It seems like every other week you hear about a family losing everything they own in a house fire, or going on a family vacation and coming home to a vandalized home and missing valuables. Just a couple of days ago I read of just such a case, where a family was awakened in the middle of the night by smoke in the house. They barely got everyone out in time before their home and its contents literally went up in flames. I was thankful that no one was hurt, but wondered how they would replace all their belongings. Home owner’s insurance will go a long ways towards recovering much of what was lost, but the best way to ensure that you get your important property replaced is by completing and maintaining a home inventory.
When disaster strikes, your insurance company will require specific information about your losses before they will compensate you. Without a detailed inventory, the emotions of the event may cause you to forget important details like brand names and places of purchase, not to mention serial and model numbers. A good home inventory can help you:
- Provide your insurance company with a complete list of your household goods and personal belongings so you’re sure to receive compensation for everything your policy covers.
- Promptly file a complete claim that can be settled quickly and accurately.
- Confirm that you have adequate coverage for your belongings.
- Determine which items were stolen and identify recovered property after a burglary.
- Provide a record of serial and model numbers for easy identification of your items.
- Provide a receipt from the original place of purchase.
- Verify any parts of your loss that you may write off on your federal income taxes.
There are many ways to compile a property inventory: you can use one of the many inventory software packages that install on your computer; you can use an on-line version of an inventory program; or you can simply create an inventory yourself using a spreadsheet program like Excel (PC) or Numbers (Mac) and a good camera. I happen to prefer the web-based inventory programs, simply because if you use a computer based program, your computer might be one of items you have lost to fire or theft! After doing some research, I have found to highly recommended inventory programs that are web based, one paid and one free.
For $29 a year (after a free 15 day trial period), StuffSafe will keep your property inventory stored online on its secure, encrypted servers. Its easy to use interface allows for storage of not only images and descriptions of all your property, but also insurance policy information. Its drag-and-drop feature makes it simple to move files and photos into their proper folders, while the program also offers nice charts of your inventory’s purchase price and replacement price. You can also export your entire inventory file to a PDF or Excel spreadsheet, and you can also give your insurance agent direct access to your inventory by creating a read-only account for them in the program. Lastly, StuffSafe is also mobile friendly, with its own free app for the iPhone. Here’s a short video tour of the program:
Though not as visually appealing as StuffSafe, the features of Know Your Stuff are very similar. The program accommodates images and scanned receipts and forms, and stores your information on Amazon’s S3 servers. Know Your Stuff also has a free iPhone app available in the iTunes store. Check out this short video about the program: