How to create a home insurance inventory

Having a detailed home inventory 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 1600Kara McGinley

By

Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert 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.

&Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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

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Home inventory template

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

What is a home inventory for insurance?

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 do I make a home inventory for insurance?

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 personal property coverage 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.

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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 app

Price

IOS or Android

Data storage

Allstate Digital Locker

Free

Both

Device and cloud

BluePlum Home Inventory

$19.99

iOS

Device and cloud

Home Contents

Free (in-app purchases)

iOS

Device and cloud

Nest Egg

$4.99 (in-app purchases)

iOS

Device and cloud

Sortly

Free (Advanced is $39/mo, Ultra is $99/mo)

Both

Device and cloud

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Frequently asked questions

How do I document my home inventory?

You can document your home inventory by making a detailed list of your belongings and how much they cost. It's helpful to include a photo so you can prove what condition they were in, or even a video. You should also consider hanging on to receipts so you have proof of how much you paid for the item.

How detailed does a home inventory need to be?

You'll want to include information like how much you bought the item for or an estimated replacement cost. If you want to be extra detailed, you can include things like a serial or model number of the item.

Authors

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert 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.

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

gray linkedin icon link

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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