Another home inventory tool: free iPhone app from NAIC

Our last post dealt with various tools and technologies for keeping home inventories, and we just learned about a free new app for iPhones. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) have introduced myHOME, a tool that lets you capture images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers. It looks great. You can see a brief 2 minute video demo below. And if you don’t have an iPhone, there’s always the low-tech method, which works too. NAIC offers a Home inventory checklist.

New Year’s Resolution: inventory your possessions

Whether you rent or own, it’s critically important to know your stuff. Do you have a home inventory of all your possessions? According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), about half of those recently surveyed do not.
Nick Hytrek talks about the importance of logging your possessions in a recent article in the Sioux City Journal, and notes that the post-holiday period is a good time to start one or update any that may exist:

“It’s a lot easier to take inventory now rather than after a fire has gutted your home. There’s enough to think about without having to try to remember everything you owned once the insurance adjuster arrives.
“After a fire, they basically hand you a piece of paper and a pencil and say write down all your possessions,” said Wynn Gochenour, executive adminstrator at Paul Davis Restoration. “Most people don’t do it beforehand, but wish they would have.”

We’ve previously suggested Know Your Stuff, a free online tool issued by the Insurance Information Institute, that is great for this purpose. It offers a room-by-room inventory system that allows you to create, view, save, and print real time reports. You can learn more about this inventory system in a brief video clip. Hytek’s article also notes that there are national companies that will come in and do home inventories and valuation for you – a service that might be worth it if you have expensive collections.
Hytek offers the following tips for taking a home inventory, sourced from NAIC:

  • Document each item as completely as possible, including brand and model number.
  • Include receipts and/or canceled checks to prove what you paid for items.
  • Remember to include items you don’t use regularly, such as holiday decorations, sports equipment or tools.
  • Review your insurance policy to know what is covered and whether your possessions are insured for actual cash value (the amount it would take to replace or repair the item after depreciation) or for replacement cost (the amount it would take to repair or replace the item without deducting for depreciation).
  • For rare or valuable items such as jewelry, antiques or art, you may want to consider adding additional insurance — a rider — to your policy.
  • Keep the completed list outside of your home. Store it at your office, a family member’s house or safe-deposit box.
  • Update the list annually.

Insurance tips to protect expensive electronic gifts

Planning to get or give a flat screen TV, a new laptop, or a smart phone this holiday season? If so, you aren’t alone. For the first time in more than 25 years, electronics are virtually tied with toys as the top Christmas gift item, according to holiday shopping polls conducted by America’s Research Group. CEO Britt Beemer says, “Electronics sales, especially flat-panel TV sets, are flying out the door this Christmas season.”

The Insurance Information Institute offers good advice for protecting your expensive electronics. Among some of their suggestions and ours:

  • Contact your insurance agent to find out if your current policy will cover the new equipment or if you need additional coverage
  • Learn what your homeowners or renters policy does and doesn’t cover and what your dedutciblesare
  • Learn what your credit cards and product warranties will and won’t cover. Be sure to fill out any warranties
  • Keep a copy of your purchase receipt
  • Add the new item to your home inventory
  • Read the product manuals to learn how to properly set up, maintain, and clean your new electronic goodies
  • Invest in good surge protectors but even those won’t protect your equipment from lightning. The best protection is to unplug expensive equipment during electrical storms

See more in our post from last year: Make sure your expensive gifts are protected – insure those valuables!

Make sure your expensive gifts are protected – insure those valuables!

Was Santa good to you over the holidays? If you received any valuable gifts, you may want to review your insurance coverage to make sure that these items are adequately protected in the event of a loss. Standard homeowners, renters and condominium insurance policies will generally cover personal items, but policies often have limits of $1,000 to $2,000 on the dollar amount for certain valuables. You may also want to check your deductibles. It’s a good idea to review your policy to be sure of the extent of your coverage and to check with your insurance agent if you have any questions or doubts. You may want to add an endorsement (also called a rider) to give you additional coverage for valuable possessions.
Here’s a list of some potentially high-value items that you may want to consider for additional coverage:

  • Expensive jewelry and precious stones
  • Original art and custom or handcrafted items
  • Musical instruments
  • Antiques and heirlooms
  • Crystal, china, silverware
  • Furs
  • Collectibles and special collections
  • Computer equipment

It’s a good practice to keep a home inventory and to update it periodically. The Insurance Information Institute offers guidance on taking a home inventory, along with free downloadable home inventory software. The inventory is stored on your computer but it’s a good idea to keep a back-up copy in a safe location on a CD or a portable flash memory stick.
Additional reading
Insurance Information Institute: Jewelry and Other Expensive Gifts May Require Special insurance Coverage
South Carolina’s Insurance News Service: Insuring Gifts This Holiday Season.
FiLife: Valuables Insurance Guide: The Basics

Renter’s insurance – common questions and misperceptions

In today’s tough economic climate, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) notes that many former homeowners may now be renters, either due to their own choice to downsize or due to a home foreclosure. In the light of this, NAIC offers an alert about renter’s insurance, which discusses the importance of renters’ insurance and dispels some of the most common misperceptions that people have about this type of insurance.

  • “Renter’s insurance is too expensive, and I already have enough bills to pay.” The average renter’s insurance policy costs between $15 and $30 per month. Replacing all of your possessions or being liable for an accident on your premises will cost much more.
  • “I don’t have that many valuables; renter’s insurance isn’t worth the cost.” Renter’s insurance policies can cover everything from electronics to clothing to household appliances. Even a minimal number of items could add up to thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise, which can all be covered in a basic policy.
  • “My landlord has insurance, so I’m already protected.” Your landlord has insurance for structural damage to the building, and might even be protected against damage caused by tenants. However, this coverage does not extend to your personal property, nor does it protect you from being liable for damage you might cause to the building inadvertently (e.g., a kitchen fire or a plumbing mishap).

The alert also includes other common questions and answers related to renter’s insurance. If you have questions about whether or not you need renter’s insurance, how much coverage you need, or what it will or will not cover, your independent agent is also a good source of information.

Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, the Insurance Information Institute offers a free downloadable home inventory software This software will help you create a room-by-room inventory of your personal possessions. Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you:

  • Purchase enough insurance to replace the things you own
  • Get your insurance claims settled faster
  • Substantiate losses for your income tax return