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Take an inventory
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 • Posted April 21, 2009 10:00 PM

Do you know how much the stuff in your home is worth? Not the building, but your personal property. I'm talking about furniture, appliances, electronics, clothes—everything. Although personal property is only one piece of coverage offered by most homeowners policies in Texas, it's an area where many consumers undervalue the amount of coverage they need. Or, even if they have adequate coverage, people often have trouble proving a loss.

Take an inventory of your personal property. An inventory will help you select a coverage amount that's right for you, and it can speed up the claims process in the event you have to invoke your policy.

Go room by room

The best way to track all your possessions would be to have a receipt for everything you've ever purchased. Since few people are that organized, another effective method is to list every item found in each room. That way, if a section of your roof collapses and destroys only your living room, you'll know exactly what was affected. You can make your own list, or use the Home Inventory Checklist prepared by the Texas Department of Insurance.

Be thorough

However you choose to record your belongings, be as detailed as possible. Don't just write "1 dining room table, 6 chairs, 1 china cabinet." Record the brand of furniture, the material its made of, and when and where it was purchased. List serial numbers and brand names when possible. Keep receipts for any big-ticket items. Don't forget built-in bookcases, fireplace mantels, or other unique home features.

A picture is worth ...

In addition to your written inventory, take photos of your items. Open closets and drawers to show their contents. Don't forget the attic, basement, garage, or any storage buildings you may have. You can also use a camcorder to record a narrated tour of your home and its items.

But that won't buy a new refrigerator

Different policies cover contents differently. Pay attention to whether your policy offers the actual cash value of an item or its replacement cost. Actual-cash-value coverage means you'll get the cost to replace the item minus its depreciation. So, if the roof collapses on your living room and wipes out the plasma TV you purchased four years ago, you'll get reimbursed for a four-year-old TV. A policy offering replacement-cost coverage would give you enough money buy a new TV similar to the one that was wrecked.

Watch the exemptions

Coverage on some personal items, such as jewelry and artwork, is limited. It's best to talk with your insurance agent about purchasing special coverage for your diamonds and Picasso.

Now check your policy

Compare your policy to your inventory to see if you have enough coverage to replace your belongings, and find a safe place—other than your home—to store your list.

Don't be caught without enough insurance to cover your losses, and make sure you have the means to prove those losses. Take an inventory of your belongings and talk with your insurance agent about your coverage. If you need to find an insurance agent or for more information about Texas homeowners insurance, visit the Texas Department of Insurance Web site.

For your real estate needs, please contact RE/MAX Genesis at 830-833-2000.

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