers aren't connecting the dots between these shifts and the impact on their home insurance needs. Missing these links can be costly."
Families in several states this past year got an up-close-and-personal understanding of just how devastating Mother Nature can be, including Texas, Florida and several states along the Atlantic after a busy hurricane season. Several major hurricanes struck the Southeast. And in the West, wildfire activity was rampant, especially in Montana. At least 2,400 wildfires were reported in the state in 2017, destroying 1.3 million acres, according to the estimates from the National Interagency Fire Center.
You may not be able to stop natural disasters from happening, but you can soften the impact by being proactive about prevention. Here are a few tips that can help you put together a comprehensive inventory of your belongings:
Go room by room
Performing an inventory can feel like an overwhelming task, especially if you've never conducted one. Keep it simple and take your time by going room to room, jotting down the items you have. You can group these items based on theme later.
Take lots of pictures
Photos are particularly effective because they lend context and specifics to items that words can't. Take pictures of each room and also close-ups of specific valuables you want to include in your inventory. If they include serial numbers, make sure you include this information in the picture. Examples include electronics, jewelry, appliances and exercise equipment.
Group belongings accordingly
There are several ways to make sense of your inventory so everything is in order. An effective method is to group by room. You can do this by printing out a line chart for each room, segmented into columns and rows. For instance, in the family room, items may be grouped under the category "Books" or "Chairs." Then, fill in relevant information like the quantity, purchase date and price. If you don't have a receipt, contact the store where you bought the item or use your email provider's search bar.
Keep inventory list someplace safe
Your home inventory isn't much use if you misplaced it, so as soon as you're finished, keep it in a place where it won't get lost or be damaged. A safe or lockbox is ideal.