Creating a Home Inventory for Insurance Purposes

Do you have a home inventory? If you’re anything like us, you don’t. While we used to have a video inventory, it’s woefully out of date — and to be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure where it is. Obviously, this means that it would be pretty difficult for us to put together (and substantiate) an accurate claim if something bad were to happen to our home.

Since creating an inventory of everything that you own can be a daunting task, I thought I’d point out a free software tool designed to make the job easier… The Insurance Information Institute has put together a freely downloadable home inventory software package called “Know Your Stuff.”

While I haven’t ever used it, it looks pretty nice. You start by naming all the rooms in your house, and then you add items to your inventory on a room-by-room basis. You can even add photos of your stuff and scans of your receipts. And best of all, it’s available in both Mac and PC versions.

Once you’ve pulled it together, you can print out a copy for safe storage, or stick one on a flash drive that you stash somewhere off site. You might also consider e-mailing it to yourself and leaving it on the server for safe-keeping.

If you’ve been thinking of putting together an inventory, then maybe this will be enough to nudge you into action. Honestly, as hard as creating the initial inventory seems, the hardest part will likely be maintaining your inventory as you make new purchases or get rid of old things. But even having a semi-updated inventory is far better than having nothing at all.

24 Responses to “Creating a Home Inventory for Insurance Purposes”

  1. Anonymous

    Go buy a 16Gb camera card take one day for insurance purposes and snap away. Most people have cameras and for $20 that card could be worth quite a bit should something bad happen.

    As well video camera like that one girl did and then store the card and tape at the bank, or a safe in the ground.

  2. Anonymous

    thanks for all the info – I looked at my Home policy and it does say – must provide an inventory under “duties after loss” – so I think a program or anyway someone creates that inventory would be helpful a head of time. I personnaly use Quicken HOme inventory – but I recently purchased the advanced version or quicken home inventory that you can add pictures, documents etc. but for my stamp collection so far excel has been a great tool and then add those figures into my home inventory and I’ll print to attach the excel document with it. and obviously keep it somewhere else, like work or a family members house. thanks

  3. Anonymous

    Hi all. My house burnt down in March 2011
    By a LiPoly battery fire in the garage,
    I had about 2,000,000.00 in properly burnt and I was only insured
    For $450.00. I’m still not done with my insurance inventory and it’s
    End of November. State farm had a team of theves come through
    My home and attempted to wright everything down. I’m tottally into
    Video photography Radio Conntrol planes cars choppers and I had a
    Full machine shop in my garage. The company I won’t say but it’s the same name as Microsofts spread sheet program ! Don’t even let them in your home. I had thousands of dollars of things missing. Get this. I just bought a new Sony hi deff camcorder the day befor my adjuster showed up. On our first day of going through each room I sat my camera down for 5 min and it was gone. Anyway I thought I
    Droped it or misplaced it in the distraction. It took five days for this company to inventory my home and on there list was my new camera. Also I had $100,000.00 of base ball cards taken my coin collection worth 60k and all my best shirts and pants. Tommy Bhamma ect 25k. And the jerks pocked about 6 of 30 hi dollar ham radio waki takies and one of my 5 gal sparklet bottles full of quarters and dollars. Est valu 15k. Enough said. My list from them was 3000
    Items. I came up with around 7500 items.
    This has been the hardest thing I have ever done.
    I need to claim everything even though it’s 4 times over my coverage
    For tax reasons. I say make a inventory now!
    And don’t let that company near your home.
    Keep your list at a friends home or on a cloud server
    Keep a copy in your car.
    Go to This is 25% of my loss
    Good luck and never charge a lipo rc battery in your garage

  4. Anonymous

    @Nickel and others:
    A rather old post, but I do wish to add to the comments about “downloading/installing a program” versus “storing an inventory online”. I’m part of the team who created MyInsuranceInventory — basically an online storage area for this exact purpose. The advantages are your inventory list and photos are always available. A home pc version is susceptible to being destroyed by fire or stolen by thieves. (ie Not available when you need it most!)

    @John and Jeff:
    One other point to add to your discussion is we strongly encourage folks to read their “Duties After Loss” section of their policy. That section almost always requires a prepared inventory list — detailing exact contents with descriptions, actual cash value, amount of loss, and for big ticket items even receipts.

    A little preparation goes a long…… way.

  5. Anonymous

    “it is such a simple thing to do that probably doesn’t take more than an hour…”

    It took me the better part of a day just to list my photography equipment. Doing an inventory is a HUGE job. The free online program mentioned is great, but once you try scanning in receipts, taking photos, looking for serial numbers, etc, you’ve got weeks and weeks of work ahead of you. I wouldn’t even try to list every book, CD, cassette, DVD, and vinyl record. Then it wouldn’t be weeks; it would be months.

  6. Anonymous

    I type a list (on home pc) of our household inventory and try to update it annually. I was advised by my insurer – to take photos of each room and list the items by room. I am behind this year due to several changes – we have had to sell items to meet expenses in today’s economy. That is a GREAT idea to email the inventory to myself so I can retrieve a copy of it from anywhere should my home burn (the inventory list hard copy or hard drive might be lost). I will do that this year, when I update the list.
    BTW, a list really lets you know how much “crap” you really have and could easily forget.
    I always forget some of my books (signed by author) are worth a lot as well as a collection of coins. Recently, a friend who was a doll collector just returned my dolls to me. She is downsizing. So now I have to add those to my list. Some are worth more than I ever imagined when I gave the dolls to her. I was not a doll collector and did not expect to see the dolls again. It was more than kind of her to return them to me. They are worth a lot of money now. She could have easily sold them and made some money.
    Anyway, I would NEVER remember all these things without a list. And I realize, I have too much stuff and I can downsize and make some money at the same time!

  7. Anonymous

    @ Buzz,
    What online service do you use? What’s your review of it?
    To the others: anyone else using other software/services they would recommend?

  8. Anonymous

    I have an inventory and I think its a great idea. I’m not that keen on trying to download software and maintain it so I use an online service. That means if I ever really need to get to my inventory, say if my house burnt down, I can get it anywhere.

    Aside from having that piece of mind, I find I use the information in there surprisingly often. Its always useful to have things like warranty information on hand…

  9. Anonymous

    My 24 yr. old son and father-in-law’s home (in-law quarters type of set up) burnt to the ground one week ago tomorrow at 2am. The insurance agent was there the next morning and after a quick walk-through (still smoldering!), he cut a check for initial needs. He continues to be amazingly helpful, walking all of through each step of this tragedy. He gave us his office and cell number to call him day or night with questions. And asked us to write the inventory list of all of their belongings so he makes sure we’re not shorted in reimbursement money. A fabulous collection of high-end fly fishing rods and tackle is adding up quickly. So is my son’s huge musical instrument and electronic recording equipment. If we weren’t doing the detailed lists and just guestimating, they would be out THOUSANDS of dollars. My suggestion is START THE LIST! As you begin, start room by room, and visualize your “prefire” home. You will soon be remembering things faster than you can write. We’re amazed at how much we would have forgotten if we hadn’t taken the time to do it thoroughly.
    I don’t know how your policy is set up, ours is replacement value. It doesn’t matter that we had a 30 year old fridge or tv or lumpy old living room furniture, they will replace all with today’s equivalents – brand new! I’m sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience, Bill! But be thankful for lives saved, not ‘things’ lost!!!! From the ashes rise new beginnings!!!!!!!! After the dust settles, maybe a switch of insurance carriers is in order.

  10. Anonymous

    My house burn down three weeks ago. It had been burning for sometime before it was discovered. We were not home. Lost everything including piles of tax receipts covering the living room floor. Now adjuster wants a inventory list and he wants it yesterday. I said you got to be kidding!!!! I told him April 15 comes first and that any list I could make would be a long time coming and would be woefully inaccurate as I would be forgetting much – just cut the check for my insured amount. I’m guessing I don’t have to tell the group what the reply was and by the way, I have yet to get an advance check which they did say they would get to me ASAP. I always thought lawyers were low branch feeders but I am learning of a new group of people whom, from my viewpoint, I don’t see how they can call themselves human or if they were how they could sleep at night.

    Can anyone point the way to a list that is available on the Internet that I can use as a starting point?? Sleeping in the car in Northern New England and taking showers in the gym or at friends houses when I go there for dinner sucks. How my wife can survive by only washing with a washcloth amazes me. Thank goodness my employer is understanding but I got to get stable sooner rather than later. Any advise???

  11. Anonymous

    thanks for the timely article – we just bought a home a year or so ago and keep putting off doing a home inventory. I’m gonna do one now after being prompted by this and another post. thanks!

  12. Anonymous

    I am going to have to disagree with John and I am also an insurance agent. My agency offers this service to customers and it has been well received. From an E&O perspective, it can really save your bacon on huge claims like tornado and fire. I would rather my customers have it so I can tell them, hey you need more contents coverage or you need to schedule the jewelry etc. It can really be a tool to point out coverage gaps and increase trust with your clients.

  13. Anonymous

    I’m holding off on installing that program for now. From the license agreement:

    “2.2 Third Party Providers/Third-Party Materials.


    So basically, they may install spyware. Putting it as optin is often a trick used by some companies to look legit. In any case, since my spysweeper subscription has currently lapsed, I’m too nervous to try this. Anyone know exactly what it has and if there is a true opt out option?

  14. Anonymous

    An inventory was preferred by my insurance co. when several boxes of media (games, dvd, cd, books) were stolen by the scum that Starving Students sent to move our stuff. We got nowhere with the merchant & wound up filing a claim under our renter’s policy.

    Fortunately, after one heckuva lot of brainstorming we were able to recreate most of what we had in list form as there’s no way we have a lifetimes worth of receipts. Most however, is not all & we still run across belated reminders of what’s still gone.

    After that little event from heck, EVERYTHING is inventoried now.

  15. Anonymous


    You are right. I guess I took your post a little out of context. I do stand firmly on the fact that it is a horrible idea to provide the insurance company/adjuster with this information.

    If you don’t have an inventory you have as much contents as you say you have. If the house is burned down the company can’t expect you to produce reciepts (and no judge will either).

  16. Interesting perspective, John. So how does it work if you don’t have an inventory? Do you just provide a list of belongings? If so, what harm is there in having an inventory — after all, you don’t have to disclose it to the insurer. You can just use it on your own to generate the list of stuff that you had. Or does the insurer pay out a lump sum in the absence of any evidence? Here again, having an inventory can’t hurt, as you don’t have to disclose it to the insurer.

  17. Anonymous

    This is a truely bad idea. I sell insurance, and trust me, it is a bad idea. Just as you use it to prove what you did have in the house the adjuster can use the same video to show what you didn’t have in the house.

    If you have a fire, and everything burns up the insurance company can’t prove what you didn’t have. Therefore they just pay the maximum limit for contents coverage available on your policy. If you have a “home inventory” then you have to prove that what is in the video is worth the limits of insurance.

  18. Anonymous

    I made one a couple of years ago and as I was doing it I quickly became aware that I would never have been able to remember all that stuff after a fire. It is such a simple thing to do that probably doesn’t take more than an hour and like you said could save you tens of thousands of dollars.

  19. Anonymous

    Thanks for the tip. This is another thing that I have been meaning to update. Like you I had an old inventory, but it is way out of date. I will be checking out that program.

  20. Anonymous

    Fantastic post. I knew a family that lost everything they had in a house fire. A few weeks prior to that, their niece had visited and took a video of their entire house to show her family. She opened all the closets, even opened the cabinets. She went into the attic, the basement, the garage, everywhere, video taping virtually every single thing they had. Their insurance claims adjuster said that video was worth more than $50,000 (it was a large home), because it proved how much stuff they really had.

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