How To Create A Home Inventory

Don't wait to make a home inventory!

Don’t wait to make a home inventory!

You never know when a disaster may strike, but you can be prepared with an up-to-date home inventory. Creating a photo inventory is a great way to document your possessions so you know what you lost if you ever have to file an insurance claim.

The initial process will seem daunting if you have not been keeping records, but with a methodical and systematic approach, it can be accomplished.  Make it a point to do one area at a time, a little bit every day, and you will get a good base set of records.

Start by grabbing your camera or smartphone and a notebook where you’ll create a page for each area of your property including your garage, house and exterior.

Or better still, download one of the many free apps available for your smartphone, such as  Know Your Stuff® Home Inventory, the Insurance Information Institute’s free online home inventory software. This application makes creating and updating your home inventory easy and efficient. And with its free, secure online storage you will have access to your inventory anywhere, any time. It’s available in iOS and Android.

Exterior Photos

Go outside and take pictures of your home’s exterior, including your roof, siding and porches. Next, add photos of landscaping and hardscaping features like decks, patios, fences, gazebos, sheds, barns and expensive or exotic plants. Note the size and materials used to build each exterior feature.

Come inside and go floor-by-floor and room-by-room listing and photographing the valuables in each location. Be systematic. Start in one corner or quadrant of a space then move clockwise. Remember to check inside cupboards and closets.

Photographing Items

Start by creating a few photos of each room or area. Stand in different regions of the room and take several broad photos. Once done, tackle individual items.

You can photograph using a camera phone, but a digital camera will yield better quality photos. As you work, preview the images to ensure you got the whole item, good exposure and sharpness.

Take multiple photos of objects to capture the backside, inside, details, brand or model name, serial numbers, etc.

Have rare or valuable moveable items such as antiques, paintings, silverware, jewelry or fine china? These tips will help you get the pictures you need:

  • Create a background by placing a white bed sheet over a table.
  • Place the object on the table.
  • Fill the camera’s viewfinder or LCD display with your subject.
  • Shoot at your camera’s closest focusing distance.
  • Use the macro setting if you camera has it.
  • For decorative items, such as china, take a close-up of the pattern or trademark.

Create A File Naming System

To make it easier to find things in your inventory, create a photo file-naming system when you move the pictures from your camera to your computer.

For example, you can name each picture based on the room, brand, item, age and cost. So if you have a Schwinn bicycle stored in the garage that you bought in 2013 for $725, the file name would be: Garage_Schwinn_Bicycle_2013_$725.

Add the photo file names when you transfer your pictures to your computer. As you build your catalog and photograph the items, periodically print out the list for safekeeping and to check for accuracy.

Save A Backup

As you work, print out a running copy of your inventory list and store it in a safe place. If you like, add a thumbnail view photo beside each item name.

Check your photo software to see if it offers a gallery or catalog lay out. That’s a good option for organizing your photos.

Once your inventory-taking project is complete, save a master copy of your written list on a flash drive or cd and put a full set of photo prints or a photo book in a location other than your home. A bank safe deposit box or a relative’s home that’s not nearby are good options.

Finally, make it a habit to photograph and catalog new purchases to keep your inventory up-to-date. Add an annual update to your original record set, and include any items sold or replaced as well.

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