Creating a proper home inventory requires a lot of time, planning, and organization. Even with the apps and tools available, most people never finish this daunting task.
If you don’t prepare for a disaster, you are left to create your inventory by sifting through ashes or piles of debris, trying to figure out what you had. It’s an emotionally difficult time, making it practically impossible to remember everything.
To be prepared, a Virtual Home Inventory is the best way to document your home and personal property. This digital copy of your home is the foundation for an insurance claim. It provides not only proof of possession, but also quality and condition of your house and all your belongings. The information that is critical for determining value.
Building an inventory from memory after losing your home is even more difficult than creating one before a loss, because you won’t remember everything. If you can’t remember it, you can’t claim it, which means your settlement will be less than it should.
Working from memory also takes more time. Sifting through ashes, asking friends for photos, or hiring a consultant to help you remember takes much longer than walking through your VHI, seeing what you had, and building your claim. With preparation you can save time when it’s crucial to move forward.
Complete documentation is key to rebuilding your life after a loss. Visual documentation provides proof of possession, quality, and condition, key factors to establishing value for your settlement. That’s what makes a VHI so valuable, you can prove what you had and receive a settlement that accurately represents your loss.
Losing your home is a uniquely painful and emotional experience. Victims have told us that having to sift through the ashes of their homes was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of their lives. And without an inventory, the entire claims process is drawn out for months to even years, dragging out the grief and loss as well.
With a VHI, you gain the peace of mind knowing you are prepared should the unthinkable happen. You know you can prove what you owned, get a better settlement, and get rebuilding.
If you lose your home, you’ll avoid the pain and stress that comes with creating your claim from memory. With this digital copy, you can see what you lost, so you don’t have to worry about what you are forgetting. You’re able to move forward immediately, bringing relief instead of uncertainty.
Rising temperatures increase evaporation, resulting in more moisture in our atmosphere and bringing more falling precipitation. Higher elevations will get increased snow, while mid and lower elevations will get more rain.
Yet, heavy precipitation isn’t just more rain and snow, it’s more intense storms. These hard rains overwhelm sewer systems and intensify urban flooding. Landslides are another threat of heavy precipitation as more water in the soil causes slopes to lose their stability. Oregon is anticipating a 20% increase in landslides.
The greatest threat to homeowners from rising temperatures is fire. Heat waves are becoming more intense and last longer, exacerbating heat islands in urban and suburban areas. All that heat evaporates moisture and dries out fuel. Fires burn longer and hotter in these dry conditions and spread more quickly.
For years, we’ve watched wildfires destroy communities in California, and in 2020, we lost whole towns in Oregon. Experts expect rapidly spreading wildfires and longer wildfire seasons to continue.
Fires are self-perpetuating, creating more heat and more wind which increases the intensity and speed of the fire. Residential hills are especially vulnerable because stronger upslope winds add oxygen and spread fires more quickly. No longer just a threat to rural areas, wildfires are crossing urban boundaries and destroying suburban homes.
While not a direct threat to your home, lack of preparation is a threat to you and your ability to recover from a disaster.
Every insurance claim starts with an inventory of what was lost. If you don’t have a home inventory, you won’t remember everything, and if you can’t remember it, you can’t include it in your claim. And since you can’t prove otherwise, insurers will place a lower value on your home and belongings, leading to a smaller settlement and a longer recovery.
In the time between accepting a settlement and receiving your payments, you end up carrying the financial burden. Whether you have Replacement Cost or Actual Cash Value insurance, the burden of proof is always on you, which is why being prepared with a home inventory is so crucial to your recovery.
Psychology Today recognizes losing your home as a “uniquely painful” event because “home is our shell, our sense of place, and our sense of identity.” It’s a devastating experience.
Victims have told us that when confronted with the loss of their home, they find the task of filing a claim to be overwhelming. If they also need to create their inventory in the midst of their grief and uncertainty, the task becomes unbearable and inevitably drawn out.
Proof. Every item included in a claim must be verified. Without proof, insurers will either assess the item at a much lower value or exclude it all together. The same is true for your house. Because your dwelling is the largest asset, a low valuation can mean a huge loss for you.
If you can’t provide all the details such as finishes, fixtures, major appliances, ceiling height, and quality of trim, your insurer will not give you a settlement sufficient to replace them. A home inventory enables your policy to work as it should.
Proving possession is only part of the equation. The quality and condition of your home and belongings determine if you’ll receive the full value or only part of the value your insurance covers. Without visual proof, that’s difficult to establish, and you won’t get an equitable settlement.
People assume replacement cost insurance simply guarantees replacement cost. It’s doesn’t, and the specifics of getting what you’re owed make a home inventory essential.
To get replacement cost, you must prove to your insurer that you replaced the item. Not replacing the exact item will get you actual cash value, which is replacement cost minus depreciation. If you can’t prove condition, insurers will aggressively depreciate.
When it comes to your house, insurers base your settlement on rebuilding your house exactly as it was. To estimate the cost to rebuild, your insurer needs as much information as possible about the construction, finishes, and fixtures of your home.
You always need to provide an inventory, but you also need to prove quality and condition of what you lost to get an accurate replacement cost valuation. The higher the valuation, the better your settlement.
By its very nature, 360° photography captures everything the camera sees in all directions. That’s what makes it perfect for a home inventory. Not only does it document your possessions, this digital copy records all the details of your house—cabinets, closets, fixtures, finishes, trim, ceiling height, the works.
Items in drawers and cabinets are also photographed to provide proof of all your possessions. With a major claim, you are fighting for every dollar. Consider what you’ve spent on pots, pans, appliances, towels, bedding, clothes, and shoes, and you will see just how it adds up. These items are frequently forgotten when making an inventory from memory, but with photos, they’re recorded along with proof of quality and condition.
Your VHI includes photos of serial numbers for your refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, furnace, and any other costly appliances. Your adjustor will get the exact make and model, along with proof of condition, of all your major purchases. No guessing or estimates, you’ve got the details.
Make no mistake, an insurance settlement is a business negotiation, and all those good hands, good neighbor marketing messages do not apply when hammering out a claim. You are trying to get the most your policy allows, while the insurer is trying to payout as little as possible.
The process starts with the inventory of what you lost, so the more details you provide, the better your settlement. A Virtual Home Inventory is the foundation of your claim. Because it’s a digital copy, you can build your claim from it, as well as prove the quality and condition of your home and possessions. A little preparation up front results in an easier process, more accurate valuations, and a quicker, fairer settlement.
Your VHI resides in a secure, online account that you can access any time. You never have to worry about storing it in a safe deposit box or in the cloud. It’s always accessible and can be shared with your adjustor to verify what you owned and speed up the claims process.