Create a Home Inventory With Your Digital Camera
Can you name every single item contained in your home? Not many people could, but that’s exactly what you’ll be asked to do by your homeowner’s insurance company in the event of such disasters as fire, flood, or burglary. A thorough photo inventory can be a real help during the stressful process of replacing your belongings.
Although most homeowners are diligent about keeping their home insurance policies up-to-date, many are fairly lax in maintaining the documentation that insurance companies require should a claim arise. While paperwork such as receipts and appraisals are the ideal proof of ownership, a simple collection of digital photos can save the day when it comes to proving your home’s contents.
Before You Begin
- Contact your insurance company to check their specific requirements for a home inventory. In the event of an emergency, you’ll be under enough stress without having to scramble for paperwork you didn’t even know you needed.
- Download an inventory checklist to use as a guideline. If your insurance company doesn’t offer a template, you can easily find a generic one online.
- Gather your equipment. In addition to the checklist, your primary tool will be a good digital camera. Consider one that will automatically download the photos to your computer as you take them. Samsung’s SH100, for example, features PC Auto Backup for Windows XP / Vista / 7.
Make Your Inventory
- Following your inventory checklist, walk through each room and photograph the contents.
- Don’t forget “small” or seemingly inconsequential items such as glassware or cooking utensils. In the event of a disaster you may have to replace 100 percent of your home’s contents, and that small stuff will add up.
- Include outdoor belongings: lawn equipment, bicycles, and patio furniture, for example, are all big-ticket items that absolutely need to be insured.
- Just to be sure you didn’t miss anything, consider supplementing your photo collection with a video walk-through. The SH100 records 720p HD-quality video at 30 frames per second, with a recording time two to four times longer than H.264-format video. You can use the 5x zoom to record the details of smaller items.
Sweat the Details
- For electronics, note serial numbers and model names. This information is not only useful in helping your insurance company to determine replacement value; it can help the police track stolen goods.
- Digitally scan or photograph receipts and appraisals so that you can keep everything in the same digital inventory.
Storage and Maintenance
- Store your photos on a photo website such as Picasa or Photobucket. Some cameras, including the SH100, will let you upload and caption the photos—with info like the item’s purchase date and cost—right from the camera. Remember: storing the photos on your personal computer won’t help in the event of theft or accident.
- Make backups. You may have uploaded the photos to a website, but if ever there were a time for redundancies, this is it. Burn multiple discs of your inventory and store them with a trusted friend or relative, or in a safe-deposit box.
- Remember to keep the inventory updated as new items are added to your home. Once you’ve done the initial legwork, it should be as easy as snapping a couple of photos.
- Review your inventory with your insurance agent. This step will ensure that you’ve met their requirements, and it can also help you fine-tune how much coverage you should be carrying.
In Case of Emergency
- Contact your insurance agent immediately. When you’re waiting for approval to replace an entire houseful of goods, every day counts.
- If possible (and safe to do so), document the damages before cleanup begins. If fire or theft has compromised your Wi-Fi network, you’ll still be able to email photos of the damage to your insurance agent with the SH100’s Wi-Fi tethering feature. Just sync your camera with your phone (any Android 2.2+ or iPhone 4+) to create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot.
It may seem like a lot of work on something you hope never to use, but in the unfortunate event of a disaster, your inventory just may prove to be your most valuable possession.