How to create a home inventory

Having a detailed list of everything under your roof will make filing a homeowners insurance claim faster and easier.

Pat Howard 1600Stephanie Nieves author photo

Updated November 13, 2020|4 min read

Editorial disclosure

If your home and personal belongings are burglarized or damaged in a fire, you need to file a homeowners insurance claim to be reimbursed for the loss. But most people don’t hold onto every receipt or have a photographic memory, so if you can’t remember what you own, you won’t be reimbursed for the property that you lost.

A home inventory or a house inventory is an invaluable way to keep track of everything you own and has multiple uses — from verifying losses on your income tax return to ensuring an expedited and painless insurance claims process. It’s essentially a list of what you own and how much it’s worth, so that if your belongings are damaged in a covered event, like a fire, you can easily show your insurance company the total value of your loss. However, only around half of homeowners currently keep a home inventory of their personal belongings.

Making an inventory may seem like a daunting and time-consuming task, but it doesn’t have to be. Click here to download our very own inventory spreadsheet to get started on your home inventory list today, and read on for more home inventory tips. This is an Excel home inventory, but the file can be opened in Google Sheets if you don’t have Excel.

Key Takeaways

  • A home inventory lists the personal belongings in your home and their value

  • Home inventories are useful in a lot of ways: they can expedite the claims filing process when any of those items are damaged, and they also help verify losses on your income tax

  • You can create a home inventory as a written list or you can download a home inventory app to your smartphone

How do I make a home inventory?

The best time to start a home inventory is when you’re just moving into a house — you simply add items to the inventory as you unpack. If you’ve been in the home a while though, the thought of going through every room and making a list of everything, along with product descriptions and prices, is probably a little intimidating. But if you carve out a solid block of time, put on some good jams, and think “small” by listing items by room, the inventory process will be a whole lot easier.

There are several ways you can make an inventory: you can make an actual list, use an organized spreadsheet like the one we provided above, take photos and videos, or you can use a home inventory app. Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to heed the following advice when making your inventory:

1. Start small

Don’t go right for the big ticket items or list items at random, start in a small contained area of a room, and work your way outward. Once you’re done with that particular room or space, move on to the next.

2. Be descriptive

If you’re not able to indicate the price of a particular item, a simple (but detailed) description will do. It could be a few words or a few sentences — but keep in mind home insurance claim adjusters (and police in the event of a break-in) will generally be more helpful and process your claim faster if you’re clear about what you lost. You can even take photos or videos of specific items or rooms. In addition to an anecdotal description, be sure to include:

  • The make and model of the item

  • Serial or ID numbers

  • The date of purchase

  • Where the item was purchased

  • The purchase price of the item

  • The estimated price (if you aren’t sure of the purchase price)

  • Any additional notes or descriptions that would be helpful in the event of a claim

3. Group your items by category

To expedite the inventory process, small-ticket items like casual clothing or an IKEA pots and pans set can simply be categorized by the type of product being inventoried and the amount you have. For example, you can note “12 shirts” and “5 pots and pans,” rather than going into detail about each piece.

4. Be mindful of expensive items

Be sure to take note of any big-ticket items you own and record those in a separate section of your home inventory list. If you have any expensive jewelry, furs, rare keepsakes, or electronics in excess of $1,000-$2,000, you may need to add enhanced coverage like a scheduled property endorsement to protect those items in the event of a loss. Be sure to talk to your agent to see what coverage is available for belongings that may exceed your coverage sublimits.

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5. Don’t forget about the stuff outside your home

Homeowners insurance also protects off-premises losses up to a certain amount. That means if someone breaks your bicycle lock and takes your bike while it’s locked up outside your workplace, you can claim a loss. Don’t forget that any items on your property but outside of your home, like a lawn ornament or play structure in your backyard, are also covered.

6. Hold on to your receipts

For that extra bit of financial security, hold onto your receipts or save photos of them. That way, if your brand new laptop is stolen in a break-in, you’ll be able to quickly submit a record of its exact age and value. Having receipts in addition to a home inventory makes for a seamless claims process.

7. Store a copy of your home inventory outside the house

Be sure to make a copy of your home inventory — along with receipts and item appraisals — and store it somewhere you’ll remember outside of your home, like your office or on a cloud-based drive.

Home inventory apps

Another helpful and easy way to organize and list your personal possessions for insurance or tax purposes is to download a home inventory app to your smartphone. Some home inventory apps are used for different purposes: some are to simply keep track of your stuff, while others are specifically intended to document your belongings for insurance.

Here’s a list of home inventory apps that you might consider for documenting your personal belongings:

Allstate Digital LockerFreeBothDevice and cloud
BluePlum Home Inventory$19.99iOSDevice and cloud
Home ContentsFree (in-app purchases)iOSDevice and cloud
Nest Egg$4.99 (in-app purchases)iOSDevice and cloud
SortlyFree (Advanced is $39/mo, Ultra is $99/mo)BothDevice and cloud

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