Fewer than 1 in 50 people do it…but taking a photographic inventory of your possessions could save you big bucks in the future.
In 2013, hundreds of thousands of Americans were victims of natural disasters. From Hurricane Sandy to western wildfires and the turbulent tornado season in the Midwest, many people unexpectedly lost everything they owned. Besides the personal trauma of such a loss, the financial costs can be equally devastating.
With good insurance coverage, the loss can be mitigated with the funds to replace everything but the memories. But first you’ll need to prove what was lost. And that’s what trips up most people. Without photographic proof and other substantiating evidence, your insurance company may not reimburse the loss. These are not folks who will just take your word for it when you describe your losses and their value.
Since you never know when disaster may strike, start immediately to make a photographic inventory of ALL your possessions. With a smartphone or digital camera—and the right app or software—this is an easy process.
- First, take photos of each room in your home, your cars, the exterior of your home, the yard, and storage areas. This places most of your individual items in a larger context. It’s kind of a “provenance” to prove that each item actually belongs to you. You may want to combine video with still photography so that you can also insert a running commentary about the inventory.
- Go through each room and photograph every item, even your less valuable possessions. Grouping items in their environment enables insurance professionals to do their estimating more easily. And it makes it simpler to remember each item.
- If possible, take a photo of receipts showing how much and when you purchased each one of your possessions.
- Don’t forget to make copies of important documents (e.g. will, mortgage). Ideally, you should keep the originals in a safe deposit box. But a photo also works.
- Upload all your photos to a flash drive and keep it in a safe place. To be extra safe, keep your photos in a cloud-based Internet program. For example, you can keep all your photos in Box. Besides children and pets, what most people take with them when they have to evacuate quickly is their cherished photos. Yet a surprising number of people have no backup for these cherished memories.
There are several online resources that can facilitate the process of compiling a personal inventory. Many people find that it’s easier to use a structured program to keep track of their possessions. Here are some of the best tools available at this time.
The Insurance Information Institute has developed an online program to list your possessions, the purchase date, and estimated replacement cost. It’s a bit utilitarian, as might be expected from an insurance company, but it does the job.
Custom Excel program
If you know how to use Excel spreadsheet software, it’s relatively easy to set up your own custom inventory management file. You’ll need to create a separate file for photos. Then store this information online and/or a flash drive.
Bank-level protection for important family and business documents, music, videos, and software. While there isn’t a specific feature for home inventory, it’s easy to store the photos, receipts, and other documentation for easy retrieval. Pricing starts at $1.99/month for 2 gigs of storage and goes up to $14.99/month for 50 gigs. Most people opt for the $4.99/month plan (enough to store 1,000 documents, 400 photos, 400 songs, and 250 videos).
Quicken Home Inventory
The Complete House Journal