How well do you know the contents of your home?

Could you rattle off the make, model and amount you paid for your television? Do you have images of your grandmother’s heirloom jewelry or the serial number from the back of your computer monitor?

If fire or burglars tear through your home, having detailed information about your belongings could result in thousands more returned to you by your insurance company. The information could even help apprehend a criminal.

And with the advent of digital cameras, video recorders and scanners, documenting your property has never been easier.

Here are some easy steps experts recommend you take now – before bad luck strikes and you’re puzzling over what you’re missing.

• Take images, and lots of them.

Photograph or videotape all of your rooms from every angle, and take close-ups of belongings of special value or importance. Don’t forget your closets and your garage. You would certainly want to be reimbursed for power tools or couture shoes in the event of a fire or burglary.

Keep the CD or prints in a safe place away from your home, such as in a safety deposit box or a relative’s home, advises N.C. Department of Insurance spokeswoman Kristin Millam. You might want to keep a copy in a safe place at the office.

Update the list as often as possible. Experts recommend updating the list every time you buy something costing more than $500. Millam recommends taking a photograph of the front page of the newspaper on the day you do your inventory. Be sure to keep that photo with the others, so you have a surefire way to reference what belongings you had on that date.

• Write down the serial numbers that appear on the back of your electronics.

Almost any electronic item will have one: portable phones, computer equipment, televisions, video game consoles, GPS devices. Those serial numbers could help police find the goods at local pawn shops or in a burglary suspect’s possession. Without one, it’s almost impossible to prove a recovered item was yours. Again, keep the list in a safe place away from your home.

If your home is burglarized, police detectives can tap into a pawn shop database and, by plugging in the serial number from your list, could recover your items if the burglar dropped them off there.

Officer Kirk Schultz of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Police said inventories greatly help authorities when a burglary occurs.

“If you can have all your belongings in a prepared list, you can go down the checklist and see what’s missing,” he said. “And if all the serial numbers are on there, burglary detectives can access a pawn shop database that can lead to questioning somebody, or an arrest.”

• Keep receipts, and get images of them on a CD, if possible.

You’re far more likely to get reimbursed appropriately for the new front-load washer and dryer or plasma TV if you can prove how much you paid for them.

If you got married in recent years, you could even include your wedding registry to document new possessions.

• Use Internet tools to keep you on track.

The Insurance Information Institute ( has lists of items you should include on your inventory, as well as free home inventory software you can download.

Web resources

• Insurance Information Institute:


Making a list: where to start

To help with your home inventory, you’ll find sample list forms and even free software online. To make the job less daunting, approach your inventory by room or category:

• GENERAL APPLIANCES: Televisions, VCR/DVD player, video camera, CD player, stereo equipment, CDs, records, radios, sewing machine, cameras, answering machine, phones, washer/dryer, air-conditioners, heaters, fans, vacuum cleaner, exercise equipment.

• GENERAL HOUSEHOLD: Carpet/rugs, window treatments, bookcases, chairs, lamps/light fixtures, clocks, mirrors, pictures/wall hangings, collections (coin, stamp, etc.).

• LIVING ROOM: Sofa, chairs, coffee table, end tables, entertainment center, piano/other musical instruments.

• DINING ROOM: Buffet, table, chairs, china cabinet, china, silverware, crystal, table linens.

• BEDROOMS: Beds, bed linens, dressers/chests, night tables, clothing, shoes, coats, furs, sports apparel, jewelry.

• KITCHEN: Table, chairs, refrigerator, freezer, stove, microwave, oven, dishwasher, pots/pans, dishes, kitchen utensils, coffee makers/other small appliances.

• BATHROOMS: Hair dryer/other electrical appliances, scale, shower curtains, towels.

• HOME OFFICE/STUDY/DEN: Desk, chairs, sofa, computer, printer, scanner, fax machine, books, tables, business supplies.

• GARAGE/BASEMENT/ATTIC/SHED: Luggage/trunks, sports equipment, toys/outdoor games, bicycles, small boats, trailers, lawn mower, shovels, sprinklers/hoses, wheelbarrow/other garden tools, ladders, work bench, carpentry tools/supplies, holiday decorations.

• PORCH/PATIO: Umbrellas, outdoor cooking equipment, planters, spa or hot tub.

(SOURCE: Insurance Information Institute)

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