List it or lose it — The case for household and property inventory
Lori A. Hendrickson, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency
Revised April 2011 and reviewed March 2016 by the author.
A disaster can happen at any time. Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, it's important to be prepared before and after the disaster occurs. An up-to-date household and property inventory is a valuable resource that will help document losses.
Why Make an Inventory?
Before a disaster, the inventory will help you determine if you have enough or the right type of insurance to cover the contents of your home and property. After the disaster, the inventory will help prove for insurance, assistance, or tax deduction purposes the value of the possessions that are damaged or destroyed.
What to Include
Include the following information in your inventory:
- Detailed description of each item (include model and serial numbers where appropriate)
- Date purchased
- Original cost
- Alterations or repairs done on an item, especially if the alteration or repair made the item appreciate in value
To jumpstart the inventory process, photograph or videotape all walls in your home and garage that have furnishings, tools, etc. If using a video with an audio recorder, verbally describe the contents as you go room by room. Photograph open closets, cabinets, cupboards, and drawers. Take close-ups of unique or expensive items to document their existence and condition. Date photographs and use them to show all furniture, furnishings, accessories, office equipment, small and large appliances, jewelry, clothing, linens, silverware, tools, recreation equipment, items normally stored in the garage, basement or out-buildings, etc. This Household Inventory Form on eXtension's website will help you begin a written inventory for the home and garage.
Product manuals can be used to list furnishing or equipment details on your written inventory or make a computer file of this information that can be easily updated. Photographs should be kept with the inventory in a location away from the premises.
Keep one copy of your inventory away from the dwelling, such as in a safe deposit box. Also keep a working copy in the home file. Remember to keep all copies up-to-date and compare them on a semi-annual basis.
The initial investment of time to prepare the inventory may seem significant, but once completed — and with regular updates — the inventory will be useful for a long time.
Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2016). Before a Flood.
National Endowment for Financial Education. (2015). Disasters and Financial Planning: A Guide for Preparedness and Recovery.
Make a grab and go file for emergencies — Helps you put together a "grab and go" case of important information in case of emergencies.
Disaster recovery — Offers families new or additional resources following a disaster. Includes the Recovery After Disaster: The Family Financial Toolkit.
Disaster recovery Log — NDSU Extension Service — Free Android app that helps you proactively develop a household inventory prior to a disaster.