Along with all of the benefits that come with owning a home, there is always the concern of a natural disaster wiping out everything you have worked so hard to build. While this issue is more pressing in select areas of the country, it never hurts to have a home insurance policy, and with home insurance also comes home inventory.
Why do I Need an Inventory of my Home?
When any kind of natural disaster hits your home, the first instinct is usually to call the insurance company. For those who live in areas that are prone to hurricanes, flooding, and other types of extreme weather, home insurance can be your best friend.
Similarly, other unpredictable disasters, such as fires, can destroy your residence at any time, regardless of where you live. In all of these cases, it is helpful to have something in your back pocket to help you recover the damages that you could potentially experience throughout your journey of homeownership.
However, before any settlements can be paid for repairs and recovery, you will need to have an accurate representation of what needs to be replaced. This can be achieved by having photo and video documentation of everything you have, which is otherwise known as a home inventory.
If you are unable to show the insurance company what you own, you might suffer an even bigger loss when you are not eligible to receive a payout following the damages. Therefore a home inventory, with all of your assets recorded, is crucial in this process.
As a new homeowner or someone who is filing a claim for the first time, the task of creating a sufficient home inventory can seem like a daunting one. Below are 6 essential steps that will help you make sure you cover every part of your property and avoid any potential mistakes.
1. Assess The Safety Of Your Home
The first thing that you will need to do, before creating your home inventory, is to assess the safety of your home. When a natural disaster like a hurricane or fire plagues your property, there is a huge possibility that the area is not suitable for walking around.
Throughout this process, check the structure of your home and look out for anything that might cave in underneath you or fall on top of you before you go in. In general, it is a good idea to consult a professional before making any moves.
If the premises are not secure and you will be putting yourself at risk by entering, you will have to go a slightly different approach. While this is the more challenging route, it can still be done nonetheless.
2. Take Detailed Photos and Videos Of Everything
Once you have concluded that you can enter the property and walk around safely, it is best to start with one room at a time, to avoid any possible confusion. After you suffer a loss within your home due to fire or water damage, everything can start to look a lot different than what you are used to, depending on the impact of the disaster.
When you focus on a single area first and move along from there, you will be able to more accurately recall what was there previously. Standing in the middle of each room will be more beneficial to your memory than looking from the outside in.
If you are not able to enter your home and walk from room to room, on the other hand, you can use a similar method to take proper inventory. In this case, it helps to sit down and draw out a diagram of the entire floor plan of the property.
Remember to focus on each individual room.
While doing this, focus on each room individually, drawing out what you remember being there. This can include anything from couches to rugs and televisions.
Whether you are completing this process from inside the home or remotely, it should be repeated until the entire place has been covered. The last thing you want to do is forget anything that you might have lost, so it is important to take your time and be as thorough as possible.
Once you have collected the items that are damaged within your household, you will need to take detailed photos and videos of everything. This is one of the most important steps in the process of creating a home inventory because it is essentially how you will prove your ownership as well as the condition of the items you are claiming.
Without photo and video evidence of what you have lost, the insurance company will have nothing tangible to work with. In that case, you may end up with a low settlement or nothing at all.
3. Try To Recover Damaged Items
When you are going from room to room inside the home, you should observe what items are remaining, if any. Each situation will vary significantly, but you might come across assets that are partially damaged, destroyed, or in the same condition that you remember.
During this step, you will need to gather all of these items, regardless of their condition, and transfer them to a safe location such as a counter or tabletop.
4. Note The Price Of Each Item
Along with simply taking photos and videos of damaged and destroyed items throughout your home, you will need to note the prices that you paid for them.
Depending on the condition of each item, this might not be the exact amount that you can expect to get back from the insurance company in the final stages of your claim. However, it can help you with calculating a more realistic number that you will be happy with when it’s all over.
5. Find The Actual Cash Value (ACV) Of All Items
Last but not least, you will need to find the actual cash value (ACV) of all items that you are claiming to your insurance company. This number is dependent on a variety of factors, as listed below.
Things To Consider When Determining Current Value:
- Original purchase price
- Condition (before the disaster)
- How long you’ve had it
While the original price that you purchased the item for is a great starting point, the actual cash value will most likely be lower. Brand and quantity can be major positives in how much an item is worth, but factors like condition and age could potentially bring it down.
By putting all of these main points together in your overall assessment, you should be able to come up with a solid cash value for each of your assets that is agreeable for the insurance company. Be very careful in your calculations during this step, as this will determine how much money you will potentially receive in a settlement to get back what you have lost.
Extra Tips for Taking Inventory of Your Home After a Disaster
While taking inventory of your home after a loss, there are a few additional tips that you should keep in mind, along with the basic steps that were outlined above.
To start, you should always try to find receipts of purchase whenever possible. This will help you to not only show the actual cost of the items that you are claiming but also to prove that you even had ownership of them in the first place.
If you are not able to recover any paper receipts that document your assets, you can use alternative methods to supply proof of what can’t be salvaged. For anything that was bought online, you can try to locate electronic receipts sent by email.
For transactions that were conducted in person with no available receipts, you can attempt to find each item online and get a price estimate that way. If you know which store you purchased from, you can easily search for it and record the cost it is going for.
Remember: Make a Home Inventory Before a Disaster
Scrambling to develop a detailed and accurate home inventory after a disaster has already occurred is far from the ideal situation for any homeowner. With your property in disarray and many of your assets possibly damaged or destroyed already, it can be difficult to prove what you own and get compensation for what you have lost.
If you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters like floods and hurricanes, holding a home insurance policy alone is not enough preparation for something going wrong. Instead, you should equip yourself with everything that you will need beforehand, just in case something goes wrong in the future.
In other words, the best time to build your home inventory is now – not after your home has already been wiped out.
Tips For Staying Prepared Before a Disaster:
- Keep all inventory electronic (photos and videos)
- Update your inventory regularly
- Don’t forget anything
- Save all documentation to a Cloud service
To stay prepared for a potential disaster, you should take inventory of everything that you currently own. This should be done by taking photos and videos on a camera or smartphone. This method is the safest, in comparison to paper documents and photographs that can be burned or washed away when disaster finally strikes.
When you go about building your inventory, you should follow a similar process to the one that was previously explained for after home damage occurs. Move between each room, making sure that you don’t forget to document anything important.
Apart from just taking a photo and video inventory of everything that you currently own, it is equally important to consistently update your collection. This means that, along with documenting what is already in your house, you should be recording any new assets that you acquire. Whenever you purchase something new, take note of the value in case it ever needs to be replaced or reimbursed.
It is also beneficial to keep all of your photos and videos saved to a cloud service so that you can access them from another location if needed. You can never be too careful when it comes to disasters and home damages, so you will only benefit from starting your home inventory now.
How Can a Public Adjuster Help Me?
While we would all like to think that we are prepared for the worst, natural disasters have a way of sneaking up behind you when you least expect them to. If you happen to be panicking after the loss of property instead of seeking out ways to get ahead of the tragedy you are going through now, there is no need to worry.
It is no secret that taking a complete home inventory is an intimidating job for a first-time homeowner, especially when everything is already destroyed and you are left to pick up the pieces all by yourself. This is exactly where a public adjuster comes into the process.
A public adjuster is hired on your behalf to walk you through your home insurance claim from point A to point B. After you have discovered any loss of property due to extreme weather or another natural disaster, you can call a public adjuster to get things started for you.
The public adjuster will begin by surveying the scene for any damages, taking inventory of what is still there and what has been lost. Without knowledge of the insurance claims process, it can be easy to miss things that are crucial in helping you win your case.
Trust in Bulldog Adjusters!
As an experienced professional in the industry, Bulldog Adjusters will be able to find all of the right information and use it to fight for you in your battle against the insurance company. By knowing the ins and outs of the business, we will know exactly what to document and help you cover all of your bases before going forth.
Although you can proceed with knowledge in taking home inventory using the steps provided above, you can never be too thorough, and a public adjuster will be able to provide all of the assistance that you need for a successful home insurance claim.
Bulldog Adjusters has over ten years of experience in the field. Our adjusters are homeowners as well, people who know what it’s like to deal with insurance companies over property damage. We’re practiced in making sure that homeowners get the largest possible settlement from their insurance companies. If you have property damage and loss as a result of a natural disaster or another incident, reach out today to find out how we can help you!