Renters or homeowner’s insurance is extremely commonplace in our society, and without it, many of us would be hard-pressed to get a good night’s sleep. We rely on our insurance to protect our homes, our belongings and to help us rebuild our lives in the wake of a natural disaster or unforeseen emergency. And yet, insurance is only part of the story.
The MilitaryTimes recently covered the story of an Air Force couple who spent just under a year trying to locate and replace the contents of two safes that were lost during a PCS without a record of their contents. The Johnsons report having lost “small gold bars, valuable collector’s comic books, savings bonds, birth certificates, gemstones bought in Afghanistan, Social Security cards for the Johnsons and their three children, passports, and a number of personal items that can’t ever be replaced” when they allowed the safes to be moved by a commercial shipping company without listing the contents on the packing log. While a home inventory wouldn’t have prevented the Johnson’s safes from being misplaced or stolen, it would provide a solid base for their replacement claim.
- Home inventory tools, strategies and tips (read below & watch videos)
- Home inventory videos (click part 1 / part 2 or scroll down) 3 min each
- Download PDF Home Inventory spreadsheet tracker or Google Doc Home Inventory tracker spreadsheet organized by room, with the most common items already listed for you.
Missing piece of the puzzle = home inventory.
While your home owners or personal property insurance coverage may indeed be excellent, if you don’t have a solid grasp of what you own and how much it’s worth, dealing with the aftermath of an emergency will be extraordinarily difficult. You’ll also be more likely to be reimbursed for less than your possessions are worth.
Home inventories are one of the most useful overlooked, underutilized investments you can make for your future.
Home inventory is especially important for military members and their families. Frequent moves, lost shipments, damaged goods and countless mind-boggling cases of possession loss make the benefits of a home inventory well worth the time and trouble.
A thorough home inventory can help you:
- Track your belongings before and after a PCS
- Decide how much insurance you need
- Expedite claims processes after an emergency
- Provide the supporting documentation you need when it comes time to file taxes
Now that you’re convinced you need a home inventory, take a moment to decide on a strategy. While the concept of a home inventory is a simple one, tracking and listing everything you own may seem intimidating. A little planning will go a long way to make taking inventory more efficient and effective.
Methods for taking a home inventory
Notebook or spreadsheet:
While making a simple list of all your possessions may be tedious and time-consuming, it’s still an effective way to document the contents of your home.
Hand-made lists or spreadsheets can be listed room-by-room or grouped by category, like listing every television you own in your home, then cameras, and so on. Or, create a combination of methods to suit your preference for organization.
Picture documentation serves as an extremely useful addendum to a thorough list, but it can also take the place of a notebook or spreadsheet.
Walk through each room, photographing each item. Take care to photograph serial numbers and manufacturers, especially on higher-value items. While this seems like a faster option, it can get tricky with closets and other tight spaces. A great time to do photo documentation is immediately after spring cleaning or after a purge/organization preceding a PCS.
As with a notebook or spreadsheet, be sure you have backups to your pictures and save them in a location that will be easily retrievable when you need them.
Video documentation works similarly to photo documentation, but you’ll have the added benefit of narration and including some extra details about the items as you walk through. A little advance organization will go a long way to ensure you get the most important details. Open all your cabinets, closets, and safes before you begin.
Digital home inventory solutions are becoming more popular, and many people are turning to the ever-growing selection of tools and apps available online. Digital home inventory solutions come in many varieties of price points and levels of detail.
Be prepared to note the following details in your inventory:
- Name of the item
- Condition of the item
- Brand and description
- Purchased date, cost at purchase and an estimated current value
- Serial number, when applicable
- Additional relevant details may include: Antique history, manufacturer, or country item was purchased. If you’re still paying for something, note the debt holder, the amount of remaining debt on the item, monthly payment amount and other relevant details.
Home Inventory Tips and Tricks
Do not attempt to inventory by memory! You must be present to do a physical walk through, or mistakes are almost certain to be made.
Don’t forget the garage, attic, and the inside of your vehicles!
If you have receipts saved from large purchases, copy and include them with your other paperwork. The more physical proof of value and documentation you have to include with your inventory, the better.
Last but not least, remember to keep your home inventory in a safe place! Your hard work will go to waste if your only copies of your lists perish alongside your belongings in a house fire. Keep your home inventory with you as one of your important documents during each PCS and consider storing it with your other personal information in a safe place, like a bank safe deposit box. Or, you can share a copy with a trusted family member as a backup.
Ready to start your home inventory?
AHRN.com wants to help you make your next PCS the smoothest yet! We have created a home inventory spreadsheet that you can use digitally or print out and add to your PCS Toolkit binder!
Grab the Google Doc, then click File/Download As and save it to your computer for your personal use. Or, click on the image below to open the PDF and save to your computer.
We want to know:
How do you keep track of your household goods?