How to inventory your house

Making a room-by-room record of your possessions. If your home is burglarized or damaged by fire, an accurate inventory of its contents will substantiate your insurance claim or tax deduction. An inventory also helps you monitor the number, age, and condition of your belongings, making it particularly useful if you move or sublet your home furnished. Companies selling fire and homeowner’s insurance often provide free booklets in which to list household inventory.

Go through your house room by room, writing down the name and quantity of each item, its date of purchase, purchase price, and current value. Check newspaper ads and store catalogs to help you determine current value. Keep separate inventories of clothing, furs, jewelry, silverware, and works of art. Irreplaceable items, and those that have historic or market-determined value, should be professionally appraised.

Photograph each room and take close-ups of works of art and other valuables. Store the photos with the written list in a safe-deposit box; keep a copy of the list in a separate place. Update the inventory annually. Review a new or updated inventory with your insurance company to make sure you have adequate coverage.

You can also take inventory by having someone videotape you as you walk through the house describing and pricing your belongings. Or hire a professional appraiser to draw up an inventory for you. Appraisers charge a daily or hourly rate or a percentage of your property’s appraised value.