Most Washington residents lack home inventory

Lessons of Hurricane Katrina illustrate need for complete, durable list of belongings



​​SEATTLE – The aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita revealed horrible stories of property loss. However, according to a recent PEMCO Insurance poll, most Washingtonians have not taken a simple step that could prevent similar losses from happening here: creating a home inventory.

"We might not have hurricanes in Washington, but we certainly have earthquakes and other unforeseen disasters," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. "A personal video or photo inventory is a quick, easy way to protect your valuables and provide your family with peace of mind in times of crisis."

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, only four in 10 Washington homeowners take inventory of their possessions, and of those only 75 percent update them regularly.

"After a major loss such as a fire, insurance companies want an inventory of lost items," Osterberg said. "Without an inventory, chances are homeowners miss many things when creating a list from memory."

Osterberg said even the most attentive homeowners forget what they own. "Take this simple test: identify a dresser drawer or kitchen cabinet, and create a list of what you think is in there. Then, open the drawer or cabinet and compare."

Starting over, but not from scratch
"The fastest way to create an inventory is by using a still camera or a video camera," Osterberg said. "A regularly updated set of pictures or a tape will make it very easy for you to recall your belongings."

A personal video inventory can provide homeowners with a concrete inventory of all their items. Other benefits include:

  1. Having photographic evidence of not just all belongings, but the home itself
  2. Being able to determine and verify missing items after a theft
  3. Recording serial numbers of electronics for warranty purposes
  4. Helping police and investigators track missing items and locate perpetrators
  5. Helping contractors and landlords repair structural damage exactly
  6. Verifying the contents of your home for applicable taxes.


Home Inventories 101
PEMCO recommends taking the following steps to complete a home inventory:

  1. Start your video by introducing yourself. Give the date, your address, and a brief history of your home including when it was built, when you purchased the property, and any renovations or additions.
  2. Shoot video in a standard sequence beginning with the doorway and continuing around the room to encompass all of the furniture and decorations on the wall, as well as any molding, paneling, or floor coverings.
  3. Next, do close-ups of individual pieces - furniture, artwork, china and so on, in appropriate detail. As you do, name the item and describe it briefly. Give valuable pieces a monetary value, if known. Proceed in a logical room-by-room sequence.
  4. Stop the camera and reposition items to show makers' names or labels, marks on the bottom, repairs, restorations, or blemishes. For sets of china, silver or glassware, arrange a place setting or display showing one of each item. Narrate onto the tape the number of complete sets in a collection.
  5. Open every drawer, cabinet, closet, and storage area and photograph their contents.
  6. Specifically photograph the serial number of each and every device (computer, TV, VCR, etc.) that has a serial number. If the number is too small to photograph, write the number down in large letters and then photograph that.


Osterberg reminds homeowners that a home inventory is only beneficial if it's accessible.

Anyone wanting to compare their own answers with respondents to the PEMCO Northwest Insurance Poll can do so by visiting

About the poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned the independent, statewide survey that asked Washington homeowners several questions about home maintenance and other issues.

Informa Research Services Inc. of Seattle conducted the poll. The sample size, 600 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study was conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 4 percent.

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit