March 7, 2012

Do you have any idea how much you own – or what all the electronics, furnishings, clothing, jewelry, and furniture pieces in your home are collectively worth?

If you’re like most people, the answer is no. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 48 percent of consumers do not have an inventory of their possessions. And for those who do, 32 percent don’t have photos, and 58 percent lack receipts.

These records are the key to helping you recoup your expenses if your personal property is stolen, damaged or destroyed by fire, flooding or other causes. But, for most people, the thought of spending countless hours going from room to room to make and edit lists is overwhelming.

Relax. Here are some tools (including a few handy mobile apps) that make the task of documenting and protecting your belongings a lot easier than you think.

Get a Quick Appraisal

What’s Your Stuff Worth? is an interactive tool that helps you assess the value of your possessions and make real-world comparisons of costs to cover your things. If you’re renting your place, consider this: For less than the cost of two lattes per month (about $8), you could insure everything you own.

Smart Phone Your Home

There’s an app for everything, including home inventories. If you have an iPhone or Android phone, you can get a free downloadable digital locker that lets you quickly photograph and capture descriptions of your possessions. The app electronically stores all your information, which also keeps the information safe from the hazards that might invite a claim.

Use Checklists

Not comfortable using a smart phone? A little advance preparation can still streamline this task. For example, inventory guide checklists can walk you through the process of cataloguing the purchase price, date of purchase and serial numbers for all your belongings (be sure to take pictures or videos of each item).

Check Your Coverage

Once you’ve gone through and catalogued your valuables, you’ll want to assess your current coverage. Homeowners insurance typically offers two types of personal property coverage – Actual Cash Value, which covers replacement costs minus depreciation (the decrease in an item’s value due to age, condition, or other factors), or a Reimbursement Provision, which covers the actual amount it would take to replace your belongings at the time of the claim.

To review which type you have, look at your policy declarations under “personal property.” You also might want to talk to an agent or financial adviser to make sure you’re properly protected.

Keep Your Records Safe and Up to Date

Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to store your home inventory and related documents (e.g., sales receipts, appraisals, etc.) in a safe, easily accessible place – whether it’s online, on your computer or in a fireproof or safe-deposit box. Consider sharing a copy with friends, relatives and your insurance provider. And be sure to review and update your inventory annually, or whenever you make a significant purchase.

By taking advantage of all the tools that can streamline a home inventory, you will know exactly what you own, what it is worth and – even if misfortune strikes – you’ll have quick access to critical information that can take the edge off recovering all your stuff.

Disclaimer: The author is affiliated with Allstate Car Insurance. SocialMoms was not compensated in any way for this article. This article was edited by SocialMoms staff to meet our editorial and quality guidelines.