How to create a home inventory

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It’s not easy to remember everything you own in a pinch. Over the years, we accumulate a lot of stuff, and recalling your belongings on command is not something most homeowners can easily accomplish. A home inventory can be the critical, time-saving tool you need when there are no seconds to spare in an emergency. A thorough inventory provides the easy proof of ownership that your home insurance or renters insurance company needs to begin restoring your belongings and your life to normal.

For example, a fire can cause extreme damages between the associated flooding and smoke damage. Your home inventory can help guide the amount of insurance coverage that you need to buy, file an insurance claim and confirm any losses on your tax return.

How to start your home inventory:

A simple, step-by-step process can help you get started and stay on track when creating your home inventory.

  1. Find an easy place to start.
    It can be incredibly overwhelming to figure out where and how to start the process of your home inventory, especially in larger areas where you have more stuff. Instead, choose a smaller, confined space like a closet to get the process underway without all the intimidation and heartache.
  2. File recent purchases.
    If even the closet seems like too much, switch tactics and look to your most recent purchases instead.
  3. Start with basic details.
    There are some basic details that you should include for each item on your home inventory, including a brief description of the item, the price and any other identifying characteristics, such as the make and model or product number.
  4. Take photos.
    Whenever possible, use your phone or digital camera to capture pictures of each item for easy reference. Catalog and store each photo using a cloud storage program that is both easily accessible and secure.
  5. Document serial numbers.
    Additional details like serial numbers and product numbers are beneficial as a reference point when filing a claim. Be sure to include these in your home inventory wherever possible.
  6. Categorize your belongings.
    When recording each of your belongings, use categories to condense and simplify. Instead of listing each pair of shoes that you own, for example, simply add “7 pairs of sandals.” Be sure to make a note of high-value items and list them separately.
  7. Store receipts.
    Your insurance company may request proof of purchase with your claim, so be sure to keep and file sales receipts, purchase orders, sales contracts and appraisals.
  8. Confirm high-value coverage.
    If any of your belongings are of exceptionally high value, you should note the additional value on your inventory. Discuss these items with your insurance agent to ensure that you purchase as much insurance as you need.
  9. Update as needed.
    As you add more purchases and belongings to your collection, you should also update your inventory to keep it current.

It is important not to let yourself get discouraged throughout the process. The initial inventory will take some time, but if you begin to feel overwhelmed, take a break and start again later when you feel refreshed.

Don’t forget to add these items to your home inventory:

What is out of sight can be out of mind. Unfortunately, easily forgotten items can also impact your home inventory. There are some of the things that are commonly overlooked in the average home inventory.

  1. Electronics: This includes not only your TV but other entertainment accessories, too. Add any sound systems, speakers and gaming systems to your list, and do not forget small electronics.
  2. Items in storage: Do not forget to account for any items that are in off-site storage. Some items in storage could be covered under your homeowners insurance policy, but you will want to discuss whether you need additional insurance with your agent.
  3. Furnishings: Your rugs, curtains and blinds are all items you should include in your home inventory. Not only do they make your home beautiful, but they can be pretty expensive to replace, too.
  4. Phones: Today’s cell phones can cost several hundred dollars to replace. Be sure to add any cell phones or house phones to your home inventory.
  5. Music instruments: A piano may stand out as an obvious item for your inventory, but other instruments should be included, too.
  6. Appliances: Appliances can be some of the most expensive items in the home. Things like your stove, fridge, microwave and dishwasher are all critical to add to your inventory.

Make your home inventory easier

There are several tools that you can use to make the home inventory process more manageable. Of course, you can document everything with pen and paper, but then you risk losing your inventory, along with your belongings, in an event such as a fire or flood. Creating a home inventory in digital format could be a better, faster and more secure option.

Filling out our home inventory worksheet and saving it in the cloud is one easy way to create and maintain your home inventory, even as your collection of possessions grows each year.

Home inventory apps and technology

Thanks to the digital age today, several apps can help you create your home inventory. From capturing and storing photos to organizing your things by category, these are some of the best apps in 2021 to help with your home inventory.

App/Software Operating system Price Standout feature
Allstate Digital Locker Android, iOS Free Helpful Quick Inventory feature for step-by-step inventory building
BluePlum Home Inventory iOS $19 with a 30-day money-back guarantee and a free 14-day trial Create collections based on rooms, collections and even properties for easy sorting
Home Contents iOS Free with in-app purchases Use the camera feature for quick entry and a secure record of your things
Magic Home Inventory Android Free Allows home inventories based on multiple properties with an advanced search feature
Memento Android, iOS
Desktop
Lite: $3/mo.
Pro: $6/mo.
Pro Plus: $10/mo.
Team: $5/mo. per user
Syncs with Google Sheets for a custom, color-coded database
MyStuff iOS, Android Free, with in-app purchases Barcode scanning with sorting between high-value and everyday items
Nest Egg iOS $4.99, with in-app purchases Take HD photos and scan barcodes with convenient batch editing
Smart Inventory System Android Free Use QR codes to easily and quickly build your inventory with offline availability
Sortly Android, iOS Basic: free
Advanced: $39/mo.
Ultra: $99/mo.
Allows for incredibly detailed inventory; can generate QR codes for your stuff

Hire help

If you feel completely overwhelmed or simply don’t have the time to do your home inventory yourself, there are professionals who can help. Professional home inventory experts are commonly available in many places to provide an experienced touch to your home inventory.

You can check the National Association of Home Inventory Professionals for tips on finding the right professional to help with your home inventory. Be sure to look for client reviews and ask your provider any questions you may have regarding the process or how to best customize their services for you.

Frequently asked questions

Why do I need to create a home inventory?

Your home inventory not only serves as a detailed record of what you own for your homeowner or renters insurance policy, but it can also help document losses on your tax return or determine how much homeowners or renters insurance to buy.

How much does it cost to make a home inventory?

You can create a home inventory for free, depending on your available time and resources. Several apps can help for a nominal monthly fee, and or you can choose to hire a professional service to handle all of the details for you.

How can I make a home inventory stress-free?

A home inventory can be challenging to create, but taking a step-by-step approach can help simplify the process. Our home inventory worksheet can help you start your inventory today and add to it over time so that it does not become overwhelming.

Written by
Lena Borrelli
Insurance Contributor
Lena Muhtadi Borrelli has several years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as allconnect, Healthline and Reviews.com. She previously worked for Morgan Stanley.