Household Inventories: Just Do It!

— Written By Trudy Pickett and last updated by

According to insurance experts, the three things you need to help you recover stolen items or settle an insurance claim after loss of household property are:

1. A detailed list of losses

2. Proof of ownership

3. Proof of value

No one expects to lose belongings in a fire, burglary, earthquake or tornado. If a disaster were to strike your home, would you be able to report exactly what you lost? Could you describe your stolen property so the items could be traced and returned to you?


An inventory of your household and personal belongings can help

you to:

• Identify, date and establish the value of your belongings.

• Determine how much insurance protection you need to cover

your items.

• Provide information for an insurance claim in the event of an

insured loss.

• Identify items that are stolen or damaged.

• Settle an insurance claim quickly.

• Verify losses for income tax purposes.

• Prepare a net worth statement.

• Plan for replacement of furnishings and equipment.

Creating inventory lists before the loss helps mitigate the emotional burden and eases the claims process, insurance experts say. Yet most people don’t do it. A 2012 survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners showed that 59 percent of consumers have no inventories.


Compiling an inventory can be done in a document, or with a camera or video recorder.  Include descriptions, serial numbers and, if possible, dates and prices of purchased items. Then, keep copies in secure, remote locations.

Most insurance companies have online or printed information to help homeowners get started. There also are fee-based vendors who conduct household inventories.

Creating a home inventory can seem overwhelming. People don’t even want to think about the unthinkable happening.  Having an inventory is one of the most important things you can do to be financially prepared and help take the heartache and headaches out of the claims process after property loss.

A few tips to remember: Use a video camera to pan across rooms, closets and collections. You can add verbal comments about the contents as your camera records your possessions. Make sure the date stamp feature is turned on and shows the correct date.


Spotlight valuable items one by one. For appliances and electronics, take close-ups of make and model numbers. Again, identify the date of the photographs.


Be sure to review your inventory every five years and record major purchases as you make them. Hopefully you will never need this document, but if you do, it will be an invaluable asset.


Source:  Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas

North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University

commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity

regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, or

disability.  In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without

regard to sexual orientation, North Carolina State University, North

Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local

governments cooperating.