Home Inventory Guide
Home Inventory – A Guide for Homeowners and Renters

Home Inventory – A Guide
for Homeowners and Renters

The many reasons for a home inventory, plus a do-it-yourself guide and templates.



The Cost of Emotion

DespairEmotion! Why is that word used so often when people talk about the loss the experienced after a loss? Whether it is from a fire, theft, or natural disaster, realizing what has been destroyed can be devastating.

The emotion felt is raw and immediate. It is an unexpected event in your life that you didn’t anticipate. When it’s a theft, you feel violated that someone entered your home or business and dared to take what you own! When the loss is from a fire or natural disaster, many state they feel “why me?”.

The financial loss

And soon after, the victims of this loss realize the financial loss that will most likely occur, adding more stress to their lives.

A theft investigator relayed the story of a man who was burglarized. Alan (not his real name) was so distraught at the thought of being victimized that he could not even remember the brands of his televisions when the police asked for the information.

A month later, he still had not filled out his police report or insurance claim. Alan stated that he became so overwhelmed with negative emotions when he thought about the burglary that he just couldn’t force himself to fill out the paperwork! Therefore, the police had no information to help them even attempt to recover the stolen items. His financial recovery was being delayed.

The final result

What was his financial recovery from his insurance company? Zero dollars! He found out the theft was facilitated by a family member, and the additional emotion he felt because of this encouraged him to do only one thing – just buy new and put it behind him. He just gave up trying to remember the information that the insurance company and police needed.

Imagine how much easier Alan’s experience would have been if he had an inventory of his belongings created prior to the theft. He would have been able to provide the manufacturer, serial number, and model number to both the insurance company and the police. His claim would have been settled quickly, which would have provided the funds to purchase new.

(Since hearing Alan’s story, we have talked to police and found that it is more common than one would think that a burglary is committed by someone the victim knows.)

I Just Didn’t Know

DohI was speaking with a woman recently who had a burglary. We talked about the emotion you go through when you know someone has been in your house, pilfering through your stuff and pulling things out of your drawers while looking for your valuables. She said it will take a while before she can walk into the house without a bit of hesitation…always wondering if she’ll find the same mess she did on the day of the burglary.

She then switched to the financial loss she experienced. The total loss was in the thousands. We talked about the detailed list she was asked to complete – for both the police report and her insurance claim.  They asked for serial numbers and model numbers. They wanted to know the manufacturer of the electronics.

The police and insurance adjuster asked for photos. She had neither a prepared inventory or photos of her belongings. When discussing her jewelry, all she could tell them is whether each item was gold or silver. She often couldn’t give more detail except that there was a stone. Unfortunately, she was unable to offer details of jewelry she received from her mother and grandmother, details such as what type of stone, and whether it was man-made or a valuable gem. When asked for pictures, she had none that were close-ups, so they were of little help. Having photos would have helped, as the police would have been able to distribute them to the pawn shops.

“I have homeowners insurance,” she said. “I just didn’t know I’d have to list everything!”

Unfortunately, we often hear that or similar remarks. Take it from this burglary victim – you DO need to know what you own if you want to receive an equitable settlement from your insurance agent! Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Oh, no! Not again!

2XIn the United States, one in every 36 homes will be burglarized this year. According to the FBI, that means that there is a burglary every 15 seconds! There are no statistics available to show the percent of how many are repeat break-ins, but our discussions with burglary victims and police indicate this is on the rise.

These statistics prove the importance for homeowners to have an inventory of your belongings. If you are the victim of a burglary, these statistics also stress how essential it is to update your inventory as soon as you purchase the replacement items. Indications are you just might need that information again in about three or four months.

So what is the reason for this specific timeframe? This is the normal time it takes for someone to complete their list of items stolen for the insurance company (you do know you will need to provide a detailed list to your insurance company, right?), receive their insurance settlement, and purchase replacement items.

Burglars have found that a second burglary is much better for a few reasons. There is no question about what is inside, so they know it will be a worthwhile “visit.” It will be a much faster in-and-out, since they know exactly where everything is. And, they know, going in, exactly where the “good stuff” is, based on the first theft.

According to A Secure Life, in addition to cash, there are common items commonly targeted: electronic equipment, gold, silver, jewelry, and guns. These are items that are easy to sell to pawn shops or on the street. In addition to stealing items they can readily resell, they also steal items that are easy to carry from the home.

Most likely, they are watching your house, planning the second break-in. Take precautions by not putting the boxes of your newly purchased items at the curb, so they aren’t aware that you’ve already replaced the stolen items. Place jewelry and other small items in a different, less obvious, location. If you have an alarm system, be sure to always have it activated.

And, of course, be sure to have an updated inventory!

Ding-Dong, Burglar Calling

RingingDoorbellBurglars are becoming more sophisticated, many times planning on when to prey on their chosen victims.

Other times, they choose a house to burglarize at random. A common ploy to learn if anyone is home is to just knock on the door or ring the bell. If no one answers, they proceed to enter and help themselves to your belongings.

The more sophisticated thieves, who target their victims, learn when the house will be empty. They often even know for how long! Here are a few real examples how:

  • A man posted on Facebook, announcing that he was going out to dinner, naming the restaurant. Within minutes of the post, this person was burglarized. The police assume it was a neighbor who saw the dinner announcement on Facebook.
  • A family shared vacation photos on social media sites, only to return home to an empty house. Burglars backed up a truck and emptied the house while they were hundreds of miles away.
  • Even more disgusting, a growing trend is to watch the obituaries, noting the times of the calling hours and funeral service. Easy enough for the burglars to know when no one will be around. Additionally, relatives of the deceased are also listed, giving the burglars a few hours to hit more than one house.
  • A woman stated she was leaving for work, saying goodbye to her Facebook friends. A burglar broke into her home later that day and stole all of her jewelry.

The timing of these burglaries could be coincidences, but it doesn’t hurt to take precautions. Law enforcement officers state that most burglaries are committed by someone the victim knows. Maintain some privacy by not posting your itinerary each day on the various social media sites. Vacation photos are fun to share, but if your house is going to be empty while you’re away, wait until you return home to upload them for all to see. It’s not just social media – be cautious about discussing your plans when in a crowd. You never know who is listening to your conversations, learning when you’re going to be away for a few hours or a few days.

You certainly don’t want to spend your summer days filling out insurance claim forms (which would be easier if you had an inventory of what was stolen.) Enjoy your summer, and be safe!

Fear of Loss Addressed by Different Solutions

What do you do to lessen or remove the fear of loss due to burglary, fire, or natural disaster?GuardDog

Common answers when I ask people that question are that they:

  • have a home inventory
  • make sure their insurance is sufficient to replace the losses (proven by your home inventory)
  • have the collectibles, artwork, firearms, etc., scheduled
  • have a security system
  • keep their high-value items in a safe at home or in a bank safe deposit box

Other viable actions taken, but often said with smiles on their faces, are that they:

  • live near a fire hydrant or a police station
  • own a gun
  • have a big – very big – guard dog

Some even decide to sell their items.

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, John Havlicek’s 1960 Ohio State basketball championship ring among items up for auction,  discussed the reason behind the basketball great’s reason to sell his championship rings from his years as a Buckeye and a Celtic. There are many other memorabilia that he also sold at auction. His explanation? According to the article, “Havlicek said he is so worried about something happening to some of his memorabilia that he would rather sell it now and get it into the hands of people who want it, rather than risk losing it.”

Guess it’s time to start marketing our inventory service to those who are the recipients of these auctions, because someone wants these items. Once the purchase these collectibles, they will want an inventory of these valuables to prove ownership so they can protect their assets and ensure their financial future. After all, it’s not the sentimental value – these purchases are strictly a financial decision. An inventory of these collectibles is certainly a document they will need!

This Is Not Uncommon

I hear a lot of comments regarding insurance company policies and procedures after someone experienced a loss from a fire, burglary, or natural disaster. These conversations happen at parties, open houses, networking events – you name it, these conversations come up. Why I’m involved in so many is because I own a home and business inventory company.

So, what is not uncommon that people are talking about regarding insurance companies?

  • You’ll be asked for serial numbers.
  • You’ll be asked for model numbers.
  • You’ll be asked for the name of the manufacturer.
  • They will expect you to list what you paid for each item.
  • They will want to list the fair market value of each item.
  • You’ll be asked when you purchased the item/how old each item is.
  • You’ll be required to provide a detailed list of what was damaged, destroyed, or stolen. And the means every single item you want to be reimbursed for. That includes food, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, decorative items, in addition to your large ticket items.

How do I know this? In addition to providing an inventory service for disaster preparedness (creating the inventory now, before you need it), we also assist with after-loss inventories. We have listed items for replacement that include the number of

  • tubes of lipstick
  • rolls of toilet paper
  • bottles of laundry soap
  • pods of dishwashing detergent
  • bottles of nail polish
  • toothbrushes
  • boxes of cereal
  • cans of food

The list can go on forever, as you can see. So, when people express what they had to go through to list their losses before receiving reimbursement from their insurance company, our reply is, “This is not uncommon.” I just wish more people realized the importance of having an inventory prepared while everything is still in one piece!

Three Reasons to Keep Track Of Your Business Inventory

Guest Post: Fishbowl Inventory discusses the various reasons to document and track your company inventory. Whether raw goods or personal property, such as equipment, furniture, electronics, knowing the value of your business assets is essential for many reasons.

ThreeTracking your business inventory can save you from a serious financial problem if disaster strikes. Insurance companies need exact details filled out on your claim form. If you do not have accurate records, you could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your business will also struggle to acquire the money needed to buy or repair equipment, the building, and paying for lost income. With accurate inventory tracking, you can easily manage every detail related to your business. Here are three reasons why you need to track your business inventory.

Instigate a Tracking System

To start the tracking system within your business, you need to purchase software. Consider using a cloud storage drive to save your information. Using a cloud drive will prevent you from losing the data in case a fire or flood damages the information you have input. Inventory tracking systems allow you to maintain accurate records. They will record all purchases and will provide a year-end report. This information is helpful for taxes and other business records. Accurate tracking of your inventory will assist with sales goals and purchasing times. If you are worried about when to buy additional raw goods or other supplies, an inventory tracking system will help. The system will give you an average of the past few months, providing you with a general idea of your sales.


If you do not track your inventory, your insurance coverage may not be high enough. Most businesses will start to acquire new assets and inventory items the longer they are in business. If you have not updated your inventory spreadsheet, your insurance might not even cover the costs of a disaster. For example, if you own a pizza restaurant and a fire destroys your business, the insurance adjuster will provide an estimate to the insurance company. The insurance company will then look at your total coverage amount and will replace everything that is covered on their plan. So if you forgot to add your new $14,000 walk-in freezer system or oven, you may not be eligible to have them replaced.

Customer Loss

Not only do businesses need to recognize the costs to their personal income and business income, a disaster can cost them customers. Customers may not wait to return to your business for future orders as you repair your business. This is concerning for small business owners as you already struggle to make a name for yourself. Theft is another concern with inventory tracking. If you do not have a system that tracks every single item in your store, your theft loss can be extremely high. Some business owners do not even realize how many employees or customers are stealing items right out of their inventory.

Visual Documentation

To prevent your insurance company from short-changing you, create a video inventory. A video inventory will include everything in the store along with information about everything. You need to keep receipts, credit card statements, maintenance records, and other documentation on your inventory. Scan these items and save them to your cloud drive and then store everything in a fire-safe box. In the event of a disaster, your entire store is documented on a video and in an Excel spreadsheet. This will help the insurance company when you are filing claims and will prevent you from additional income loss.

Robert Lockard is a copywriter with Fishbowl. He writes for several blogs about inventory management, manufacturing, QuickBooks, and small business.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

limitsQuite often, when completing an inventory for a client, we hear the following: I didn’t know that!

What many people don’t know is that their homeowners insurance policy has limits on specific items. We had this discussion twice last week, in fact.

When we’re taking the photos and recording the serial numbers of firearms, and there are more than just a few, we ask them if they have them scheduled (sometimes called a rider). The reason for the question is that most policies have a limit of what they’ll pay if firearms taken during a burglary. This average limit is $2000. So, if you have weapons worth more than that, you might want to consider purchasing a rider.

The same is true for jewelry. The value of fine costume jewelry can add up very quickly, and many of our clients easily exceed their policies’ limits. Cash, antiques, collectibles, and others items can be included in the list of items that are subject to a limited pay-out.

No matter what the full value of your homeowners coverage, the limits mean exactly that – a dollar limit on what you will receive if these items are stolen.

So the old saying of what you don’t know can’t hurt you is SO not true when you’re talking about insurance. Talk to your agent. You aren’t required to purchase additional insurance, but after learning what your loss would equal, and comparing that to what a scheduled item would cost, plus what you are willing to risk losing, then you will be able to make an educated decision.

After we deliver the inventory portfolio, many of our customers take the information to their agent; we’ve been told by agents and our clients alike that it was very helpful in guiding them what to schedule, and for what dollar amount as well.

Top 5 Tips to Reduce Theft of Personal Property from Your Vehicle

By now, you’ve probably ticked off some of the gifts you’ll be purchasing for your holiday celebrations, but most likely still have quite a few to purchase. Your car might have just a couple items, or you might have the trunk jam-packed full.

Unfortunately, thefts are typically up during the holiday shopping season. Though you can never completely remove the risk of theft, there are special precautions you can take to help deter a would-be burglar from taking items from your car, truck or van.

With that in mind, here are the top 5 tips to help reduce theft from your vehicles:

  1. Shop at populated retail centers, and during daylight hours whenever possible.
  2. When shopping at night, park in a well-lit area, preferably close to the store or mall entrance.
  3. Avoid parking between two large trucks, vans, or SUV’s, because thieves can hide between the larger vehicles.
  4. Hide your purchases in the trunk or under the hatchback cover.
  5. Don’t leave your new purchases in the car even when in your own driveway. According to the FBI, more than one-third of all vehicle thefts occur at a home or residence.
If stolen, these items will be covered by your homeowners insurance (see previous blog). However, your holidays will be much nicer if you can avoid the theft altogether! AND you won’t have to do all that shopping all over again!

This information was provided by Heather Penwell of Penwell Insurance in Cicero, Indiana. 877-773-6935.

Does Your Insurance Cover Theft of Gifts Taken From Your Vehicle?

Christmas music is playing, Santas are ho-ho-ho-ing and you’re out shopping for those specific gifts that will bring joy to your family and friends. Yes – the holiday shopping season is upon us. If your car is full of gifts that you have purchased, and they are stolen, the joy of the season will be quickly replaced with anger and sadness. Will these items be replaced? Is this loss covered by your homeowners insurance?

Gifts (and all personal property items) in your car would be covered under your homeowners or renters insurance policy, above the amount of your deductible. If you don’t know what your deductible amount is, refer to your insurance policy or contact your agent.

There are limits on many common gift items, such as jewelry and collectibles. When purchasing a gift of high value, you might want to consider scheduling it on your homeowners policy or obtain an inland marine policy (rider) until the recipient opens it and has it insured. If you are robbed before you give the gift away, you are subject to the limits of your policy.

A special tip: Many people keep the receipts in the bags as they shop. Since you’ll need proof of purchase if your shopping spree ends in a burglary, keep the receipts in your wallet or purse. This will enable you to remember what you purchased and the value of each item.  

Thank you Heather Penwell for this helpful information. Contact Heather: Penwell Insurance  877-773-6935.

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