Home Owner Tips

Insurance Home Owner Tips

To Maximize Homeowners Policy, Keep Record of Valuables

by Kimberley Edgar

One insurance executive has this advice for anyone looking to keep track of his or her valuables: Make a production of it.

Touring one's home with video camera in hand to document details about construction, furniture, decorations, technology and other belongings is the best way to inventory a home, said Frank Doyle, Senior Vice President, AAA Insurance Agency.

"A homeowners policy includes a lot, and you'll want to get your money's worth," Mr. Doyle said. "This is a great and simple way to document what you have in your home and avoid disagreements with adjusters over what it's worth."

Even the tiniest apartment can contain thousands of dollars worth of personal property. Insurance companies recommend you keep an inventory of your belongings.

Insurance companies often supply customers with a chart to guide them in documenting their possessions. The most effective inventories combine this detailed written list with a videotape with audio narration, photographs of valuable items, or an audiotape with photographs of valuable items.

Mr. Doyle prefers the video-tape. "A video also shows the condition of the home, what's on the windows, what's on the walls, what's on the floors," Mr. Doyle said. "I don't know a lot about drapes, but I do know how much they cost. And if there are oriental rugs, they can be expensive to replace."

Having an index such as The Commerce Insurance Company's Home Inventory List can provide a valuable springboard for the narrative.

Instead of memorizing the information, you can use the list as a script for the tour. Then, it's lights, camera, action! Here's a checklist of items to consider for the tour:

  • Begin in one room, and cover its contents thoroughly. Remember hallways, the attic and basement, and go outside to capture the garage, porch, pool, patio and garden - and exterior views of the home.
  • Treat this production like a documentary: Open doors and drawers to capture hidden treasures such as sterling silver, jewelry and china.
  • Group similar items together when possible, and note anything of special value. Document distinctive information about valuables - model, age, where purchased and unusual quantities. It's important to record serial numbers of major appliances and electronic equipment.
  • Attach any sales receipts, appraisals and photocopies of important documents to the inventory, keeping originals in a safety-deposit box. Often insured separately, collections and specialty items such as jewelry, antiques and art should be appraised to establish value. Photograph or videotape these valuable items against a plain back-ground, next to a ruler.

Once you've finished, keep the list and video off premises in safety-deposit box or with a relative or friend, and update it with new items. Software is available to help organize and store these lists.