Imagine trying to list every possession you own, along with eachitem’s worth, after your home has been destroyed by fire or anatural disaster. The task will feel overwhelming and will benearly impossible.

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However, having a detailed home inventory can make thedifference between a paid insurance claim and a disputed claim.Relying solely on your memory could be expensive.

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[Related: The 7 rules for protecting your valuables BEFOREdisaster strikes]

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According to a 2012 survey from the National Association of InsuranceCommissioners, over 75% of consumers don’t have a homeinventory. Of those who do, many haven’t kept their recordsup-to-date or don't include the necessary documentation.

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A home inventory can simplify filing an insurance claim, helpyou secure a settlement and prove useful when verifying propertyloss for taxes. When you assign values to your items, a homeinventory can also help estimate how much insurance you reallyneed.

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In 2012, in the aftermath of the devastating Waldo Canyon firenear Colorado Springs, Colo. that consumed 346 homes, CarrieMitchell realized the importance of having a detailed inventoryprior to a devastating loss. As a result, she founded TWS Home Inventory and AssetManagement Group, to help homeowners and businesses. Sincethen, Mitchell has assisted home and business owners across thecountry create comprehensive and customized inventories.

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Here are Mitchell’s 11 rules for creating an all-inclusive homeinventory.

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Couple reading homeowners insurance policy

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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1. Read your homeowner’s policy (or discuss it with youragent)

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According to Mitchell, less than 5% of people actually readtheir homeowner’s policy. Review you policy or talk to yourinsurance agent to understand what’s covered.

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[Related: 5 steps to smarter catastrophepreparations]

  • Are you covered for the replacement value of your possessionsor only actual cash value?
  • Do you need any special riders or endorsements for uniqueitems?
  • Do you have any musical instruments that need to becovered?
  • If you have firearms, are they covered?
  • Are your golf clubs covered?

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front of nice house

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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2. Start with photos of the outside of thehouse

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Take photos of the outside of your house from at least fourangles. Be sure to photograph your home’s landscaping so you’ll beable to have it recreated in the event of loss. Don’t forget tophotograph all outdoor furniture and ornaments.

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Tip: Create a video if you have time, but adjustersprefer photos. It’s very time consuming to stop and start a videoto view all items. Photographs are easy to review.

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kitchen in house

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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3. Photograph each room from at least fourangles

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Take a room-by-room photographic inventory. Take as manypictures as needed to inventory each and every room in yourhouse.

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walk in closet

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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4. Open every closet, cupboard anddrawer

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Before you open a drawer, try to list every item in the drawer.You’re losing money if you forget anything.

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Document the following information about every item in yourhome:

  • When you got it
  • Where you got it
  • How much it cost

Keep receipts, if possible. Scan receipts to keep with your homeinventory. Keep the receipts of new household purchases in aspecial folder so you can update your inventory at least annually(tax time is a good time to update).

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Clothes closets

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Clothes, shoes, purses, accessories and jewelry add up in value.Be sure to take photos of your bedroom closets. For any item over$350 in value, take a separate photo of the item and label.

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cozy bedroom with window coverings

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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5. Don’t forget to update your inventory after homeimprovements

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Did you get new window coverings or new hardwood floors? Be sureto update your home inventory. Homeowners often go years withoutdocumenting upgrades.

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home electronic equipment

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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6. Photograph model and serial numbers forelectronics

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In today’s homes, electronics are major purchases. Be sure tophotograph (and list) each piece of electronic equipment. Take aphoto of the model and serial number plates. Include:

  • televisions
  • stereo systems
  • computers
  • mobile devices

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china place setting

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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8. China, crystal and silver need specialattention

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Lay out a full set of your china to photograph. Take a pictureof the front and back of your plates to show the brand and pattern.Then, take of picture of where your china, crystal and silver isstored to show you own the whole set.

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Be sure to specifically document gravy bowls, serving dishes andany extra pieces.

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home garage packed with stuff

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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9. Don’t overlook garage contents

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According to Mitchell, it’s common that your garage containsmore dollars per square foot in inventory than anywhere else inyour home. Take lots of photos.

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Document bicycles, sports equipment, tools, equipment like lawnmowers, and all items stored in your garage.

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old family photographs

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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10. Take photos of things that can’t be replaced (familyphotographs, childhood mementos, etc.)

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Do you have cherished photographs and family heirlooms? Althoughthese items can’t be replaced, at least you’ll have photos and a"living legacy" of these items if they are destroyed. Think ofwhat's precious.

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Also, don’t forget to include rare or high-end items you havepurchased or inherited in your inventory.

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woman using laptop flash drive

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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11. Store the home inventory off premises

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Be sure to keep a copy of your home inventory outside your home,off premises. Use your personal cloud storage to keep copieselectronically. Don’t save the inventory only on a computer drivethat could be destroyed. Also, consider making a flash drive copyand placing it in a safety deposit box.

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Additional resources

  • Encircle Inventory app is a free, photo-based app thatallow you to take photos with your mobile device to easily take aninventory of items in your home or business.

  • TWS HomeInventory creates customized inventories for home and businessowners around the country.

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Jayleen R. Heft

Jayleen Heft is the digital content editor for PropertyCasualty360.com. Contact her at [email protected].