How to Choose and Use Home Inventory Software

1
Why You Need Home Inventory Software

Young man using digital tablet in home
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It's vital to have an inventory of personal items like clothes, gemstones, electronics, furniture -- the list goes on. Without this documentation, establishing insurance claims can be very time consuming and frustrating. This software is also very useful for documenting estates for inheritance, establishing your net worth and ensuring that you have the right amount of insurance coverage for your belongings. Finally, using home inventory software is much more convenient and flexible than creating a hand-written inventory.

Better Organization
Home inventory software categorizes or tags items in each room. For example, in the master bedroom, you might inventory furniture, jewelry, and antiques. With the software, you can run a report on the master bedroom, just jewelry you own or just antiques. In other words, you can break down reports by property, room or item classifications.

Establish Resale Value
Redecorating and replacing systems such as central air conditioning adds to the value of your home. Making permanent changes also adds to the cost basis of your home, reducing capital gains taxes when you sell, and you will need documented proof of these expenses to take advantage of this.

Moving Checklist
Take inventory while you pack, then check items off as you unpack the boxes to ensure that the movers delivered everything you own.

Substantiate Insurance Claims or Tax Losses
Home inventory software should store digital images of paper documents like receipts and warranties, and photos of your belongings. This information can be used for insurance claims or to claim income tax losses should you suffer a loss.

Overinsured or Underinsured?
Assign a value to items entered into home inventory software you get a total value of all belongings with a couple of mouse clicks. Use this total to determine how much home owner's insurance you need for adequate coverage.

Net Worth
Having your belongings cataloged with values gives you a more accurate assessment of your net worth.

2
Keeping Your Home Inventory Secure

Passwords are Not Optional
Because of the private nature of home inventory data, your software should have security features like password protection. You should also set up a user profile with a password on any computer you store financial data on. You can set up an administrator password in Windows 7, profiles for Windows Vista, or a user account for Mac OS X.

Backing Up is a Must
If a disaster destroys your home, the chances are that your home inventory data will be lost just when you need it most. Here are some tips for avoiding this:

  • Store a copy of your inventory outside of your home. Print an inventory report after you add items and create a back up of your data on to removable media like a USB drive. Store this documentation in a safe deposit box or at the home of a trusted relative.
  • Use secure email. If you know how to encrypt files, you could email the home inventory backup file and an image of the report to your own secure email account that can be accessed online via web mail.
  • Go online. Use a secure online backup service or use online home inventory software, which doesn't store data on your computer.

Next: Features You Need in Home Inventory Software

3
Features You Need in Home Inventory Software

Free Trial


Most home inventory software provides a free trial, so use it to find out how the software performs before you buy it. The software should not slow down significantly as you enter more items, and entering data and generating reports should be easy to do.

Backing Up
Select home inventory software that is easy to back up (possibly accomplished by clicking on File, Backup in the software). If you use automated back up software, know where your home inventory data file are saved on your hard drive to properly configure back ups. If you do not know where the data file is, contact Support as listed under the Help menu at the top of the screen. No help menu? Don't use the software, find another to try.

How Much Detail?
The amount of information you want to store about each item in your home inventory is an important consideration. Be sure the software lets you record all needed information easily. To record items in more than one home or to designate items in storage, choose software that supports multiple properties or locations. Use software that lets you name your own categories or tags for the best flexibility so you can set up your home inventory in a way that is most meaningful to you.

Photo Finish
If home inventory software does not store scanned digital images of items like insurance policies, wills and photos of inventoried items, try another software package. If you don't think you need image support now, chances are that you will later.

Next: Remember to Update!

4
Keep Your Home Inventory Updated!

Using home inventory software is pointless if you don't update the inventory when you buy new items of value. Taking time to enter updates is much easier than attempting to remember everything you own should you experience a theft or damage or loss of your home.

Depending on how your use the software, whenever something is purchase that would insure in your home, include in your estate or in your net worth, you need to update the home inventory database by entering the item. This sounds rudimentary, but remembering to do so isn't always easy because these purchases are made infrequently. Try holding on to receipts and scheduling monthly or quarterly home inventory updates on your calendar.

And, remember to back up data after you add or remove items from your home inventory.

Next: Home Inventory Software Reviews

5
Home Inventory Software Reviews

Looking for home inventory or personal inventory software? I've done all the work for you by finding the best options. Each selection supports importing images from a digital camera and scanned documents, and each simplifies entering and organizing a home inventory. This software isn't all the same, so look over the features to find the best selection for your needs.