You've just finished enjoying all the New Year's Day bowl games on that big high-definition flat-screen TV you got for Christmas.

And the accompanying home entertainment system made it feel and sound like you were there in person.

It would be a shame if your house caught fire and your insurance settlement paid you less than the value of your new possessions. Before the holidays are too distant a memory, it's not a bad idea to make a New Year's resolution to go through your home and take inventory of your possessions so you know exactly what you have -- and what you lost -- in case of a fire or other disaster.

"The holidays are a great reason to review your possessions because chances are you got some new ones," said Tom Alger, Iowa Insurance Division spokesman.

Nearly half of us don't have such an inventory. A 2008 survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found that 48 percent of U.S. consumers did not have a list of their possessions.

It's a lot easier to take inventory now rather than after a fire has gutted your home. There's enough to think about without having to try to remember everything you owned once the insurance adjuster arrives.

"After a fire, they basically hand you a piece of paper and a pencil and say write down all your possessions," said Wynn Gochenour, executive adminstrator at Paul Davis Restoration. "Most people don't do it beforehand, but wish they would have."

Whether you rent or own, having such a list ready to hand to the adjuster can speed up the processing of your insurance claim by days. Your list doesn't have to be extremely detailed, but it helps, Alger said.

"Something is better than nothing, and more is better than less," he said.

Taking pictures is handy, because they can show the brand and model. Some homeowners or renters may shoot video, and as they focus on each item, they describe it. Alger said it doesn't hurt to jot down the brand, model number, serial number and what you paid for each item. And don't forget commonly overlooked belongings such as clothing, which can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.

If you don't want to take inventory yourself, Paul Davis Restoration offers a program called Enservio, in which company representatives will come to your home and detail your possessions for you, then research their value. In the end, you have a line-item list of your possessions and what each is worth.

"We can do every piece of contents or certain pieces," Gochenour said.

Taking total inventory of a home can cost $2,000-$5,000, she said.

Once the list is compiled, don't forget to update it when you buy that new TV or bedroom set.

"In the event something does happen, then we have a fresh list of their contents," Gochenour said.


Tips for taking inventory of home possessions:

-- Document each item as completely as possible, including brand and model number.

-- Include receipts and/or cancelled checks to prove what you paid for items.

-- Remember to include items you don't use regularly, such as holiday decorations, sports equipment or tools.

-- Review your insurance policy to know what is covered and whether your possessions are insured for actual cash value (the amount it would take to replace or repair the item after depreciation) or for replacement cost (the amount it would take to repair or replace the item without deducting for depreciation).

-- For rare or valuable items such as jewelry, antiques or art, you may want to consider adding additional insurance -- a rider -- to your policy.

-- Keep the completed list outside of your home. Store it at your office, a family member's house or safe-deposit box.

-- Update the list annually.

Source: National Association of Insurance Commissioners

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