Homeowners pay for insurance coverage in order to have peace of mind. But real peace of mind requires more than just writing that check once or twice a year. To be truly protected in the event of theft or an emergency, what other important steps should you take?
Inventory All Property
The first step both in determining how much coverage is really appropriate and making sure you're covered is to inventory your belongings. Using a video camera, make a walk through your property and get everything on tape. Make sure to highlight expensive items, brands, makes and models. Take some photos of specific high-value items, including serial numbers if possible. Along with this visual inventory, locate proof of purchase for valuables. For most personal property, this means a receipt from the purchase, any warranties and owner's manuals. If the items were a gift, try to get a receipt from the giver or ask them to provide a written statement of the item gifted and its value. For antique or investment pieces, have a professional appraisal done and document the provenance. Keep these photos, videos, and proofs of purchase in a safe-deposit box or give a copy to a trusted family member who lives in a different location.
Advise Your Agent of New Items
Once the initial inventory is complete, your work is not done. Any time you make new purchases of valuable personal property, add to this inventory and provide your agent with the new information. Even things like expensive Christmas gifts in the home for the holidays could be covered if the policy is updated or riders added to include them. And don't forget valuables located outside the home. Wherever you are, expensive purchases or equipment may be covered by your policy. Talk with your agent and find out how to better cover your vacation or business trip.
Recheck Coverage Annually
Instead of just signing up for the same coverage when the renewal notice arrives, take a few moments to consider changes that have occurred in the last six or twelve months. Have you purchased any new big ticket items? Have you replaced older items? Did the kids move out, taking their belongings with them? Or did they move back in, bringing new personal property that needs to be covered? Have any investments or antiques increased or decreased in value? Have you made additions to the home? Talk a physical walk through your home with a notepad and look seriously at what you have, then meet with your agent to determine if your coverage or any riders need adjusted.
Properly insuring your home and goods requires regular maintenance and attention to things that change. But it's worth it to get the most value out of your annual homeowners insurance payment.