How Much Is Your Stuff?
January 24, 2014
My family and I have lived in the same home for over 15 years. As I looked around the other night, I thought, “We sure do have a lot of stuff.” That’s my normal brain. Then my insurance brain kicked into high gear and I began to think about the number of customers over the years that have asked if they have enough insurance on their stuff. Usually the question comes to me when a customer is moving into a new home or apartment, but I’m also asked this question when an event hits close to home such as a fire (Bastrop), tropical storm, or after another serious weather event (Hurricane Sandy.) As an insurance professional, I find it difficult at times to advise my clients about the specific amount of insurance they need to cover their personal belongings. What I can do, though, is provide resources to my customers to help them determine an approximate value and the best resources to use in the event of a claim.
Let’s begin with an approximate value of your stuff. The amount stated on your home insurance for your personal property is, in most cases, a percentage of the insured amount of your home. For example, if I insure my home for $100,000, then my personal property amount of coverage is $60,000, or 60% of the dwelling coverage. This percentage varies from policy to policy. However, if you have a renters insurance policy, you are responsible for determining the amount of coverage needed to replace your personal belongings. Some apartment hunter websites estimate the typical personal property replacement values are approximately $25,000 for a 2-bedroom apartment or home. Look around your home. If you were to lose everything, from a fire or tornado for example, how much would it cost to buy all of these items new today? Do you have enough coverage?
What if the fire or tornado really does happen to you? How would you feel? Devastated, tired, emotional, and completely overwhelmed are a few feelings I may have. Not only are you dealing with the emotional effects of such a loss, but now you must work with your insurance company’s claims adjuster to quantify your loss. This is why I recommend that my clients prepare a personal property inventory before a loss ever happens. While it may seem like a daunting task, imagine how much more overwhelming this task may be after the loss occurs.
There are several methods and resources available to customize your inventory. Your Watkins Insurance Advisor can provide a checklist for you or visit www.knowyourstuff.org for free home inventory software. Whatever method you choose to utilize, try to include everything and be specific. When possible, record the brand name, model or serial numbers, receipts, and/or photographs. Make backup copies, or ask your agent keep a copy in your records, should you ever need it.
Of course my ultimate wish is the only discussions I have with my clients regarding total loss to their personal belongings are simply that—discussions and never reality. You never know when disaster may strike, but being prepared with an up-to-date home inventory can bring some peace of mind to an already overwhelming situation if it ever does.