The Ultimate Guide to Making a Home Inventory List

Home Inventory List 101

Whether you own or rent your home, it's essential to ensure your belongings are backed with the protection of the right home insurance, condo insurance or tenant insurance policy so you can replace them without financial stress in the event of a fire, natural disaster or theft. Many Ontarians get the minimum recommended coverage limits. They don't bother making a home inventory list to discover the actual value of their belongings, which can leave them dangerously underinsured.

But what exactly is a home inventory list? How do you make one? And what should be on it? We have the answers to make the process a breeze and ensure you can get the insurance compensation you deserve to replace your possessions should they be damaged or destroyed.

What is a Home Inventory List?

A home inventory list is a complete inventory of your valuable possessions so you can prove what you had if your belongings are destroyed or stolen and get the necessary funds to replace them from your insurance provider. Your list is a thorough record of what you own, including everything from clothing and electronics to furniture and home maintenance tools.

Why is a Home Inventory List Necessary?

Sometimes people assume they don't need to make a home inventory list because they need to have individual items that are very costly. You may not have closets bursting with couture clothing or a home theatre set-up that cost more than your car, but think of it this way—your valuable items are essential to your lifestyle, and their combined value is likely far more than you could afford should it be necessary to replace everything at once. With the financial protection of the right home or tenant policy, you don't have to worry about paying out of pocket to replace everything you own or going without the items you need if the worst happens and your home suffers a catastrophic event such as a fire.

However, more than just having home insurance with contents coverage is needed. It's essential to thoroughly record and verify your assets for insurance purposes with a detailed list for multiple reasons:

  • You may think you know precisely what you have, but mistakes c an be made. Most people need help to come up with a complete list of everything they own off the top of their heads, along with the value of each item. A thorough home inventory checklist ensures you have every essential item noted and don't have to guess.
  • It's typical for people to hear the standard coverage limit for contents insurance and think, "That should cover the replacement costs for my belongings,"—but that may not be the case. Making an itemized home inventory list shows you the actual overall value of your items to ensure your limits are high enough for total replacement value and helps your insurance broker know if you have high-value items that need to be separately appraised and scheduled.
  • A good home inventory list includes photos, receipts and other information that proves you own those items and their values so your insurance company can process your claim quickly and smoothly.
  • Suppose you have the misfortune of having your home and belongings destroyed or seriously damaged. In that case, that will be a very stressful situation, and it'll be time-consuming to resolve it. The last thing you want to deal with in a high-pressure scenario is to pick through your destroyed property and remember everything that was destroyed so you can get your insurance claim underway. Pre-preparing a home inventory list means you won't have to.

Who Should Create a Home Inventory List?

Since the critical reasons for creating a home inventory list are to ensure the coverage limits on your contents insurance are adequate for full replacement value and to help the claims process go smoothly, it stands to reason that anyone with a homeowners insurance policy should create a checklist. But it's also an essential step for those who rent their home. Tenants need total renters insurance coverage to give them financial protection if their belongings are destroyed or stolen—a landlord's insurance policy will not apply to anything that belongs to the tenant. In that sense, a list is just as necessary for someone with tenant insurance as for someone with homeowners insurance.

How Do I Create a Home Inventory List?

We mentioned above that a good home inventory list is more detailed than just an essential "grocery list" of items. Ideally, each item listed should be annotated with the following information:

  1. The name and description of the item, including the brand and model or style
  2. The serial number of electronic items such as appliances or computers
  3. Digital photos or video footage of the item (or both)
  4. The actual purchase receipt or an image of the receipt, if possible, or a note of the date it was purchased and the price paid
  5. An estimation of how much it would currently cost to replace the item

You likely will only get some of the information listed above for some items, which is okay. Every little bit helps, so get as much information as possible for each possession. Each piece of information you collect will make it that much easier to get through a disaster and its aftermath to the point where your home and belongings are restored with financial support from your insurance provider.

Photos and Videos

Most people have a camera in their back pocket, so it's reasonably simple to take out your phone and get a snapshot of each item as you gather information for your home inventory list. But creating a video walk-through of your home is also a good idea. Don't worry; you don't need any fancy equipment or cinematographer skills. Slowly go through your house, room to room, pausing in each room to slowly capture video footage of the entire space. Please pay special attention to high-value items, capturing their brand names and other pertinent identifying details. Remember to open the closet and cupboard doors on the video and get up close and personal with smaller items that can't be easily seen in a quick overall room scan.

Make sure to label the digital images with the name of the item. Consider including a piece of paper in the image that lists the purchase price and purchase date of the object it's with. Remember to include the phone or camera you use to take the photos and videos on your home inventory list!

Inventory Method

When it comes to the method of recording information, there are a few different ways to approach the task of creating a home inventory list. Some prefer to keep a physical inventory count sheet with a good old-fashioned pen and paper. In contrast, others turn to digital home inventory methods ranging from expensive inventory apps or special home inventory software to simple inventory spreadsheets. Both ways are good, and the best course of action is to have multiple copies of your list stored in hard copy form and on a data cloud.

An app on your phone or tablet can be helpful because it makes it easier to get photos, videos, receipts and other information grouped in a well-organized home inventory, but if you do decide to use an app, make sure to choose one that allows you to export your list out of the app and save it in multiple locations, so you're not reliant on being able to access the app to see your list.

At Morison Insurance, we've created a home inventory list PDF that makes it easy to get started and see what information you have and still need for each item. Simply download it for free and print it out to get started.

What Should I Include on a Home Inventory List?

This is undoubtedly the trickiest part—there are a lot of essential, unique items in your home that are valuable and necessary parts of your life, so the whole process of creating a home inventory list can feel very daunting, especially if you're not sure where to start.

If you write down one thing in the kitchen, remember something you wanted to include from the bedroom, and then wander over to the garage and add a few more items, you'll likely leave a lot out—and the overall process will feel chaotic, disjointed and ineffective. That's why one of the most effective and least stressful methods is to go into any room and complete the inventory for that entire room before moving on to the next.

Areas to Check

You already know which rooms you have in your house, of course. But while you're focused on prominent places like the living room or bedroom, it's easy to remember some of the areas you use or visit less in your day-to-day life. That could include the garage, basement and other storage zones, hallways, vestibules and other transitional areas. While you may only keep a little in the hallway, you may have artwork on the walls, furniture, and other items that must be included. Here are some of the possible areas in your house that you need to clear on your home inventory list:

  • Kitchen
  • Dining Room
  • Living Room / Den
  • Laundry Room
  • Bedrooms
  • Bathrooms
  • Basement
  • Office
  • Garage
  • Attic

Items to Include

Going from room to room is a reliable method for completing a thorough home inventory list, but what items need to be included in each room? There's a vast array of possibilities, but here are a few of the things that often get forgotten:

  • Recreational Equipment: Sport and play gear, exercise machines, bicycles, etc.
  • Pets: Kennels, medical equipment or supplies, accessories
  • Electronics: Personal devices like cell phones and laptops, home entertainment equipment, musical instruments and studio equipment
  • Appliances: Refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, laundry machines, smaller appliances
  • Jewellery and Artwork: Wearable jewellery, display pieces, paintings, framed photographs, sculptures, etc.
  • Clothing: Expensive, high-quality or difficult-to-replace apparel
  • Other: Records of credit cards, tax documents, identity documents, marriage and birth certificates

When Should I Update My Home Inventory?

You'll want to update your home inventory when you acquire a new item or items that significantly change the overall valuation of your home's contents. You don't need to update it every time you shop, but significant purchases warrant an update. If it's been a while since the last update and you've made a lot of smaller purchases, it's also worth updating your home inventory list to ensure it accurately reflects your belongings. Make the updates a lot easier for yourself by keeping your purchase receipts where you can easily find them, which will also make tax season much less stressful.

Where Can I Find More Help Starting A Home Inventory List?

If you've read through the information above and still have questions or need help figuring out where to begin, the help you need is just a phone call away. Get in touch with your knowledgeable Ontario broker at Morison Insurance for tips, advice and personalized suggestions on how to get your home inventory list done. We work for you, not the insurance companies, which means our friendly brokers will work tirelessly to find the right homeowners insurance or tenant insurance for your unique insurance requirements. The first step to getting started today is to fill out the contact form on our website or call 1-800-463-8074 and speak with our brokers about your home inventory list.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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