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Home inventory: why you need to create one

It’s annoying if you forget to take out the recycling or pick up bread during your supermarket run, but you can always make an extra grocery trip or write a to-do list for next week. There is, however, one list you don’t get to make once you realize you need it: the home inventory.

What is a home inventory?

A list of your possessions and their estimated value, home inventories help you decide exactly what kind of home insurance to buy. It will shed light on your big library, tech tool collection, or all the business supplies you keep at home, which is essential for determining whether or not you have sufficient contents insurance.

Most home policies come with set caps on different types of content—$6,000 for jewelry and $1,000 for bicycles, for example—and you can buy additional coverage if you own more than that.

If you rent, you should it’s one of the biggest pieces of your tenant’s insurance. After liability, look to find a renters insurance personal property calculator (hint: see below) to add up all your property and contents to ensure your valuables are protected. 

If you experience a loss, home inventories can also make filing claims easier. You’ll likely be stressed and tired after your home is damaged by a catastrophe, and wouldn’t necessarily remember to file a claim for everything you lost.

But if you have a home inventory, you can simply cross-reference the list with what was salvaged. Home inventories can also help you get tax relief or catastrophe assistance from the government since they prove how much you have actually lost.

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How can I get my home inventory?

There are two ways to create a home inventory. A manual method and, you guessed it, an app method.

The manual method of creating a home inventory

To make things easier, the Insurance Bureau of Canada offers a personal property inventory pamphlet to guide you. To create your own home inventory, here are the steps you should take:

  1. Walk through your house and, room by room, write down all the items you find. Don’t forget to check through drawers and closets, and add items kept outside the main house, such as in garages and sheds. For clothes and shoes, you can simply list the number of items you have in each category: two pairs of leather boots, 12 t-shirts, etc.
  2. Photograph your valuable possessions, including serial numbers on appliances, computers and other electronics. Alternatively, film your space as you walk through each room for a quick way to get started.
  3. You can use one of the many apps designed for home inventories or create an Excel spreadsheet and a folder of JPGs. For a spreadsheet, create columns for description, quantity, serial number, year and place purchased, and cost.
  4. If possible, attach receipts and/or credit card statements to your inventory. Telling your insurer what was specifically lost means they’ll reimburse you for the actual item, not the cheapest model or brand. For big ticket items that may have increased in value, such as jewellery and paintings, consider getting them appraised. And note that Amazon keeps a history of any items you purchased through the site and will provide you with a copy of a receipt whenever you might need it.
  5. Make sure you store this information safely, whether that’s uploading the files to YouTube, Flickr or a cloud account, storing it on a USB, or emailing it to your parents. Just keep the inventory in a place that will survive even if your home doesn’t.
  6. Don’t forget to update your inventory whenever you buy new items.

Home inventory with an app

There are many apps available to create a valuation of house contents for insurance. One that we really like is made by the good people at Sortly.

With Sortly you can organize your home inventory in several different folders making items easier to find either by their location or the type of item (such as jewellery). You can also add descriptions to the items allowing you to quickly search for any item in your inventory.

For insurance, the best part about Sortly is the level of detail you can add to any particular item. For instance, if something were to be stolen, you could quickly recall the item’s serial number, associated proof of purchase, warranty expiration dates, and include up to 8 photos to display the item’s condition. After you’ve collected all the data, add up all the prices to calculate the total value of the contents in your home, or in any particular category to provide to your insurance provider. You can export in a CSV file or a PDF for easy shareability. If you find that you have some expensive items, it might be worth

How much for such an app? The basic version of the Sortly is free, forever. If you have more than 100 items to enter, or need some logos on your paperwork, there is a premium version.

What should be included in my home inventory?

You should include as much possible detail of each and every item when doing a home inventory for insurance. Sortly makes this easy for you. But, just in case, here are some things home insurance providers will want to see in a home inventory.

  • Name of the item – If possible, use the branded product name and the model number. The more specific, the better.
  • A detailed description – If there is no brand name, use distinguishing characteristics like colour, dimensions, and any wear and tear.
  • Receipt – cost, date, and warranty –  If you have the receipt, great. If not, try to find proof online. Also, include the date of purchase to value the item and its depreciation appropriately.
  • Serial number –TMost electronics like TV’s, appliances, and laptops will have a serial number. Use them if they are available to you.

Keep your home inventory up-to-date

Buy something new? Add it to your home inventory. If you renovate or move, it’s another great time to do an inventory. Finally, if you make it an annual practice just before your home insurance comes up for renewal, it also makes for a great time shop around for new home insurance quotes to make sure you’re getting the best bang for you buck.

Try to make the inventory fun. It can be boring but use it as a tool to marvel at what you have, minimize where you can, and afterwards, make sure to celebrate your hard work.