It will be difficult at best to remember every item you own after a house fire, theft or other disaster. Creating a home inventory will help ensure you don't forget what you had if you need to file a claim.

Why you need a home inventory checklist

A home inventory is documentation of your belongings and is very helpful in speeding up an insurance claim process. If you forget what you owned you won't claim everything, and you won't be reimbursed for what you forgot. Home inventories are especially important for large claims like house fires and tornadoes.

3 ways to do a home inventory

How to do a home inventory

There are a few ways to do a good home inventory. If you chose to do an inventory that's on paper or stored on a computer, make sure you have a copy outside the house. If the inventory is destroyed along with your possessions you're back to square one.

1. Make a list

A home inventory list should include:

  • Item description
  • Estimated value
  • Purchase date
  • Serial number (if applicable)
  • Receipts (if available)

Other useful information:

  • Each item's location in the house. You may find it easiest to organize inventories by room. That way, if a particular room is damaged, you'll know exactly which items are gone.
  • Detailed records of particularly valuable items. If you own expensive jewelry, antiques, artwork or collector's items, make special note of their value. When filing a claim, the more detail you can give the insurer, the better. If you have a valuable coin collection, for example, providing your insurer with information on each coin you own, from the year it was made to its condition, will benefit you.

The best home inventory checklists are updated on an annual basis. This will help you keep track of any possessions you've gotten rid of or purchased in the last year.

You'll want to keep a paper home inventory checklist in a safe location. If your house catches fire with your checklist inside, you will lose all the information you worked hard to gather. Store it in a safe place, like the desk at your office or a trusted family member's home.

2. Take photos/videos

Another way to track a home inventory is to film a walk-through of your home.

The camera on your phone will do the trick. Film as you walk through each room in your house, describing each item you see with, if possible, when you bought it and its serial number. Make sure you film inside drawers, closets and storage spaces so you don't miss anything.

Tips for making a video or photo home inventory

3. Use a home inventory app

Home inventory apps make it easy to track items and store photos and videos.

Apps for making home inventories

App Notable features Devices Cost
Digital Locker by Allstate Add descriptive tags to items to allow for quick search iPhone & Android Free
Encircle No limit to the amount of information you can store for each item;

targeted toward professional use but can be used for personal inventory

iPhone & Android Free
Home Gallery by Liberty Mutual Ability to track items in multiple homes/properties iPhone Free
Home Inventory from Binary Formations Estate-planning tool that documents items you want to give to specific heirs;

insurance coverage analysis feature calculates whether you have enough insurance

Mac, but can be backed up to iPhone $39.99
Sortly You can track items that friends borrowed from you iPhone, Android Free

(upgrade available for $4.99/month)

Creating a home inventory can save you from additional stress following a disaster. Even though it may seem like a lot of work, you'll be very glad you made a record of your belongings if you ever have a claim.