• Is the coverage broad and sufficiently comprehensive to thoroughly protect your home and personal property? Does it also provide personal liability protection?
• If you suffer a total loss, is the value of your home subject to depreciation? Many insurance policies decrease the value of your home over time, leaving you with a settlement that doesn’t cover the cost of a new home.
• Can you select from a number of optional coverages, or increase policy limits, so the insurance fully meets your needs?
• Can you choose from a number of payment options and select the one that best fits your needs? For instance, can you pay your premium in installments, or use a major credit card? What about electronic funds transfer?
• Does the company have a track record of quick response and fast claims handling? Can you file a claim at any time? Are there different ways to file a claim so you can choose the one most convenient for you?
There are many choices of software that are inexpensive to purchase or you can log onto www.download.com to search for free home inventory software. It takes just a few hours to compile an inventory, and it will be a tremendous help, in the unfortunate event you suffer a loss.
- Start outside with views of each side of your home’s exterior and landscaping.
- Include storage sheds, cars, bicycles, and other items you store outside.
- As you videotape, state the item’s age, value, special features, and any serial numbers. It’s a quick, easy way to make sure this information also gets recorded.
- Inside your home, start with the walls, then include ceilings and any special light fixtures.
- Be sure to include furniture and appliances.
- Open drawers and videotape the contents.
- Don’t forget to include high-value items by themselves, such as antiques, jewelry, sculptures, paintings, books or special collections.
- Include a written description of each item, the purchase date, original value, and model/serial numbers.
- For valuable items, save your sales receipts and attach them with your household inventory.
When you finish, store your list or videotape outside your home, preferably in a safe deposit box. It is also a good idea to keep a copy where you work or to ask a friend or relative to store it. Remember to update the inventory list when you buy new items.
Your insurance representative is a good resource for information, so be sure to ask about coverage for all your personal possessions. You may have some valuable items that need higher coverage limits than the base policy provides.
- Install and maintain smoke detectors. Install a smoke detector in every bedroom and hallway of your house. Avoid placement in or near the kitchen, as this can create false alarms. Test the detectors regularly, and replace batteries every six months even if they are not wired into your household current. Replace detectors as dictated by the company from which you purchased them.
- Plan (and practice) an escape from your home. Have at least two escape routes from every room in your home. Make sure everyone can escape the house quickly by themselves, especially small children and elderly persons. Pick a spot outside the home to meet. Refresh everyone’s memory of the escape plan at least twice a year with practice fire drills.
- Take steps to reduce fire hazards. There are many things you can do to reduce the chance of fire, including:
- Never leave a lit stove unattended, and never use it to heat your home.
- Have your central heating system maintained yearly.
- Make sure any supplemental heating devices are clear of drapes and other flammable material.
- Install skirting material so leaves and other flammable debris can’t collect beneath your home.