Rely on a personal property inventory when insuring belongings

A personal property inventory is a detailed record of your belongings. Each item is specifically described along with the manufacturer, purchase date, serial and model number when possible, and value. Receipts and appraisals are helpful as are videos and photographs.

There are a variety of ways to prepare the inventory. Some people prefer to write everything on a worksheet or notebook. Others use a computer software program, website, or hire a professional to do the work. Choose the format that works best for you, and get started. Your inventory should include each item of value in every room, closet, garage, and outbuilding.

Putting together a personal property inventory is the best way to know what you have, understand your insurance needs, and secure adequate coverage. The Illinois Insurance Hotline suggests the following next steps for policyholders that have personal property inventories.

  • Total the value of your belongings. Compare this figure to your homeowners insurance contents coverage limit. Talk to your homeowners agent if you need additional protection. Most insurers offer a variety of endorsements, including personal property floaters, to help policyholders tailor coverage for unique needs.
  • Review personal property coverage outlined in the homeowners insurance policy. Personal property is typically insured for specific 'covered perils.' These are events that cause sudden and accidental damage like fire, windstorm, theft, and more. Homeowners insurance policies contain exclusions and loss settlement provisions that affect contents losses. Look for limitations and restrictions on items like jewelry, artwork, computers, and other valuables. Buy-back coverage is often available, but must be in place before a loss occurs. Consider adding contents replacement cost coverage to remove depreciation as a loss settlement factor. Be familiar with the policy deductible, as this is how much you pay out-of-pocket with each personal property claim.
  • Keep your personal property inventory in a safe deposit box, fireproof container, or other secure offsite location.
  • Update and revise the personal property inventory regularly.

Homeowners insurance policyholders have certain responsibilities following a loss. Besides reporting the incident, the policyholder must make temporary repairs to prevent further loss, submit a claim report, and give the adjuster an itemized damage list. An up-to-date personal property inventory will make preparing the list of damages and documenting the loss less overwhelming.