You’ve recently purchased your dream home and gone through the hassle of buying homeowners insurance. In the process of purchasing your policy, you were advised that all of your personal belongings in the home would be covered. Then, late one night, a thought occurs: In the event of a catastrophic loss, how will my agent know what belongings were in my home?
Well, it’s a good thing you had that thought, because the burden of proof would be on you.
That’s right! In the event of the total loss to your home, your insurance carrier is not simply going to cut a check in the amount listed on your homeowners policy Declarations Page for Personal Contents Coverage. You'll need to provide some kind of documentation of the items that were in your home at the time of the loss.
Here are couple of ways you can keep track of your personal belongings:
- Create a home contents inventory — an itemized list of all of your belongings, along with receipts. It's a daunting task, I know, but for those who do keep an itemized list along with receipts, the claims process is a much easier ordeal. If you think you might be up to it, and would like a bit of help, click on the button at the bottom of this post to order a free Home Inventory Checklist.
- Walk through your home with a digital camera/video recorder. I strongly recommend this to everyone for whom I write a homeowners policy. Take pictures of everything — especially your electronics. Take photos of the big-screen TV, the Bose sound system and your computer equipment. I'd go so far as to shoot closeups of serial numbers. An abundance of proof is never enough.
Hardly anyone keeps itemized lists or receipts of all major purchases. More often than not, victims of total loss have no proof of what was in their home, making a terrible situation worse. Don't let that happen to you. After a personal catastrophe, the last thing you want to do is stand in your driveway arguing with an insurance adjuster over what was in your house. Of course I hope you'll never find yourself in such a situation, but if you do, you'll at least take some comfort you'll be fully covered if you've documented the home's contents.
Before beginning your documentation, remember this: If you were to take your home and turn it upside down, everything that fell would be covered under the Personal Contents Coverage. So, take photos and/or video of everything.
After recording the images of your home and contents, make sure to save the images on a flash drive and keep it somewhere safe. Do not keep it in your home! Should a fire destroy your home and its contents, the zip drive and all your evidence will be gone. Take the zip drive to work, keep it at a family member’s house, or place it in a safety deposit box.
There's also software that can help you document the assets in your home and store important documents, such as appraisals, on one easy-to-use website. Sites offering online storage include HomeBinder and HomeZada. Both offer a free version as well as a premium option for which you pay a monthly subscription to receive additional resources.
You may also want to consider specifically scheduling valuable items into your homeowners insurance. Scheduled personal property insurance extends coverage beyond the limits of the basic homeowners policy. Items you can schedule onto your policy for an agreed value include:
To schedule a particular item onto your homeowners policy, you'll need to have a recent appraisal (usually one performed within the previous five years). While scheduling comes with an additional premium, it also provides deductible-free coverage for each scheduled item.
You've done your due diligence in purchasing home insurance. It's worth doing the additional work to make sure that you'll be properly compensated in the event of a loss.
It's up to you to provide proof of the contents that were in your home. Make sure to take the appropriate steps so that the insurance company will properly indemnify you after a loss.
The checklist we're offering is organized room-by-room and includes items you might find in each of those rooms. There are spaces to record quantity, date of purchase and price. I think it's an excellent tool to help you with this important process, and I hope you'll find it useful.
About Matthew Boyle and Sylvia Group
A licensed insurance producer and Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR), Matthew Boyle is passionate about informing and educating his clients on the coverage they should consider and the products they ultimately purchase. Whether the need is boat or watercraft insurance, homeowners insurance, auto insurance or specialized coverage, he’s committed to designing customized programs that protect his clients and their assets. Matt appreciates meeting and working with new people on a regular basis, and with 15 years’ experience in personal insurance, the last eight as a successful sales executive, he enjoys sharing his expertise. As an independent agent working with the accomplished team at Sylvia Group, he’s able to offer clients options and resources unavailable through most other agencies and direct sellers.
Sylvia Group helps businesses and individuals protect their future by designing insurance, benefits and financial planning programs. We’re a third-generation, locally owned agency known for our commitment to our clients and our community, as well for our industry expertise. Founded in New Bedford, MA, in 1950, headquartered in neighboring Dartmouth, and serving businesses and individuals throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and beyond, Sylvia Group is certified as a Woman Owned Business Enterprise with the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office and has the distinction of being the first six-time recipient of the Five Star designation awarded by the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) for all-around agency excellence.