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 homeowner's 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. It can also speed up the claims process in the event you have to invoke your policy. Unfortunately for many homeowners, Hurricane Ike was a painful reminder of how important this process is.
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 and conveniently available online at www.tdi.state.tx.us.
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 it's made of, and when and where it was purchased. List the serial numbers and brand names whenever 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 on your property. 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, please visit the Texas Department of Insurance Web site at www.tdi.state.tx.us .
Whether you're interested in buying your first home, your next home, or just want to know more about home-ownership in general, I encourage you to check out a couple of great online resources: http://www.texasrealestate.com/ or http://www.har.com/ and for all of your Pearland TX and Northern Brazoria and Galveston County real estate needs, please visit my site at http://www.danfrankrealty.com. All of these sites offer tons of useful, real estate-related information geared specifically for Texans.
Danny Frank is a local Pearland TX Real Estate expert
This column was published in the 12Oct08 edition of the Galveston County Daily News