When you think of your house in terms of what needs to be insured, it’s easy to think only of the physical structure outside. However, your homeowners insurance policy doesn’t just cover the cost of rebuilding your home; it also covers the value of the items inside.

But filing a claim can get dicey if you don’t have a list of the items that are in your home. After an incident, trying to remember everything that was damaged or destroyed can be a daunting task. Plus, the insurance company might balk at paying a claim if you don’t have some sort of proof of the value of the items you have lost.

In order to accurately document what your home is worth, and in order to speed the insurance claim process, you should create a home inventory ahead of time to help you quickly and easily evaluate what you have lost if need be.

Creating a home inventory list

Go through your home and make a list of items. You can organize this home inventory by room, cataloging the items as you go, or you can organize it by category (clothing, books, electronics, and so on).

You don’t have to list each item individually if you have a large number of the same type of items—for example, you can list books, movies, or clothing as a single lot and then estimate the lot’s total value. If you have a stand-out item, such as a rare book or a particularly nice suit, list it separately, along with its description and information about its value.

In the case of any valuable items, be as specific as possible. List the item, describe it (including make, model, or serial number, where applicable), and describe where and when it was purchased, if you know, or note if it was a gift.

Document the items visually

It is now easier than ever to take digital photos and videos to document your home inventory items. You can take pictures of each item individually, or you can take pictures of items together, grouped in rooms.

Perhaps the easiest way to create a visual home inventory is to walk through your home while creating a video. Clearly describe the items as you focus on them with the video camera. It’s simple, and it is a relatively quick way to put together your home inventory.

Where to store your home inventory

Your home inventory does you no good if it is destroyed along with your home—you need to keep it in a safe place. If you have images or video, you can store them on a disc or drive and keep that in a fireproof and waterproof safe. A written list can be printed out and stored in such a manner as well.

Another option is to use an online backup program that allows you to store your information so you can get to it from anywhere with Internet access. You can also email the inventory to yourself so it can be opened from almost anywhere. Keep multiple copies of your list in different places so that you can access it when needed.

Rebuilding a house is only part of the equation when disaster strikes. If you don’t have a home inventory, now is the time to make one. If something happens, you’ll be able to file an insurance claim and buy replacements for many of the items you have lost.

Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the co-author of Community 101: How to Grow an Online Community, and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.

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