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document your belongings

Readers Agree – Document Your Home as a Disaster Precaution

By Anthony SanFilippo
September 2019

Earlier this month, we suggested it was a good idea to document your belongings as a precaution to any kind of disaster.

We outlined six key steps you should follow to do this to help expedite your insurance claims.

The response to our story was overwhelmingly positive on Facebook with consumers just like you weighing in on the concept, whether it was to confirm this as a good idea, thank us for the reminder, or to share their success or horror stories related to protecting themselves in case of disaster.

“We have flood insurance, but you have to inventory and document prices for everything. I so wish we had done this. We have spent endless hours trying to remember what all we had and determining what the cost will be to replace.”

Patricia Fountain of Spokane, Wash. was the first to admit she had wished she had done these six steps prior to her unfortunate situation where she lost everything in a home fire.

“I have been through this,” she said. “It is not fun. It is long, tedious and frustrating, but you are required to do this for insurance purposes. Just remember to keep your list somewhere safe like a [safety] deposit box because you don’t want it in your house.”

While Fountain is 100 percent correct – keeping an itemized list is paramount and keeping it off site (or multiple places off site) is equally important, documenting should be more than just a list as was mentioned in the story and as Linda Tripp Fulenwider reminded everyone, video documentation is your best bet.

“Video every room and keep a copy in a safe outside your home in addition to itemizing your items,” she said. “Having receipts for the larger items is good as well… Jewelry boxes [also] need to be photographed along with the items in them.”

Susan Ann Thorpe-Miller shared a very sad story about an ordeal she went through following a house fire, explaining what it was like to go through the process without an inventory saved elsewhere. But she also advised getting replacement insurance on top of the regular insurance.

“Replacement is new, regular means the depreciated value depending how old it is,” she said.

In other words, most items through regular insurance will only bring you the return of the depreciated value of the item lost in the disaster. Whereas replacement insurance will bring back the actual value of the item to be replaced with a new version.

Marietta Dutil-Morin of Maryland said she updates all her documentation about once a decade, but also take photos of newer valuable items as she gets them.

In Marysville, Wash., Kathy Anderson called this process “absolutely essential” because it’s impossible to remember everything that might be lost.

“My parents home burned to the ground,” she said. “We remembered things we hadn’t listed – a year later.”

Marina Ruetten of Washington, D.C. suggested exchanging the info with other family members who live elsewhere as well – this is a good idea in case they need to come in and help rectify the disaster.

Meanwhile, Gail Abernathy Dickrell said she takes photos of everything that comes into her house and uploads them to the cloud for storage.

To be fair, there were also a lot of folks who weighed in calling this task too arduous saying things like it sounded like a logistical nightmare to document everything and that there’s no way everything can truly be documented.

And while there are a lot of us who feel that way – that maybe taking all the time and effort to document your belongings is a waste of time – there could come a day when you wish you weren’t so cavalier about it.

Cheryl Scism of Oklahoma said she wishes she had taken the time to do this before a devastating flood wiped out her entire neighborhood for more than a week.

“We have flood insurance, but you have to inventory and document prices for everything,” she said. “I so wish we had done this. We have spent endless hours trying to remember what all we had and determining what the cost will be to replace.

“Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.”


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