How to Create a Home Inventory for Your Insurance Claim

Tobias Patch
40 articles

Last updated on September 17, 2023
Published on January 15, 2023
Reading time: 10 minutes

Home Inventories for Emergencies and Insurance Claims

This article will provide an in-depth guide to creating a home inventory, offering tips on the best practices and tricks of the trade. In addition, we’ll discuss insurance industry-specific details such as which items to include, how to estimate values, how inventories help buy better insurance, and how often you should update your inventory.

Ultimately, our goal is to give you the tools to understand the importance of creating a home inventory and teach you how to simplify the process so you can create one that is accurate and up-to-date.

Let’s start by discussing the importance of having a home inventory in the first place.

Why is it important to create a home inventory?

Having an organized list of all your possessions can help you quickly verify losses for items lost or damaged in an emergency, such as a fire or burglary, and help you understand what you own and its total value.

A complete home inventory can be invaluable in an emergency, natural disaster, or burglary. It provides peace of mind knowing that you have listed all your possessions and their estimated value so that you can more quickly and accurately file a claim with your insurance company for reimbursement if something happens. Making lists of the things you own might seem challenging, but it’s not difficult to take the first step to get started. All homeowners, condo owners, and renters should create a home inventory for insurance purposes.

Here are the top 5 reasons why a home invetory can be helpful: 

  1. Some things you own may need special insurance to be covered. If you have a list of what you own, your insurance agent can tell you what kind of insurance you need or how best to decide on adequate insurance for partial protection.
  2. Many people do not know how much their belongings are worth. If you make a list of all your belongings, you will be able to confirm the amounts of your items, and thus, you will know their worth. And it helps when informing your agent about how much insurance coverage you would like to buy or helping you determine if you want to fully cover all of the value of your possessions.
  3. We must plan for the worst, even if we hope it never happens. Imagine losing everything in a fire. An inventory will make the insurance claims process faster and is the only way to ensure you’re fully compensated for your losses.
  4. The advantage of knowing what you own is that it becomes simpler to get a quote for moving, file an insurance claim, or know how much something is worth. Keeping a list of your belongings will make these tasks easier and faster.
  5. Communicate with your insurance representative with a complete home inventory worksheet to help your insurance company get your insurance claim settled faster.

What to include in a home inventory for my insurance policy or insurance claim?

You should include some or all of the following things for your insurance company. The best inventory is detailed and contains helpful information. Here are some of the items to include in your inventory list.

  • Store sales receipts
  • The item’s make, model, brand name, and serial number
  • Overview photos that show the entire room’s contents
  • Photos that help identify the item (like the model and serial number)
  • The estimated value of each item
  • High-value items
  • Purchase date
  • Purchase contracts for items on payment plans

Best Practices for Creating Your Home Inventory

While not all items like clothing, general household decor, or furnishings require sales receipts, it does help, so if you have them, you can scan them and keep a record. Of course, receipts are always best, but who’s kidding? Not everyone is going to have sales receipts for every item they own, so when you do not, a picture can suffice, but you will need to ensure you take good photos that help confirm more than just the way the item looks and provide a room by room record of the items in your home.

Get photos showing where the items were kept or stored, and get pictures of the make, model, and serial numbers, especially for important itesm like electronic equipment, heirlooms, and antiques. Remember to closely document valuable items such as upscale clothing to prove their real worth. And last but not least, remember off-site items! Your homeowner’s insurance policy will likely cover your contents in storage facilities while moving, on vacation, or traveling for work.

When should I make an inventory list for my house?

inventory checklist saves you from complete ruin
The best time is before it is too late.

There is no “best time” to make your home inventory. But, truthfully, THE BEST TIME IS NOW. If you wait until after a tragedy strikes, it may be too late.

It can seem like a daunting task to create a home inventory but treat it like cleaning your room; start in one corner and keep going until it’s done. First, start your list in one room of your home. Start with a small space like a closet. Next, take photos and attach any other information that goes along with it using Brelly’s home inventory app. It is the best of the free home inventory apps. It streamlines the process and makes it simple for you to complete. Just do this for a few days out of the month, and your entire home inventory will be complete before long.

What is the easiest way to make an inventory for home insurance claims?

The easiest way to start a home inventory for an insurance claim is to take photos or videos of your belongings. It is a simple way to document your possessions and can be done quickly. You can have a detailed home inventory ready for insurance, moving, or other purposes with just a few clicks.

Follow these simple steps to get started and make a home inventory:

  • Take pictures and videos: before you take a picture of something, make sure that everything you want in the picture is visible. Also, be sure to take photos of the item from all sides and capture identifying details like tags or brand names.
  • For videos: move slowly and methodically to ensure a clear view. Get a close-up view of the item’s make, model, brand, and serial numbers.
  • Checking your phone or digital camera while taking pictures or videos is a good idea. This way, you can ensure that the shot is in focus and that there is nothing else in the frame that you don’t want in the final product.
  • ALWAYS CHECK YOUR WORK – it is worth the extra few minutes to stop periodically to ensure you get good usable photos and videos. It’s frustrating when you spend time making a home inventory only to realize it was an incomplete inventory for homeowners insurance policy purposes.

Let’s talk home inventory apps!

person using app to build a home inventory listThere are many mobile app options for free home inventory apps, but few are as comprehensive or valuable as the Brelly app inventory feature. It makes the process easier by allowing you to take and store photos, videos, documents, and itemized lists in one secure digital file. You can access them quickly if you need them later, but most importantly, if bad luck strikes and you file an insurance claim, you will have everything ready to go. Go into your Brelly contents inventory, select stolen, damaged, or destroyed items, and create a simple report to send to your adjuster to show the replacement value.

Home inventory the “old-school” way

Building a written list without one of these fancy home inventory apps is possible. Some of us remember a time before these digital tools when you used a pen and paper to create a written list. It works fine to document your home inventory with a pen, paper, and a digital camera. Remember, creating a home inventory in a digital format can help improve security, simplicity, and speed and make manipulating the information much more manageable. But sometimes, the tried and true pen, paper, and digital camera are just as good.

But remember having it done is better than not, so use whatever approach you prefer and is easiest for you; just get started. There is no wrong way!

Keep your home inventory list safe and accessible

If you choose the pen-and-paper approach, we sincerely advise storing that list in a fire and waterproof safe or safety deposit box. It would be horrible to lose your belongings in a fire and your home inventory, too. If you are still unsure where to store your inventory list, we recommend a safe deposit box as the best choice; this way, it will be easily accessible. Fires and other disaster events are the main reason we suggest you use the Brelly Home Inventory app. No matter what happens, you can always access the information.

Home inventory lists help find the right homeowners insurance policy.

Maintaining a comprehensive home inventory is crucial for accurately determining the correct amount of insurance for your belongings. There are many reasons why it is good to know the value of what you own, but one of the most significant benefits of having a detailed inventory is to help you when it comes time to shop for homeowners insurance. Having a comprehensive list of everything in your home will prove invaluable in helping ensure that your homeowner’s insurance covers the right things and for the right amount of money. Reviewing your policy each year and updating your content coverage accordingly is a good idea.

A home inventory is an essential component when it comes to protecting your belongings and your financial future. Take the time now to be prepared, don’t wait until it’s too late.

Are my personal belongings worth very much?

The answer to this question is relative and depends on various factors. It may come as a surprise, but the possessions in your home are likely worth more than $50,000. Studies have shown that households are underinsured by over $15,000 on average. While it is important to remember to include valuable items like jewelry, art, and antiques in your estimates, it’s also easy to overlook everyday things that can add up in cost.

person adding up the value of their personal contents inventory

To get a better sense of what your personal contents might be worth, here is a list of an average 2,500 sq. ft. home’s content values.

Home Furnishings: Your home’s furniture can be pretty valuable; households average around $8,500 worth of furniture.

White goods: Many people take appliances such as refrigerators, washers, and dryers for granted. The typical home has around $4,500 worth of white goods.

Home and Garden tools: Your home and garden tools can hold substantial value; on average, people have $1,800 worth of tools sitting in their garages.

Kitchen and Cookware: Kitchen appliances, cookware, and even dinnerware like a salad plate or dinner plate can hold significant value. For instance, a full dinner set at Target can run as little as $60 or over $300.

Toys: If you have children, you should ensure you get a complete list of their toys and other items. Most homes with 2-4 children have around $7,500 worth of toys, clothes, and other related kid’s things.

Wardrobe: Your closet might hold a goldmine of valuable items; on average, people have around $15,000 in their wardrobe. This might seem hard to believe, but when you consider your professional, casual, and recreational garments, you likely have a substantial amount of value in your dressers and closets.

Pro Tip:

Items are often purchased in sets, so if you must replace just one part of the set, you are likely owed for the complete set to be replaced.

What is the easiest way to start a home inventory?

The easiest way to start a home inventory is by following these 6 simple steps. Turn it into a time-driven challenge to help make it more fun.

  1. Set a timer for 30 minutes and grab a notebook or a piece of paper or one of the many mobile app options.
  2. Go room by room in your house and write down every item that you consider valuable or could be worth money.
  3. As you go through each room, assign a rough estimate of how much you think each item is worth.
  4. Once the timer goes off, take a break and research online. Look up the prices of similar items on websites like Amazon, eBay, and Wayfair.
  5. Compare your estimates with the prices you find online or applicable receipts and see how accurate you were.
  6. After you’ve finished going through all the rooms and researching the prices, add the total estimated value of all your items.

This challenge is a great way to learn more about the value of things you own and help you to make more informed decisions when speaking with your insurance agent about the property coverages in your homeowner’s policy.

5 things to know when making a contents claim on your homeowners insurance

Many people are unsure of the process and what to expect when making a contents insurance claim. As an insurance expert, I want to give you an inside look into how an insurance company handles a contents claim and what you can do to ensure your claim is dealt with as smoothly as possible.

First and foremost, it’s essential to understand that every insurance company has its own specific claims process. However, in general, the process for an insurance company to pay out on a contents claim typically goes as follows:

  1. Notification: The first step is to notify your insurance company of the loss as soon as possible. You can typically do this by phone or online, and your insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to your case.
  2. Documentation: Your insurance company will likely ask for documentation of the loss, and maybe even a formal Proof of Loss. For a loss due to theft, a police report will be required. Or if the loss is due to a natural disaster, they will want detailed documentation of each item and the damage it sustained. Additionally, you will need to provide proof of ownership and the value of the lost or damaged things.
  3. Inspection: Depending on the type of loss, an insurance adjuster may need to visit your home to inspect the damage and assess the loss. They may also ask for additional documentation, such as photographs of the damage.
  4. Evaluation: Once the insurance company has all the necessary documentation and information, they will evaluate the claim and determine the amount they will pay out.
  5. Payment: If your claim is approved, the insurance company will pay out the agreed-upon amount minus any deductibles or policy limits.

Pro tip: 

Be mindful of the policy limits. Policy limits are the maximum amount of money your insurance company will pay under a specific category. Make sure you know these limits and have enough coverage to protect your valuable possessions.

Avoid these common mistakes to get your contents insurance claim settled faster

Creating an inventory list is likely not part of your day job like an adjuster might do; it is essential to remember that it is your responsibility to get it done right. We’ve outlined some common mistakes people make when creating an inventory list for their insurance company.

  • Leaving out recent purchases
  • Forgetting to include the complete itemized list of items kept in a kitchen cabinet, like kitchen utensils, pots, and pans.
  • Being concerned about including older possessions because they fear it won’t add value to their insurance claim or be covered
  • Not including big-ticket items like major appliances, musical instruments, TVs, game consoles, or jewelry.
  • Forgetting to include the date of purchase or actual cash value
  • Forgetting off-site items in storage units
  • Missing entire rooms by mistake
  • Not including important individual items like jewelry

Wrapping things up

We’ve reviewed the steps to take when building a home inventory, discussed tips and tricks to ensure you get it done right and talked through some critical points about handling contents insurance claims. Hopefully, this article has been helpful and provides you with the information and encouragement to start -and finish- the process of building your home inventory or completing your contents claim. Of course, the irony is that, hopefully, you never need to use your list, but if you do, you will be pleased you took the time to get it done.

Tobias Patch
40 articles
About the author
Tobias is a seasoned contractor, adjuster, and technology zealot. In prior lives he worked for both insurance companies and policyholders, so he understands claims and the rebuilding process from all possible angles. His obsession with finding a better way to handle claims led him to found Brelly, where he serves as the CEO.