Table of Contents
What is a home inventory?
In renters insurance, a home inventory, also known as a contents list, is a list of all of the personal possessions that your renters insurance policy will cover, along with each item’s approximate value.
Your home inventory should include almost everything you own, including items you’re borrowing and items stored off-premises, both of which are covered by renters insurance.
However, you shouldn’t include motor vehicles, because renters insurance doesn’t cover cars or motorcycles. You also shouldn’t include furniture or appliances that belong to your landlord, not to you.
What is a renters insurance home inventory for?
Having a home inventory helps you do two things:
- Shop for a renters insurance policy
- File a renters insurance claim
Shopping for a policy
A home inventory tells you how much your personal property is worth. Knowing the value of your property makes it easier to figure out how much coverage you need, which is one of the first questions your insurer will ask you when you buy a policy.
Filing a claim
Of course, having a home inventory also comes in handy when you file an insurance claim. You need to know what’s been damaged and how much it was worth for your insurer to properly reimburse you.
Having a contents list that you can check makes the claims process faster and easier. It saves you the stress of estimating the value of everything you lost right after the disaster happens.
How do I create a home inventory?
Creating a home inventory usually shouldn’t take longer than an hour or two. However, it’s best to be thorough, so take as much time as you need.
At minimum, your home inventory should feature an organized list of your possessions. Wherever you can, add descriptions, photos, videos, and receipts to document your property in as much detail as possible.
There are five steps to taking inventory of your possessions:
- Choose an inventory method
- Group your possessions into categories
- Take pictures or videos of the items
- Record each item’s description and information
- Make copies of your home inventory and other ownership documents
Step 1: Choose an inventory method
First, you’ll have to decide on a method:
- Using an inventory app
- Using a printable home inventory worksheet
Home inventory app
If you prefer to keep your list digital, you can download a home inventory app onto your smartphone. Many allow you to take and upload pictures of each item when you record them.
Printable home inventory form
If you’re more comfortable with pen and paper, you can download free home inventory templates from Pinterest, Template.net, or through Microsoft Office Templates. You can also make your own itemized list in a spreadsheet.
Step 2: Group your possessions into categories
Once you have an inventory method, make a list with each type of item you own, like clothes, furniture, appliances, and jewelry.
You might also want to organize your possessions by location. If so, make a list of each room in your home. This makes the inventory process easier and will prevent you from missing anything.
Write these categories on your printed template. If you’re using an app like Encircle, just browse their existing categories and use them to quickly sort your belongings.
Step 3: Take pictures or videos of the items in your home
Next you need to take photos or videos of each room in your home. If you’re taking photos, make sure to get a close-up of your items’ serial numbers. Check to make sure the image isn’t blurry and the numbers are legible. Remember to open all of your closets, drawers, and other compartments to show everything.
If you’re recording video, describe your belongings aloud, including approximately how much they’re worth. If you’re not sure, it’s fine to give a very rough estimate or just save that item for later.
Documenting everything you own can feel overwhelming — so take things one room at a time and go slowly.
It’s okay to lump similar items together. For instance, if you have one expensive jacket that you remember paying $1,000 for, and the rest of your clothes came from thrift stores, you can record something like “Leather jacket — $1000. Other wardrobe items — estimated total value $300.”
Step 4: Record each item’s description and information
Now that you have visual documentation of your belongings, you’ll need to record a description of each item in your home inventory list. You can attach these descriptions to your images if you’re using an inventory app or spreadsheet, or write them out by hand on your printed inventory checklist.
Don’t forget seasonal items like holiday decorations, sports equipment, and garden or repair tools — these are easy to overlook, but they’re covered by your insurance and worth documenting.
When describing your items, you should be as specific as possible about the price, model, serial number, and purchase date. This ensures that your items will be valued correctly if you need to make a claim. If there are any important items that you weren’t able to confidently value in step 3, search on Google, eBay or Amazon to figure out what they’re worth.
Step 5: Make copies of your home inventory and other proof of ownership documents
Lastly, you should make copies of all your home inventory documents. This is easy with a printable template: just scan and make copies of your worksheet. If you used an app, you’ll probably be able to upload a copy to the cloud.
You should also make copies of important receipts, purchase invoices, and other proof of ownership documents for your belongings. You don’t absolutely need receipts and other similar documents, but if you have them, you might as well keep them and make backups. Everything helps when you need to file a claim!
What should I do if I don’t have time to create a home inventory?
Having a complete home inventory is useful, but in practice, not everyone has the time and energy to make one.
If making a full inventory isn’t realistic for you, remember that a partial inventory is better than no inventory. Instead of documenting every last one of your possessions, just do your best to thoroughly document the 15 or 20 most expensive items you own, with a focus on:
- Electronics, like your laptop and smartphone
- Expensive clothes, e.g. formal wear, leather boots and jackets, and designer items
- Musical instruments
- Sports equipment
- Appliances or furniture that you own (instead of your landlord)
If you’re like most people, you’ll probably be able to document your most valuable possessions in under 30 minutes. Most of the time, those are the things you’ll be the most anxious to insure, anyway.
How should I store my home inventory?
The best way to keep your home inventory safe depends on what method you chose.
Like we said, many inventory apps automatically back up your information for you, but if you’re using a template or spreadsheet, you should save your files on both your personal computer and on a cloud storage service (like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive).
If you used printed documents, make copies and store them in at least one other location, like a safe deposit box or fireproof container. Alternately, you can ask someone else to look after them, like a family member or even your insurance agent.