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Tip #217 – Photo/Videograph all of your personal property!

by J. Money on Tuesday, October 7, 2008

document your property! That’s what I re-learned out in St. Louis this weekend.

A little small talk w/ a distant cousin turned into quite a discussion on insurance & personal property! I’m not sure how interesting it is now that i’m sober, but it’s still just as important ;)

After being in the insurance industry for a good 5 years, the cousin had become tired of dealing with disastrious insurance claims, and took it upon himself to do something for the greater good (and for himself): He started his own business photographing/videographing all of his client’s goodies! Freakin’ smart right?

This way, if a fire comes through and sweeps away your belongings, you’ll have a detailed record of EVERYTHING! According to him, only 4% of the population actually do this – and those who don’t couldn’t even come up with 50% of their belongings when it came time to itemize for insurance claims. SCARY to say the least. And oddly enough, i fall into that 4%! I must admit that i haven’t updated it in 2 years, even after moving into our townhouse, but i’m still proud to say that i’m ahead of the curve :)

So, how exactly do you go about doing this? And more importantly, how long does it take? Well, all that depends on the amount of house that you have, as well as the number of things. It took me only about 30 mins when i was living in a 1 bedroom condo. For an average 3 bedroom house, however, it takes my cousin 5-6 hours. But he’s also pretty hardcore and detailed – he takes pictures, and videography, of every single drawer in the house, and then lists them all down in one packet of paperwork.

He also makes 3 backups, in 3 different places and file types (think electronic & hard copies), so that he’s pretty protected himself. And then he charges anywhere from $300-$1,000 accordingly. He’ll then come back every 2-3 years too and update it for an extra charge. Smart man ;)

But he clearly admits that “anyone can do it! it’s just a matter of spending the time – and some would rather spend their time differently”. If you’re already reading this, you’re more than likely a DIY’er (do it yourself’er) anyways, so here are a few quick steps in saving a butt load of cash, and time, down the road:

  1. Take pictures of everything in your house! Start by snapping pics of all the walls, then go into all the cabinets and drawers. You don’t have to snap a pic for each item, just chuncks of things at a time. As long as they come out clear and easy to see, you’re ahead of the game.
  2. Walk around with a videocamera (or a digital camera w/ video option)! Start outside of the entrance, and just walk through all the rooms – opening up doors, cabinets, etc. Talk when you’re walking around so that it’ll pick up the names of the rooms you’re in, as well as anything else you think is important.
  3. Make 3 copies of everything! store 1 in a safe/safety deposit box if you have one, 1 on your computer, and then another outside your house somewhere. Perhaps at a family member’s or even a server if you have access to one. Just anywhere outside of the house. It wouldn’t do you much good if the pics disappear in a fire as well ;) Unless you have a fire-proof safe, but even so it’s not worth the risk.
  4. *Optional* – Type up/write down a list of all the major items, along w/ approximate value. I only say optional because while this makes your life even BETTER, it may be a bit much to get you started. I tend to not start things the more complicated they get, but hopefully you’re different :) Just make sure you do steps 1-3 first, and then see if you’re up for this last one….think of it as extra credit!

And that’s it! Again, it only took me about 30 mins to do this a cple years ago…but i also only took video and made 1 copy ;) haha… so i have some work to do myself! I’ll be going back this week and sucking it up for a bit to make sure our things are nice and secured. $hit, even if you just do it once in your lifetime you’re possibly saving yourself THOUSANDS down the road!

I’m telling you, it’s totally worth it. And, if you KNOW there’s not a chance in hell you’re gonna do it, then suck up the cost and pay someone to do it for you – just make sure it gets done :)


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