Inventory your belongings

A written list of your possessions and proof of purchases can also help when making an insurance claim.

Published April 17, 2005

The off-season is a good time to create a home inventory: a master list of everything you own to support an insurance claim if you sustain hurricane damage.

Prepare a written list of all your possessions, everything from furniture to CDs, along with proof of purchase, such as receipts and warranties, showing what you paid for it and when. Supplement this with photographs or a video.

To record individual possessions, set up a camera or camcorder on a tripod, to make sure it doesn't jiggle. Set items on a table in front of the camera with a card listing price, model number, etc. If you're making a video, don't move quickly: Set up your shots and do almost a still photograph. After your first shot, take the cassette out, stick it in the VCR and make sure the camera is recording and is in focus.

Your written documentation should include a brief description of each item, when you acquired it, a model number where applicable, and what you paid for it.

Include receipts that document the price of expensive items such as furniture, cameras, computers, TVs and sound systems. Your insurance carrier likely won't argue if you claim you lost two TVs, but if you suddenly claim that you had a 56-inch plasma-screen TV with SurroundSound, the agent may ask for some proof of purchase.

Likewise, if you claim that you just remodeled your kitchen with top-of-the-line, gourmet-quality appliances (and hadn't bothered to upgrade your homeowners insurance), your agent may ask for some evidence.

You may want to take digital images and store them on a CD.

Keep the inventory in a safe-deposit box or other secure location so it's accessible when it's time to file an insurance claim. Keep a duplicate at home or in a safe location such as your workplace or with an out-of-state relative.

Don't forget to take some images of your home from all sides. If you sustain major damage, you'll be able to show what it used to look like.

Keep a camera handy during hurricane season. If your home is damaged you'll want to take pictures to support your insurance claim.