Home Inventory Made Easier

Home, Home & Family
on October 16, 2005

Anyone who has experienced property loss and had to make an insurance claim knows how important it is to document their possessions. An inventory is a record of what you own with a description of the articles and their value. While the task of taking a household inventory may seem daunting, the process can be made much easier with the use of a digital camera and home inventory software for your computer.

"Very few people are able to remember everything they own, so having an inventory gives you one less thing to worry about," says Kip Diggs, a representative of State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Ill.

A digital camera helps create an itemized record of possessions because it generates an image that can be printed, embedded in a printed document, or saved on a CD. The image can be manipulated and enlarged so it can identify details, such as the serial number on electronics or intricate markings on a piece of silver.

A detailed inventory should include everything of value inside your home, including furniture, jewelry, artwork, antiques, collectibles, appliances, kitchen contents, clothes, linens, computer equipment, televisions, electronic equipment, musical instruments, tools and sporting gear.

The goal is to document this information:

• Item description and quantity

• Manufacturer or brand name

• Model or serial number

• Description of where (or how) the item was obtained

• Date of purchase or age of item

• Receipt or other proof of purchase, showing cost

• Current value or replacement cost

• Photocopies of any appraisals

Creating an inventory is time consuming, so break it down into workable segments. Make sure the digital camera’s time and date are set correctly and then tackle one room at a time. First photograph an overview of the room from several different locations, then take individual shots of each item as you work your way around the room. Open cabinet doors and drawers and photograph what’s inside. Remove any items that are difficult to see and photograph them on a tabletop where you can get close-ups of identifying features.

The process of transferring images to a home inventory document can be handled by software that connects the camera to the computer. Most home inventory software allows you to imbed digital images into a document so you can create a complete inventory with images and descriptions.

Free inventory software is available on the Internet. The Insurance Information Institute offers "Know Your Stuff Home Inventory" software at its website, www.knowyourstuff.org.

At www.statefarm.com, type "Property Matters" in the search box and you’ll also be directed to free downloadable software. In addition, the website makes available an extensive checklist that can be found by typing "Inventory Checklist" in the search box. Make sure to print out the checklist and fill it in.

To store the inventory, you have several options. Burn the file onto a CD and save it in a safety-deposit box; save it on a hard drive and e-mail it to yourself and a family member for safe keeping; or make a printout of the report to have a hard copy. Of course, the best advice is to do all three.

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