One of the most daunting tasks required in the claim process after losing your home to a fire is properly documenting your personal property to ensure you’re compensated fully for what you’ve lost. Completing a total loss inventory list is a high-stress task, and it must be done correctly so as not to leave settlement dollars on the table. Know going in that it will be messy, time-consuming, and require a lot of patience as you meticulously document the many possessions you’ve accumulated over a lifetime.
Make Sure it’s Safe
Before entering your fire-damaged home, get explicit permission from the fire department that it’s safe to enter. Wear protective gear, like a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, rugged close-toed shoes or boots, work gloves, a hard hat, safety glasses or goggles, and a certified face mask or respirator (marked NIOSH, N95, or P100) to prevent inhaling ash, soot, and other toxic materials.
Creating a total loss inventory requires going through your entire home/buildings, room by room, taking multiple photos/videos, and then creating a list of your items, noting the age, condition, and replacement cost value for each of your possessions.
One Room at a Time
- Make a diagram of the house, labeling all the rooms. This will help jumpstart your memory about the contents of each room. Draw in large items like furniture and electronic items.
- Start in one room. Place several smaller items on a flat surface, like a tabletop, and photograph them. Be sure you can see what's in the photos. Repeat the process until you've photographed everything in that room, then move on to the other rooms and do it all again until you’ve gone through everything.
- Once all photographs have been taken, you can begin the arduous process of going through them and listing every item shown, making sure to include brand, age, quantity, cost, condition—be as specific as possible. Our free Personal Property Inventory Calculator can help you with this. Find it and tons of other valuable tools on our Resources page.
- Note the price you paid for each item on your inventory. Wherever possible, include receipts for the original purchase of your property. If you don’t have receipts or they were destroyed, you may be able to get duplicates from the merchants. You can also research the valuation of similar items on the Internet. Be sure to note the cost to replace your damaged item with a new item of like kind and quality.
Another helpful idea is to visit a department store website and use its wedding registry tool to recreate a list of items you lost in the fire. If the specific item you lost is not available, list the most similar ones. You can also download a price-scanning app, and scan the items that were damaged to create a list of new items and prices.
Assign Replacement Cost Values to Your Personal Items
As there are literally thousands of personal property items to be replaced, you need to be meticulous and organized as you create your total loss inventory list. Some policies provide Replacement Cost Value (RCV) coverage for damaged personal property, but carriers make their insureds jump through some hoops to get fully reimbursed. While confusing to many policyholders, the process ensures your items are replaced in a way that protects the insurance company from overpaying.
As you conduct your inventory, go into as much detail as you can, providing receipts and photos whenever possible, and assigning a replacement cost value to each item. Note that the insurance company's adjuster will depreciate each item based on age, condition, and wear & tear, reducing everything to an Actual Cash Value (ACV) amount (which is negotiable). Your carrier will withhold the depreciated amount until you prove you replaced a given item.
Save all invoices and receipts, so you can submit them for reimbursement.
We Can Help
Creating a total loss inventory is a lot to handle and can be overwhelming. Miller Public Adjusters has extensive experience inventorying damaged/destroyed personal property that will save you time, hassle, and best of all, be done correctly to make sure your assets are fully valued. We will be your advocate, guide through the aftermath of your house fire, and ensure you get every penny you’re entitled to under the terms of your homeowners insurance policy.