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Why you need a home inventory

June 10th, 2021  |  Home Insurance

If disaster were to strike, would you remember everything you own?

Most people couldn’t.

Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you determine the right amount of insurance you require and – should you have to make a claim – it can help get it settled faster. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) notes that in these days of increasingly severe weather, it’s even more important to have a home inventory should your home be damaged or destroyed.

If you’ve been living without a home inventory now is the time to create one. During spring cleaning and before a move are ideal times to prepare or update your home inventory list. The longer you’ve lived in the house the more daunting the task may seem.

But if you start small, it can help. Here’s how to get started:

1) Pick an easy place to start – Choose a contained area like your kitchen appliance cabinet, or where you store your sporting equipment.

2) List recent purchases – Begin by listing your most recent purchases to get into the “inventory habit” and work backward from there with your older possessions.

Tips for Making a Home Inventory

Print a copy of IBC's Personal Property Inventory Checklist or download an Excel sheet to track your possessions room by room. When you take stock of the contents, consider the following:

  1. Keep bills, receipts, warranties, and instruction manuals for your more valuable possessions – these can serve as proof of ownership.
  2. Include the basic information – In general, describe each item you record, and note where you bought it, the make and model, what you paid, and any other detail that might help in the event you need to make a claim.
  3. Count clothing by general category – For example, "5 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of sneakers…" Make note of any items that are especially valuable. You can also group similar, smaller items together. For example, 25 CDs.
  4. Record serial numbers – Usually found on the back or bottom of major appliances and electronic equipment, serial numbers are a useful reference.
  5. Check coverage on big-ticket items – Jewelry, art, and collectibles may have increased in value and may need a separate rider from your standard homeowner’s insurance policy. Don’t forget to attach appraisals, which should be done from time to time since values may change.
  6. Don't forget off-site items – Have belongings in a self-storage facility? Make sure you include them in your inventory.
  7. Keep proof of value – Store sales receipts, purchase contracts, and appraisals with your list.
  8. Review your home inventory annually and when you make new purchases. The value of your possessions increases the more you acquire more items.
  9. Don't get overwhelmed– Once you've started your inventory, keep going even if you can't get it all done immediately. It’s better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing.

Use technology to help

  • Take pictures – Create a photo record of your belongings. Capture important individual items as well as entire rooms, closets, or drawers. Use your smartphone or digital camera—some will give you the capability to put in the description of the item when saving the photo.
  • Video it – Walk through your house or apartment videotaping and describing the contents. For example, you might describe the contents of a kitchen cabinet.
  • Use an app – There are many mobile app options that can help you create and store a room-by-room record of your belongings.

How to safely store your records

Your home inventory is only useful if it’s accurate and you can access it to provide information to your insurance company in case of fire, theft, or another disaster. That’s why it’s important to keep it backed up and in a safe place.

  • Store your records and receipts in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box or a secure online option. Make at least one backup copy of your inventory document and store it separately. An easy way to make digital backup copies of your paper list is to take pictures of it on your smartphone.
  • Keep important household documents in an off-site location. That can include credit card information, government documents, and more.

Losses do happen. If your property or contents are damaged, contact your insurance broker as soon as possible to get the claims process moving. When you do, you’ll realize how priceless your home inventory really is.

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