Spring is right around the corner and for many homeowners, there is a common ritual known as "spring cleaning."1 I suggest that while you are doing your cleaning and if you are particularly thorough and turning your home inside out, you might as well take the opportunity to inventory the contents of your home.

The reason I am making this suggestion is that all too often I hear policyholders having difficulty presenting their claims to insurance companies for damage to personal belongings after a loss. This frequently occurs after a fire or theft where the best evidence of the loss, the item itself, is not available. The problem is compounded if the item being claimed is perhaps old enough where a receipt or other proof of purchase might not be available. Sometimes the documents that would prove the existence and possibly the value of the claimed items are also destroyed or otherwise unavailable. It would be one thing if insurance companies would simply take the policyholders’ word, but we all know that is not how the claim process works.

So, how can one best create an inventory of all the home contents—furniture, electronics, clothing, etc.? Nowadays, there are apps for everything imaginable, and that includes an app for a home inventory. There are actually quite a few apps choose from and most are free. I tested a few apps for the smartphone, but I found one that in my opinion is the most user friendly. The app is called "myHOME Scr.APP.book" and is put out by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The app takes very little time to learn. You start with any room of the house (e.g., family room, kitchen, bedroom) and then in each room you start entering the items, and for each you can note the item name, item category, brand name, purchase date, purchase price and serial number. Using your smartphone, you can also take a photograph of the item. The information is saved automatically within the app itself, but the app also allows you to email a version of the completed inventory to yourself or anyone else you think should receive a copy. If you have an inventory kept in this fashion, it should expedite the adjustment of your contents claim. There should be fewer questions as to the existence and/or value of the contents.

One of my colleagues in our New Jersey office, Rob Trautmann, in a recent blog mentioned that statistically policyholders experience one or two claims in their lives. Obviously, it is best to never have to deal with a loss such as a fire or theft. However, taking time now to organize and to prepare, and whether you create an inventory of home contents with an app or just on paper, getting one done will alleviate problems that may arise in the insurance claim process.

1 Just a bit of history: The practice started here in America during 19th century prior to the advent of the vacuum cleaner. The month of March was the ideal time for dusting because it was warm enough to open doors and windows such that winds could carry the dust out of the house. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_cleaning