How to do a Home Insurance Inventory using Your Camcorder or Digital Camera
by Mark Shapiro
October 15, 2010
If you had a fire or your home was destroyed in an earthquake, how easy would it be for you remember all the things you owned, all the stuff that you and your family had accumulated over the years, and how much it was worth and how much it will cost to replace?
For most of us, it is an insurmountable task.
However, after a major disaster, that is precisely what you will be asked to do by your insurance carrier.
According to Ronald Reitz, CEO of Quality Claims Management, "One of the most difficult challenges a disaster victim faces after their home has been destroyed is working with their insurance company to prepare an inventory list of what has been destroyed and needs to be replaced."
Whether your home has been hit by fire, flood, disaster, - after a disaster, your insurance company will request that you prepare a detailed list of what you owned that was destroyed and needs to be replaced. Assuming you are insured, you will need to come up with a detailed itemized list of what you owned, when you bought it, its condition and how much it will cost to replace.
After a disaster, you will not be in the best condition to start thinking and recollecting what you owned and what it was worth. Even with good notes and an incredible memory, you will still forget many items.
We recommend that once a year you sit down with your family and do an inventory of what you and your family possess. For many people, a good time to do this is the beginning of the year, right after the holidays when you may have lots of shiny new toys, electronics, jewelry and other gifts.
You will need to go room by room, assessing what you own and marking it down. To make it a bit easier, you can download free inventory list spreadsheets from the Quality Claims Management web site. If you are using a spreadsheet, you can check off the items one by one. It is a great time savor and helps you to remember all the little things that most of us own.
However, the most fun way to do this and for many, the easiest and quickest - is by using your video camera or camcorder to make a video record of all your stuff.
1. Go room by room. For example, starting off in the master bedroom, open up your closets and make a slow pan across your hanging clothes as well as shoes and other items you keep stored there. You might want to pan across hanging clothes and say "here are five businesses suits, 12 pairs of pants and 12 blouses - worth about two thousand five hundred dollars".
Open up your drawers and lay smaller items like jewelry, watches, and personal items on your bed and then video those. As you make your video, tell the viewer what you are looking at. It might be a good idea to use your inventory list to have the info about the items and prices near at hand. Even better, it to have someone operate the camera while you read from the list.
2. You are not trying for an Academy award for great film making! If you stop and start, that is fine. If the camcorder jiggles or you stumble as you read, don't worry about it. You are just trying to make a documentary record. If you make a mistake, just re-record it or do it again. Hopefully, you will never have to watch this video again!
There are just two technical channels to be aware of - Make sure that there is enough light in the room that the items can be seen adequately and that you are close enough to the video camera so that your voice can be heard.
Also, make sure there is a tape, flash disk or other storage device in the camera. You don't want to spend the time doing the project and then find out that you didn't really record it! (It happens....). Also remember to charge up your camcorder batteries so you don't have to stop early to recharge them.
3. Make it fun. Get the kids involved. Make it a family project. Make sure they help out when you are in their room shooting video of their furniture, toys, computers, cameras and other possessions. You might say "Santa got this computer last year Christmas for Mary. It would probably cost us about $350 to replace it.
4. Don't forget the garage or the kitchen. Make sure you pull out those treasured tools, pots and pans and get a video copy of those as well. If you have outbuildings or have spent a lot of money on landscaping, make sure it all is on video. Open up the shed and video inside of that.
5. When you are all done, watch the video back to make sure you have not left anything out and then MAKE copies. Burn a few copies to DVDs or onto removable flash or hard drives, and store them away in your safe deposit box, in a secure drawer at work, and maybe send a copy to a relative. You can post it to an online data storage site. If you have filled out a written spreadsheet as well, keep a copy along with the video.
Here are a few more tips to make the process easier and more effective.
1. To research how much items cost to replace, you might want to refer to seasonal catalogs to help recall various holiday items that you don't often use.
2. Be sure that your homeowner’s insurance policy contains a replacement cost endorsement for your contents. It only costs a few extra dollars per year and is well worth it.
3. If you received a real estate appraisal when you bought your home, make a copy and keep it with your contents inventory information. An appraisal should contain a floorplan as well as descriptions of flooring, roofing, walls, countertops and other items attached to your home. This is critical information the adjuster will need.
Finally, if you have a loss, keep in mind that the insurance company will apply depreciation to each item based upon the age of the item. The depreciation will reduce the amount of money they will pay you until those items are actually replaced. Once replaced, you will need to provide receipts proving you spent the replacement cost amount for the items.
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