More than 40 years of experience

Take an inventory!


While most of us are quarantined at home during the coronavirus stay-at-home order it would be a good time to catch up on some task he might otherwise not have done. I on this list for me and for my recommendations to my clients and friends is the preparation of a good inventory. What I have found to be very effective method of inventory taking is a digital camera, even the camera on a smart phone.

Start on the lowest level for the highest level of your living space. In our case it was a basement. Go around the room and take photographs of each room to show furniture, knickknacks, and everything which is in it. Next open each drawer or door in the room and photographed the contents. It’s important to be able to see in each picture all the contents of the drawer or the closet. Then take a picture of how this level of the building is connected to the next. So for example photograph of the steps leading from the lowest level to the next level. Repeat this procedure for each floor of the house. Then take pictures of the inside of the attic whatever you have as the highest space in your home.

Next step is to go outside your house and photograph the exterior all the way around the house. Then photograph the yard. Try to get the back alley, or the street. Also photograph from outside of your home to your neighbors on all boundaries. If you have a garage, take photographs of the interior including the contents.

When you finish you should have a complete photographic inventory of the inside and outside of your home.

Go back and double check you have the contents of your drawer’s, especially those in which you have valuable items or collections. For example, if you have a clean collection, be sure to photograph all of the items in your coin collection so that an expert coming long after you could see enough detail to evaluate those coins. This is also true for your jewelry. Try to get close enough to the details show. There are many DIY’s on the Internet on how to make a simple structure to photograph glossy surfaces so that the details are easily visible.

Now you have this inventory, what you do with it? Make several copies and disburse them. Do not keep all copies and your home. Perhaps, one should go in your safety deposit box at the bank. Perhaps, one with a trusted relative. Perhaps, one or 2 should be stored in different cloud storage areas.

Why should you have an inventory? In the event of damage, storm, natural catastrophe, theft, flood, virtually any disaster in which you may need to prove what you owned, how you owned it, and so forth. If you have an insurance covered loss, you will need to establish that you had the object or the repair and what it is worth. These photographs of the first steps towards providing evidence of both.

What I like about using this method of photographing with a smart phone is that it is easy, it is quick, and you do not have to spend the time writing down all the information. However, there are some guidelines. So for example suppose you take images of your computer equipment, include model number and serial number.

Remember to take images of the artwork and photographs on your walls. Be sure to take images of your books sufficiently close of the titles are visible. If they are valuable books, take the fly leaves as well. If you have objects art for which you have certificates of authenticity, take pictures of the object and exhibit of authenticity in the same frame if you can. If not, in adjoining frames.

And while you are thinking about this project, pull out your homeowners insurance policy and check the clauses relating to what losses are covered, how much is covered, and most importantly what you’re required to prove. With respect to personal property there are typically 3 types of coverage available depending upon what you purchased. “Actual cash value” is the actual cash value of the item which was lost. So for example in the had a sofa for which you paid $1000. And it’s now 2 years later, the insurance company would be obligated to reimburse you, depending upon the terms of the policy, the value of the sofa with 2 years of depreciation into which would also come into play the condition of the sofa. This is typically a battle of appraisers. The insurance companies appraisers and yours.

“Replacement cost” is another method of evaluation and ensuring your property. This typically refers to replacement for the value of the property itself. So for example, the Sofia purchased was $1000, it’s 2 years later, you are entitled to replacement of $1000.

Another common type of insurance is for “actual replacement cost.” This tends to be a combination of quote actual cash value” and “full replacement cost.” This tends to be you would receive the depreciated value, unless you actually replaced the object and in which case you would receive what the cost you to replace it. How the spells itself out in practice tends to differ from insurance carrier to insurance carrier, and is not always spelled out in the actual policy itself. There are other variations on the reimbursement policy. These are the more popular forms personal property insurance in Maryland.

There are certain items which are not covered by the normal insurance policy. These need to be scheduled on a valuable items policy. I recommend reviewing your inventory with a very knowledgeable property and casualty insurance agent and asking the agent’s advice as to what items, if any, should be scheduled.

So please consider spending a part of a day preparing your visual inventory.

Posted on April 14, 2020