The Story on Home Inventory

Gotham Brokerage recommends taking stock and documenting your possessions

New Yorkers actually do not have superpowers, and a home inventory is the only way renters and homeowners can make sure they have a record of their belongings in case of fire, flood or other disaster.

With detailed documentation of belongings, their source and cost, people can buy the right amount of renters and homeowners insurance in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Tri-State area. If the residence is destroyed or damaged, the record helps the insurer settle the claim more quickly and accurately and verify losses for tax purposes. Without such documentation, people must try to recall what they’ve lost and what it was worth at a time of trauma — subjecting themselves to an extra headache and, often, a self-inflicted shortchanging.

Here’s what to do:

  • First, have any big-ticket items — artwork, jewelry, heirlooms — appraised and insured separately. Unlike other household items, these frequently appreciate with age.
  • Start documenting. That could mean making a list by hand in a notebook, maybe supplementing it with photographs. Nowadays, though, when anyone can buy a Flip camera for $100 at Wal-Mart, documenting possessions with video is easy. Just walk through the home, making sure you catch everything in closets and storage spaces, narrating when necessary. (Check out a video blog post here on this from The New York Times.) In each room, start with a wide-angle shot, then work your way around, zooming in for detail shots of specific items.
  • As you take inventory, record the serial numbers of televisions, DVD players, microwave ovens and other small appliances. If possible, keep receipts, or at least have an idea of where, when and for how much you bought each item.
  • Insurance companies often have checklists that cover just about everything that ought to be documented. Some even have free inventory software programs you can download and use. Ask for them or look on your insurer’s website; or call us at Gotham Brokerage and we can help.
  • Whether you take inventory electronically or by hand in a spiral notebook, keep your document in a safe-deposit box or at a friend or family member’s home; burn electronic files to a CD or keep them on a separate hard disk. If the worst does happen, you won’t lose access to your careful record-keeping and can simply hand the inventory to your insurance agent.

We at Gotham Brokerage Co., Inc., are old hands at this kind of thing; we’re a family-owned firm that’s served New York and the Tri-State area for a half-century, so we’d be happy to answer any questions about the best way to take stock of your belongings — and suggest the method that’s right for you.

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