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After a loss: Home inventory list important in recovering

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | June 13, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — Homeowners and renters insurance is one of those things people hope they’ll never need, and in a way it’s easy just to pay for it and forget about it. But it might be more productive to think of it like a smoke alarm – it needs attention once or twice a year.

Especially that inventory list of things in and around the house.

Galen Golay, independent broker at Basin Pacific Insurance in Quincy, said most insurance companies know their clients have belongings – chairs and couches, dishes, beds – and there are accommodation for those things in the policy.

So if the homeowner buys a new couch down at the furniture store, that might require only a basic update of the inventory.

“Oh, but you bought that high-value leather couch imported from Italy. Tell us about that, please,” Golay said.

“Whatever adds value to your home,” said Mike Garza, owner of Mike Garza Farmers Insurance in Othello.

That list includes upgrades to the house – those new hardwood floors, that kitchen upgrade, the new shed out back.

“We want to know about that. Anything that increases your home’s value, is what I would (include in) the inventory,” Garza said.

Chad Schwab, owner of Chad Schwab Farmers Insurance in Moses Lake, said homeowners and renters should think about what they want to replace, and how much it will cost.

“What items can’t you live without?” Schwab said.

Insurance companies also have what are called “special limits,” a maximum amount they will pay for specific items. The full value of that family heirloom diamond ring might not be included in the basic policy. Those items might require additional insurance, Schwab said.

And there should be a list somewhere, with items recorded, however that’s done. The last thing a person wants to be doing after a fire or burglary is to try to reconstruct what items were in the house, and where, Golay said.

R.J Martinez, owner of R.J. Martinez Farmers Insurance in Quincy, suggested taking video of the whole home, transferring that to a USB drive, and storing it somewhere safe, preferably a safe deposit box in a bank.

“Banks don’t burn,” he said.

An inventory is going to be the first thing the insurance company will ask for after a loss, Martinez said.

“There’s no way in the world you’re going to remember everything in each room,” Martinez said, so an inventory stored in a secure place will help with that process.

The list should include things like serial numbers, if they’re available, and a description or photograph. But there’s a limit to the amount of information needed.

“We’re looking for details, but not too much,” Golay said.

Schwab said receipts will help, and receipts can be scanned right into the policy these days. But not everybody keeps receipts, Garza said, so people should update their inventory whenever they buy high value possessions or finish a remodeling project.

Garza recommended reviewing the policy annually, maybe at the end of the year or when it comes due.

Getting the most out of insurance starts with understanding what the homeowner or renter is paying for, Schwab said.

“Whatever your policy is, read it or call your agent and have them explain it to you,” Schwab said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.