Hopefully, you never have to file a home insurance claim. But if you do, a bit of preparation will make it much easier for you to document your claim and get your settlement much faster. Among the key documents: A detailed home inventory – that is, an itemized list of everything of value in your home, proof of ownership, and an estimate of its insurable value.
For many years, homeowners have either neglected the home inventory altogether, or created a paper or spreadsheet inventory, which was hopefully stored offsite – so that it cannot be destroyed in the same event that destroyed or damaged the home and contents.
Fortunately, we now have a number of tools that make generating and updating a home inventory for homeowner’s or renter’s insurance purposes – which you can download right to your mobile device.
Why you need a detailed inventory
Having a detailed inventory of all your valuable possessions in your home can come in handy in many ways. Even if you never file a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance claim, your inventory can come in very handy when you prepare your last will and testament, when your children or heirs must settle your estate, and even determining an appropriate amount of insurance to carry in the first place. You can even use your inventory as a moving checklist and packing aid.
And if you do have a claim for a casualty loss not covered by insurance, your inventory will make it much easier to deduct those losses against your income on your tax return.
Today’s online and mobile applications make it very easy to document your possessions for all of the above situations. Here are some of the best and most popular apps.
The KnowYourStuff app is the official home inventory application of the Insurance Information Institute. Its advantages are its cost (it’s free!), ease of use, and its seamless integration with major carrier websites. Once you have it installed on your iOS or Android device, it’s a snap to use: Open the app, point the camera, click, and make a few annotations on the property and you are done. Entries are automatically stored in the Cloud, safe from any possible harm to your property.
KnowYourStuff.org lets you download a number of reports. We especially like this feature: It’s a truly free product with no in-app purchases required and no annoying pop-up ads. More information is available from the manucturers’ site.
The Complete Home Journal
The Complete Home Journal is about the most complete inventory product for the hardcore record keeper. The home inventory module lets you input critical details and photographs of all your belongings, including electronics, seasonal gear, jewelry and appliances. But that’s just one of several modules. Other modules include home improvement tracking, home and seasonal to-do lists. This program also stores contractor information and information on real estate agents, lenders and can even help you calculate cost basis for income tax and real estate sales.
You’ll need Windows XP or later to run it, or run Virtual PC for Mac on a Mac. The cost is $29.99, with a 30-day money back guarantee and a free trial period.
Quicken Home Inventory Manager
If you’re a Quicken fan, this one is for you. The Quicken Home Inventory Manager integrates smoothly with the popular bookkeeping software. Quicken supports listing intended beneficiaries right in the software – which, of course, you can change whenever you wish.
You can attach up to five digital photos per item, which can be of the object itself, or it can be receipts and warranty information and the like. There’s even a claim tracking feature on the site. This software solution is sold out of the box, with a list price of $14.99.
This sleek and easy-to-use app works great on iPhones, Androids and Blackberry devices, and also via a Web portal. Although it’s stripped down for ease of use on a cell phone, it does support multiple properties, and you can organize items by room.
It also supports multiple photos per item, so you can photograph the item and your receipt. According to Encircle, Inc., “In about an hour or less the average user can create a complete picture inventory of a property and generate detailed reports. The account can be accessed via smartphone, tablet and web interface (encircleapp.com). Encircle can be used for insurance purposes, estate planning, relocation and moving, or decorating. The cost is free.
This innovative solution supports drag and drop interface, making it the most Mac-y of all the offerings so far. It also supports unlimited hierarchical locations, so you can note an item’s location in an envelope, in a briefcase, in a sack, in the closet, or in the 2nd bedroom. The unique interface lets you drag and drop items from one location to another. You can also associate items with each other using tags, such as #borrowedobjects, #electronics, #cables anything else you need to be able to get your hands on fast.