You buy homeowners or renters insurance to cover yourself in case of a fire or other disaster, but you may be forgetting one important step that can save time and money later.
Read on to learn how to create and maintain a home inventory.
Expert: Take inventory before a disaster
Ware Wendell with Texas Watch recommends every policy holder document the condition of their home and its contents before you ever have to file a claim.
“I’ve dealt with it before as a lawyer and I’ve heard of it as a consumer advocate - where they play what I call the pre-existing damage game,” Wendell said.
The insurance company may also require a list of everything you owned. Documenting belongings before a disaster will help ensure you won't have to rely on memory if you lose everything.
“It's going to take you probably 30 minutes to an hour and it's time well spent,” Wendell said.
How to get started
“It's a lot easier to make a claim if you have a home inventory than if you don't,” said Ben Gonzalez with the Texas Department of Insurance.
An inventory can be as simple as taking a video tour of your home, Gonzalez said. Open drawers, closets, go through the garage. Snap photos of model and serial numbers of valuable items.
Save that information to the cloud or email yourself so you don’t lose your inventory if something happens to your phone.
“I use the notes app on my phone because you can add photos, you can add text and you can even attach a document to it with the scanner,” Gonzalez said.
Take a home inventory every time you move and keep the information current.
“If you've bought something new or maybe you've made an addition — those are the kinds of things you want to note on a home inventory,” Gonzalez said.
TDI has a checklist to help get started. There are also free apps to help with the process, and your insurance company may offer an app.
Understand your policy before you have to file a claim
While you’re working on a home inventory, make sure you understand your policy and what’s required if you file a claim.
Take a look at whether your insurance company will factor in depreciation for the insured contents of your home or whether the company will pay to replace the item at the present-day value.
Actual cash value benefits usually factor in depreciation — the age and condition of the item. Replacement cost benefits cover the cost of buying a new item. As TDI explains, policies with actual cash value coverage cost less, but they also pay less when you have a claim.
“Most coverage that we have is going to be either for replacement cost coverage or actual cash value,” Gonzalez said. “Each company will have their own requirements. Ask your company what they recommend for a home inventory.”
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