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Tracking Your Valuables: The "Why" of Home Inventory
by Nina Gass
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Nina Gass has more than 18 years of business writing and editing experience, including writing for Market Drive News, Mortgage Banking Magazine, and

When the Unexpected Happens
Losing your home and years of treasured possessions to a fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, hurricane or home break-in can be devastating; not having a detailed list of those possessions can only add to the heartache and frustration. Think about what was left after Hurricane Katrina or the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Everything you own can be taken in an instant by a thief or natural disaster.

Many people found that they did not have much to sift through in the wake of these disasters let alone had the energy to remember and compile all the necessary information for filing claims. Both the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have gone on record to the benefits of a home inventory that includes photographs and scans of receipts for both homeowners and renters. You will be able to have some peace of mind by having an up-to-date record of what you had once owned. Claims can also be processed faster within a matter of weeks rather than months.

This comprehensive guide can help an insurance company or government agency to more effectively validate the amount of funds you need in order to rebuild and replace more quickly than if you had to start out with a list put together from memory. After all, even without just surviving a major disaster, who can remember everything they own, when they bought it, and how much it cost? This is especially true after a major trauma when the mind seems to go blank because of so many emotions or the lack of sleep.

Keeping account of possessions can become further complicated when you own more than one residence, such as a vacation home or rental properties. This is a good way to track what might get damaged if you have renters in your investment home and want to use it as proof when seeking damages in court. If you are a renter, you also need to account for your belongings because those of you that have renter’s insurance can file a claim if anything were to happen to your personal property as well.

Accounting for Windfalls and Legal Matters
Not all the “whys” of a home inventory need to be so dramatic. Life brings changes and, as part of this ever-evolving and continuously growing list, brings unexpected windfalls that must be documented. For example, you may have been lucky enough to receive jewelry as a gift or inherit other valuables, such as antiques.

When this occurs, it is important to immediately add these items to a primary list of possessions because your current insurance policy may not be expansive enough to cover these top-dollar items. Special riders are most likely required for some of these special items so an update would be necessary for your insurance company, including an appraisal for an outside source and photographs. If you do not have this update in place, all the value of these items can be lost forever in the wake of an emergency or robbery.

A home inventory is also valuable in terms of legal matters, such as estate planning and divorce. In times of loss or in the midst of an emotional battle like the dissolution of a marriage, what people own and what it is worth can create additional problems. With a home inventory already in place, arguments over belongings and proof of ownership can be one of your least concerns.

Even More Benefits
Think of a home inventory as a proactive investment tool that protects you later but also benefits you now. Here are some other benefits:
• An insurance agent can provide you with a more appropriate policy that fits the types of belongings you have now so that you are paying for the right amount of insurance.
• A home inventory is great to have in case you are moving so that photos of the property and list of replacement costs can serve as documentation in case a moving company damages or loses your items.
• With so many people working from home, it is important to validate all your company equipment and intellectual property as well.
• This list also helps you substantiate losses for your tax return.
• It is just good to know what you have since most people just seem to continue collecting without realizing what they actually own. This may provide some incentive to clean out those closets and get more organized by simplifying the amount of “stuff” you have piling up around the house.

While it may seem daunting to put together a home inventory and you may want to put it off because there does not seem like a real need for it now, remember that it will be something worth doing in case anything ever does happen. Everything you own has some value – no matter how insignificant it may seem – from your mattress and luggage to that overflowing DVD collection or your children’s toys. Despite your hectic lifestyle or any feelings of intimidation that creep up on you, it is better to plan for the unexpected because you will be so relieved that it is there when you need it the most. After all, you do not want to end up with less than 50% of the actual value of your belongings because there is no proof in terms of what it is really worth!

A number of companies are now available that can help you get started and tackle the work for you or show you how to do it yourself. Be sure to read our next article on how to start your home inventory.

Published: Aug 6,2008 18:49
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