Where to Store Your House Inventory Documentation

by Kevin on August 8, 2008

This is a continuation of two other posts on documenting what you own.

Safe
(Photo by rpongsaj)

So, have you done it yet? Have you walked around the house and documented all of the important items in the house? If not, stop reading this and go do it. Then come back. We’ll wait.

Now that you’ve done that, you need a place to store this important documentation. There are a few options for storing your home inventory spreadsheet, files, or photos.

Where You Shouldn’t Store Home Inventory Documentation

Your first thought may be to store those files at your house in a filing cabinet, a fire-proof safe, or simply in a stack of other important papers. Let me urge you to avoid this at all costs. Here’s why: if your files are in a filing cabinet and your house burns down or is flooded, your documentation will be destroyed.

A fire-proof safe is a step in the right direction, but depending on the size it could either be stolen, eventually damaged by fire, or damaged by water from a flood (unless you got a fire-proof and water-proof safe).

As you might imagine, leaving important papers in a stack somewhere in your house is the worst option. You don’t have a specific place for them, they are easily stolen, and are also at risk of fire or water damage.

Where to Store Home Inventory Documentation

Here are some quality alternatives for you to consider:

  • a bank safe deposit box – the bank will have sprinkler systems for fire prevention, and of course thievery should be halted because its in the bank
  • a bank safe deposit box in a town more than 100 miles away – this option is better in my opinion because of Hurricane Katrina. Any natural disaster could wipe out not only your house, but the bank down the street that has your documentation. Increasing the distance between your home and your storage place decreases the likelihood that both will be wiped out in a disaster.
  • your parents’ home – this is the frugal alternative to a safe deposit box. I would only recommend this if you are very tight with money, and your parents live more than 100 miles away. If you live in the same hometown it isn’t going to help you a bit.
  • your parents’ safe deposit box – why not share the cost? Again, this is only applicable if you don’t live in the same town as your parents.
  • a professional storage company – There are companies out there that build warehouses (with vaults) that will store your official documents in paper format or digital format (CD/Tape backup/etc.). My father-in-law runs one and his fire suppression system is incredible.
  • Some mix of all of the above – You might want to have a copy in your filing cabinet, one at your parents’ house, and one in a safe deposit box. The more copies spread out the better (as long as they are secure).

So what are you waiting for? I’ve shown you five easy steps to a complete home inventory, and how to create your additional documentation. Now you know where to store it.

This is incredibly simple, but incredibly important. It’s like getting disability or life insurance. You know you should do it, but sometimes you need a kick in the rear to get motivated. Well here’s the kick in the rear. Get going. Do it this weekend — the costs are low and the potential payoff is high.

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{ 3 comments }

Philip August 9, 2008 at 11:55 am

If you do everything as digital documents why don’t you take another easy option and use an online backup location? Maybe not quite as secure or guaranteed as safe deposit box 100 miles away, but most likely in a completely different part of the country and likely to not be affected by whatever hit you. Lastly you might say you will not have internet access, but it would take just as much effort to get 100 miles to a safe deposit box.

Kevin August 9, 2008 at 2:54 pm

@Philip: That’s a decent idea, but I’m not sure I would be completely comfortable putting images and documentation of everything I own (including serial #s) online. 99% of the time it would be okay, but that 1% would worry me… but! It would make a pretty good start and you could mix it with other storage as well.

Bobbi Jo August 11, 2008 at 5:28 pm

@Kevin: I am biased, and I’ll openly admit it as I think that is only fair to your readers. I am part of an online home inventory solution, http://www.anywherevault.com. Now with that disclaimer, I want to say that I do agree with you Kevin that you need to research the company you are going to use and confirm they have the resources and knowledge to guarantee a secure site. It’s easy and cheap to put up a website and that’s why there are millions of domain names out there, however it is time-consuming and expensive to put up a secure site, so double check the company you are about to use. There are good ones out there and the benefit of being able to access your inventory from anywhere can be enormous.

There are many solutions and ways to do a home inventory, the important thing is to just do it. It’s not as overwhelming as you think it will be, so get started everyone! Thanks for discussing this topic Kevin.

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