Take your camera for a walk around the house

Losing personal items in a home robbery, fire or natural disaster is very upsetting. The heartache of losing items that had monetary and sentimental value to us is hard. But trying to deal with insurance claims can be a hassle at best and a nightmare at worst.

It’s better to protect yourself now and document your possessions rather than trying to do it after something has happened. A home inventory will give you an accurate recording of your assets for insurance purposes. And give you a better idea of how much homeowner’s insurance you need to ensure proper coverage.

When you have an insurance claim, insurance companies will often ask for copies of receipts or pictures of the items lost as proof that you actually had them in the first place.

Taking a photo inventory is an excellent way to show that you had the items and the condition they were in prior to the loss. It can also be a great way to determine if you have adequate insurance coverage.

One of the things you can do – in advance – to make this potential problem much more manageable is to pull out your camera or video camera and start taking pictures of everything you own. This includes furniture, electronics like televisions and stereos, jewelry, clothes, and more.

Photos will not only prove that you owned these items before they were destroyed or stolen, but will also indicate the condition of those items. Your photo inventory, which should be kept up to date, could mean the difference between a claim being honored or rejected.

While you’re at it, also take photos of your important documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, insurance records, etc. They should all be kept in a fireproof safe. For your most important documents, such as your will, take a photo of it and then keep it elsewhere, such as a safe deposit box.

Here are some tips to help you take your own photo inventory:

  • Use a color camera with a flash, video camera, or a digital camera
  • Label the photos and videotapes with the dates taken
  • Place a card with the price and purchase date next to the items in the photo
  • Save the images to a USB and make a couple of copies, storing one or printed pictures in your safety deposit box or with a relative.
  • Focus your flash away from mirrors and other reflective surfaces, including opening glass doors to prevent reflections, and angle the flash to avoid glare when photographing jewelry
  • Include a family member in the picture to help substantiate ownership
    Open closet doors to show the amount of clothing you own
  • Take pictures of the insides of drawers with the contents fanned out
  • Use a dark cloth as a background for silver, china or jewelry
  • When photographing china, take a picture of the pattern name or manufacturer’s signature, along with a picture of the pattern
  • Photograph power tools
  • If you want to take only a few pictures, either take group pictures of your most valuable un-appraised items, or record whole rooms with your most valuable and theft-prone items prominently displayed
  • Don’t forget to include the camera that you have been using as part of your photo inventory

A faster (but not easier) way is to also take video of your belongings, and doing a walk-through of your home. But having photos on hand will be best if you ever have to file an insurance claim.

Have you already started your photo inventory? If so, what tips and tricks would you share? Let me know in the comments section of the blog post.


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