Insurance companies require proof of loss when disasters such as fire damage your house and personal goods. Insurance firms also demand documentation to pay recovery costs when thieves rob your home. The Washington Post reports burglars search for items easily sold for cash, including jewelry, electronic equipment, silver and guns, taking only 8 to 12 minutes to collect your goods. Creating a formal record itemizing your personal property helps you document your lost items for a police report and for your insurance agent to use in recording the loss.
Photograph or make videos of all your personal property in your home. Take images from all sides and angles. Include any identifiable features such as identification numbers in the photos or video when possible. Take wide-angle photos of collections and individual photos showing items of high value within collections. Document furniture, artwork and general appliances, such as vacuum cleaners. Photograph musical instruments, exercise equipment, dinnerware, crystal and specialty appliances, including coffee makers and food mixers. Open closets and drawers and snap photos to document your personal items.
Photograph all the personal goods in your garage and around your garden and yard. Take images of your outdoor furniture, gardening equipment, lawn mower, tools and sports equipment. Bicycles and toys also require images for insurance coverage.
Create a formal notebook to describe the items in the photos. Note the size, color and any special features of the item. A description of a camera, for instance, should include the make, model number, special camera features and any attachments you own to use the camera, as well as the date of the purchase when it is known.
Copy the serial numbers and any identification codes for your items into your notebook.
Locate receipts and sales records for your property and make copies of these for your property notebook. Write the name of the item on the individual receipts to match the personal item with the price listed on the receipt.
Hire a professional to provide appraisals for high-value items, even those with purchase receipts. Appraisals confirm the worth of the item for insurance adjusters. Look for appraisers with professional certifications and training to assess items within the appraisers' area of expertise. Request jewelers, for example, to appraise jewelry items.
Make a copy of your photos, information and notebook and store this information in a safe place, such as a bank safe deposit box.
Place the originals of the appraisals, photos and the notebook with your recorded information in a zippered plastic bag to protect the information from water damage.
Ask a trusted friend, family member or the attorney supervising a personal or family trust to keep the original copy of your property information.
Items you will need
- Transfer your property information and images to computer disks for easier storage.
- Avoid keeping your insurance records at home. If found, this information provides a treasure map for thieves interested in taking valuables from your house.
- Washington Post: Anatomy of a Burglary
- State Farm: Creating a Home Inventory
- Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner: A Consumer's Guide to Homeowner Insurance
- Wall Street Journal: How to Insure Your Home
- NOLO: Homeowners' Insurance -- What You Need to Know
- American Society of Appraisers: Principles of Appraisal Practice and Code of Ethics
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images