How to create a home insurance inventory

Having a detailed list of everything under your roof will make filing a homeowners insurance claim faster and easier. Learn how to create a home inventory in 6 easy steps.

Pat Howard 1600Stephanie Nieves author photo


Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a senior editor and licensed home insurance agent at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

&Stephanie Nieves

Stephanie Nieves

Editor & Home and Auto Insurance Expert

Stephanie Nieves is a former editor and insurance expert at Policygenius, where she covered home and auto insurance. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Money, HerMoney, PayScale, and The Muse.

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In the event your belongings are destroyed in a house fire or stolen from your home or car, your homeowners insurance can help pay to replace everything. However, insurance claims can drag out if you don’t have product receipts or some sort of documentation to verify the loss — that’s where an up-to-date home inventory list comes in.

Key takeaways

  • A home inventory is a list of items or personal belongings in your home. It usually includes an item’s description, value, and quantity

  • Having an up-to-date home inventory can both speed up your home insurance claim and maximize your claim payment after a loss

  • Along with creating a home inventory checklist, be sure to take photos or videos of everything you own

Home inventory template

→ Download this template and get started on your home inventory today

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What is a home inventory?

A home inventory is a list of everything in your house — from furniture to appliances to expensive valuables like jewelry and antique keepsakes. Home inventories have several important uses. 

  • They can help verify losses on your income tax return

  • They can help you choose the correct amount of personal property coverage on your home or renters insurance

  • They can help expedite home insurance claims by providing you a list of belongings that were damaged or burglarized

  • They can help maximize your payout after filing a home insurance claim

If your belongings are destroyed in a disaster that’s covered by your policy, like a fire or explosion, you can point to your home inventory list to provide evidence of the loss. To increase your chances of a successful claim, it also helps to include photographs or receipts of the damaged property — especially if you’re claiming a loss on a big ticket item. 

Ideally, your inventory should include information like the item’s description and the item’s purchase price or estimated replacement value. For an extra detailed home inventory list, include the item’s purchase date and serial or model number.

Genius tip

The best time to start a home inventory is when you’re just moving into a house — you can simply list items as you unpack. But ultimately, anytime is a good time to get started on your inventory checklist. Be sure to carve out a solid block of time, put on some good jams, and think “small” by listing items by room.

How to make a home inventory 

There are several ways you can make an inventory: you can make an actual list, use a home inventory spreadsheet, take photos and videos, or you can use a home inventory app. Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to do the following 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 the 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. 

In addition to a product description, consider noting the following next to each item.

  • The date of purchase

  • Where the item was purchased

  • The purchase price or value of the item

  • The appraised value of the item (if it’s an expensive valuable)

  • The make and model of the item

  • Serial or ID numbers

3. Group your items by category

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

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 your homeowners insurance to be reimbursed for their full value on a claim. Be sure to talk to your insurance agent to see which of your belongings need supplemental personal property coverage.

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

Homeowners insurance also includes a limited amount of coverage for belongings that are damaged or stolen away from your home — typically up to 10% of your policy’s personal property coverage limit. That means if someone breaks your bicycle lock and takes your bike while it’s locked up outside your workplace, your home insurance can reimburse you for a new bike.

6. Hold on to your receipts

For that additional safety net, hold onto receipts for expensive items. Paper receipts, electronic copies, or photographs of receipts will all do the trick. Having receipts in addition to a home inventory will make for a seamless claims process.

Genius tip

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. Home inventory apps are often used for different purposes: some are to simply keep track of your stuff, while others are specifically intended to document your items for insurance or tax purposes.

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

Mobile appPriceIOS or AndroidData storage
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