8/11/2015 11:00 AM

The Question You Need to Ask Yourself about Home Insurance

When quoting or starting a new policy, people frequently ask what happens if I have a claim.  Or what happens if there is a theft or major disaster?

This is actually a really good question, and I wished more people would ask it.  

Unfortunately, most people don’t ever think about a claim, or the possibility of it, until it’s already happened.

Living RoomThis can be a huge problem when it comes to homeowners for many reasons, but the biggest one is related to your stuff - your personal property.

If you were to have a major loss that damaged everything you own, would you even remember everything you own?  Test yourself.  While you’re away from home, try to write down every item you own.  After all, that’s what you’d have to do if you wanted to replace everything you lost. Now take the list back home with you and look around.  What did you miss or forget?  Would you be devastated long after the claim to realize that you used to be the proud owner of that currently forgotten item?

It may seem easy at first; because you just start by writing all the items that you know a house needs.  Appliances, upholstery, furniture, clothes, probably your favorite entertainment items, etc.

But now imagine writing that list when you are devastated, confused, scared, and honestly lost.  In the aftermath of a major shock or tragedy, trying to remember everything you owned will not only be difficult, because your mind will likely be focused more on what you need at that moment, but heartbreaking.  

So the question shouldn’t be so much what happens after I have a claim, but what can I do to prepare for a possible homeowners claim.

One of the best things you can do to prepare for a homeowners claim is to take an inventory of your belongings.  While this sounds long and difficult, in our digital age there are many tools out there to make it easier.

First of all, take pictures of what you own.  If you’re just getting starting and don’t have much time to dedicate, go around your house and take pictures.  Open any cabinets so you can see inside them.  This won’t take very long and it will at least provide you with visuals to look back at.  As long as you get a good clear photo, you can zoom in to see the smaller items and possible even titles of books. Make sure to store these photos online or off-site.

A better approach would be a detailed inventory. The more details the easier it will be to process a claim, but at this point each person has to choose what’s right for them.  There are many different tools available to make this process easier.  Some are available online, and some are apps you can download on your phone.

Whatever you choose, make sure you find out how and where the information is backed up.

The Insurance Information Institute provides a web version and app version of Know Your Stuff Home Inventory (https://www.knowyourstuff.org/iii/login.html).  You can organize by room or category, and upload photos. The best thing is the app is free.

Because I am the happy owner of a Microsoft smart phone, I do not have the privilege of access to any of the highly recommended apps for home inventory, including Know Your Stuff Home Inventory.  I would suggest if you’re interested, research online and in your app store to find the right app for you.  Just bear in mind some apps have a fee for unlimited listing of items.

Inventorying your personal property helps you in a claim.  If you don’t remember what you have, you won’t get paid for it if it is lost.  Many people undervalue what they own – don’t be one of them.


Photo: “living room at morning” by jinkazamah. Unmodified. Flikr. CC BY 2.0.
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