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Creating a household inventory

When we think about inventory tracking this is typically associated with businesses that sell products or need to know when their products are delivered. For expatriates traveling for short term or longer term assignments overseas, creating a household inventory should be seen as essential as setting up utilities and stocking your pantry in your new country.

The key difference for household inventory management is that this needs to be done before you depart. The bottom line is that you need to know what you own so you can move effectively (i.e., organize your packing), plan for replacement (if needed) and have adequate insurance for your valuables.

Home Inventory tools

The increasingly portable nature of information as electronic documents and the ease of creating digital photo records means that you can organize and document your property far more quickly and effectively than in the past. Below we take a look at dedicated tools as well as applications that have the capability to create household inventories.

Know Your Stuff from Insurance Information Institute

There is also a short video about the Know Your Stuff service available on YouTube.

What You Own – home inventory software for both Windows and Mac OS computers. Free to download with a donation requested on the website.

Bento with Home Inventory template

NOTE: You will need to purchase the Bento database program separately in order to use the template.

Storing the information contained in any database or inventory program can be done locally (external hard drive, USB flash drive) or remotely. Some web-based (“cloud”) services that offer secure data storage include Dropbox, Jungle Disk and Box.net.

References to Get Started

Household and Personal Property Inventory Book – A complete and accurate accounting of your household furnishings and personal possessions can help you settle insurance claims and documenting losses for tax purposes, create an inventory to indicate the monetary value of your belongings for a net worth statement, provide proof of ownership in the case of separation or divorce, and decide how much insurance to carry on household goods.

EXAMPLE: Advice for US Government employees who work overseas

When relocating around the world it is common to have items broken or, unfortunately, stolen during the packing and shipping process. Large losses are relatively rare but they do occur. The US Government does have a regulation for covering losses while serving overseas but the process of filing a claim often must be preceded by exhausting all possible claims against the companies involved with the packing and shipment of household and personal effects.

The regulations at 14 FAM 640 are very explicit in their guidance regarding private insurance:

Employees are strongly encouraged to carry private insurance against damage to or loss of their personal property. The Department settles payable property claims based on the depreciated replacement cost of an item and not the cost you may actually have to pay to replace or repair that item. For this reason the Department strongly recommends the purchase of private insurance. Employees should purchase coverage for both loss and damage of household goods and privately owned vehicles shipped and/or stored. Since many insurance policies only reimburse in the event of outright loss or still-wet water damage, employees should confirm full coverage for loss and “breakage, rubbing and marring” or loss only before their goods are moved.

The US Government also has put together a pamphlet on preparing for unexpected departures from an overseas posting. Entitled “Personal Preparedness Plan,” this short but detailed guide can assist both US Government and other expats in taking steps to prepare for emergencies both before and after a relocation. A key step in preparing for a relocation is to establish a detailed home inventory list and store it in a safe place (e.g., safe deposit box in your home country). You can also consider storing updated copies of a household inventory in online data services, such as the ones mentioned above.

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