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A home inventory of your belongings for insurance purposes is a relatively inexpensive way to make any future claims go smoother.

Creating a home inventory for insurance doesn’t need to be complicated. All you really need is a pencil and paper. The key is to have a record of your possessions in the event you experience a theft or casualty loss from flood, fire, or other disaster.

But the more thorough the documentation of your belongings, the less likely you are to run into problems when you file an insurance claim. That’s why you should consider using a digital camera, fireproof safes, and other equipment to create and store your home inventory. Devote a full day to the task.

Take pictures of your belongings

Photos of your belongings go a long way toward demonstrating ownership and value. Digital photos are preferred, since they’re easier to print and store. A decent digital camera costs less than $100. Be sure to get full-room shots, as well as close-ups of items. Don’t neglect to photograph possessions inside drawers, cabinets, and closets.

Video is even more convenient and effective, especially since you can record audio along with the images. Describe items and any identifying details as you film your home room by room. Digital camcorders are available for less than $150. It’s a good idea to keep backup copies of digital files and hard-copy printouts in a safe place. (More on storage options below.)

Prepare a written home inventory

Images alone aren’t enough. You should also prepare a written home inventory. Your insurance company will likely ask for one if you ever file a claim. Include as much identifying detail as possible, such as serial numbers, brand names, purchase dates, and estimated costs. Keep a copy off-site, perhaps with a friend or in a bank safe-deposit box, in case your home is damaged or destroyed.

Home inventory software is also available. Enter information on your possessions, attach digital images, and store the data electronically. The Insurance Information Institute has a free program called Know Your Stuff, or there are a number of programs available for purchase.

Be sure to attach receipts to your home inventory list. If you’re storing your records electronically, you’ll want to scan receipts at a copy and print shop or purchase a scanner. Pick one up for as little as $50 at an office supply store. Digital copies of receipts come in handy if originals are damaged or lost.

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San Diego, CA 92121


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