Documenting your home before an insurance claim is fundamental. You may not realize it now, but during an insurance claim, emotions get in the way, and you may forget many items that are in your home. I have seen it happen many times. BUT it’s not going to happen for you because I’ve created a step by step guide to help you document your home before an insurance claim.
Don’t forget to read the lagniappe Q&A at the bottom!
Why it’s important to document your home:
Look around your home. Do you see many items in your home? Do you see some things that are kind of pricey? Well, wouldn’t you want money for all those items in the event they are destroyed? Do you think you can name every single thing in your home? If you want the maximum amount of money on your claim, then you need to document your home. TRUST ME!
In the event of a claim, you can prove to your insurance adjuster that on such a date, your house was in good condition and free from damage. It could help you! It’s like your insurance policy for your insurance policy 😝.
By documenting your personal property, you can get an accurate value of your items so you can set a better coverage limit with your agent! You may be under or way over-insured.
When you document your items accurately, you are preparing yourself for the maximum amount of money you can get on your personal property claim! How so? Well, you will have everything documented, so you know the costs and the correct information for each item to send to the adjuster. Nothing will be forgotten or left off, thus meaning more money for you! When you forget to claim items because you just can’t remember, you lose out on money! I don’t want that happening to you, so let’s get started!
STEP ONE: Declutter Your Home
Okay- so this is technically a step you can skip, but I wouldn’t! Hear me out on this. Start by decluttering your home. No, not because Marie Kondo asked you to but because, little me, Natalie the adjuster is recommending you to. Junk has zero value for your insurance claim. It just adds to the disaster; it gets in the way of the items that need your attention. I promise you, once you start documenting your personal property, you will get frustrated due to the amount of STUFF that is unnecessary in your home. Clear the way for essential items in your home that create a peaceful, warming experience for you versus a cluttered mess.
Here are a few methods to choose from:
- You can enlist the help of each member of your family and provide them with their rooms to go through. Provide them with a donate box and a throw-away box.
- Spend a week going through your house one or two rooms at a time until completed.
- Read Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”
- Tackle your house one weekend by sorting through the densest areas of your home.
STEP TWO: Vital Information
- Start by preparing a list either on your computer or somewhere safe with information on your home.
- Include the age of your home, square footage of your home, the date you purchased your home, and current mortgage information.
- Add data for your fence and any other structures like a shed on the property.
- Be sure to add any significant renovations with dates the work was done and who performed the repairs at what cost.
- It’s a good idea to keep a folder with all your home renovation and maintenance invoices. You never know what the insurance company may ask from you!
EXTRA TIP: You can download a home inventory app to track your personal property rather than taking your photographs and recording them on a form. Check out this article on the best apps to use!
STEP THREE: Photographing your house
- Start at the front of your home and get a great overview photograph. Stand far enough back to show your entire house.
- Next, move a little closer and get two or three shots of the front showing the condition of your home.
- Once you are done the front of the house, move to the right, then the back of the house, ending on the left side. Repeat step two for each side.
- While you are outside, go to your backyard and photograph your fence and any other structures on your property.
- Don’t forget an overview of your driveway. While driveways are technically not covered by most insurance policies, it could help document any potential damage that may be under your slab, such as a water line.
- If you can safely get an overview picture of the roof, I would do that as well, but ONLY if you can do it safely! While you are up there, you can get some great overview shots of your property.
- Have trees on your property? Photograph those too when they are in full bloom.
- Once you have successfully photographed your entire exterior and backyard, let’s move on to the interior of your home.
- Start with whatever room you’d like or the natural flow of the home, like if you were giving someone a tour of your home.
- Take an overview of each room, making sure to get a shot of the ceiling, walls, and flooring.
- Next, take close-ups of any items that are expensive or have unique identifying markers such as a model or serial number.
- Be sure to open cabinets and draws to photograph the personal property hiding inside.
Items to be sure to photograph:
- All Furniture
- Expensive clothing, shoes, and accessories
- Family heirlooms
Things that don’t need to be photographed/ documented:
- Personal Hygiene
- Items that you will run out of
STEP FOUR: Record your information
Here’s the annoying part. I know, it sucks but you really should do this!
- Download my personal property inventory form for use in the event of a claim.
- Print out at least one form per room, OR you can just save copies to your computer and type out!
- Write down the name of the room- just somewhere on top of the form.
- Be sure to write the date you are doing this, so you remember the accuracy of the list.
- List of the item description, quantity, brand name, model number, serial number, purchased from, age, and the cost you spent when originally purchased. You just photographed your entire house, so you should have photo evidence in the event of a claim. Receipts are also necessary, but I understand they get lost!
- Save your personal property inventory form along with your photographs you just took and any relevant receipts and invoices. It’s a good idea to make a particular folder on your computer or somewhere safe to keep everything together. While you are at it, slip in a copy of your homeowners insurance policy and declarations page!
I know this is a ton of stuff to do, BUT I promise you that everyone that has ever experienced a significant loss, wishes they would have done this BEFORE their claim. It would have lifted a burden.
Q: Now what? (with a big sigh)
A: Well, you are done for the year! I would set a reminder on your phone for one year out to take all new photographs as directed in step three. Once done, just go through your personal property inventory form and scratch out anything that no longer applies. When you make large purchases, go ahead and add them to the list.
Q: Do I need to photograph every single item of clothing?
A: No, you do not need to photograph every single item of clothing you and your family owns. I would just take an overview of the closet and open each draw and get a quick snapshot. You don’t need to write down every single item of clothing. I would just document the expensive things that you would want to make sure you got every penny. I hope that helps!
Q: Most of my stuff is junk. Why should I invest time in documenting it?
A: Well, you don’t have to. BUT you may be surprised how quickly your “junk” adds up!
Q: Why don’t I need to document my hygiene and food items?
A: You do not need to document anything that necessarily will be depleted. The depreciation rate is SO HIGH on those items that you would only need to record in the event you have a claim.
Q: Why do I need to photograph my trees?
A: Most insurance policies cover trees. If your tree catches fire or gets struck by lightning, there’s value. Also, it shows that your tree is in good condition (if it is) and will help in the event your tree falls onto your home or a neighbor’s home. If the tree trunk exposes a hidden termite mound, you can prove that your tree appeared to be in good condition, and you were not aware of the termite eating away at your tree. Having photos would help during a liability claim.
Q: Do I need to take pictures of my roommate’s items?
A: Your non-related roommate may not be covered by your homeowners insurance. They should probably have their own renters insurance. Ask your agent for more clarification.
Q: Do I need to record the items on the personal property inventory form?
A: Not really, if you just want to take pictures, that’s fine, but the inventory form will help you document the costs of the items, which is extremely important. The insurance company will also want to know the ages of each item in the event of a claim, so you are just helping your future self out!
WHEW! Well, that’s all I got for you! What method did you end up taking to declutter your home?
Have you ever documented your home in the past, and it benefited you for your insurance claim?
I can’t tell you how many times this would have helped my insureds when I was their adjuster! It would have saved them a ton of time and money. I want you to be the most prepared and knowledgeable homeowner on the block. You will be with my help!