The Contents portion of our policy is designed “to replace the things we lost”. To qualify for any of this money we have to provide a list of everything that burned, including description, make, model, age, and how much we paid for it. Allstate’s team will categorize our stuff, depreciate our amounts, add it up, and send us a check for the “actual cash value” (ACV). When I asked our adjuster what the average depreciation percentage is, he could only be evasive and vague. I suspect the total amount will be somewhere in the area of 30-50% less after they depreciate and select the cheapest replacements for us.
Since we rescued only a handful of things, this list will basically contain everything we used to own. It’s a grueling process in which we’re forced to remember each and every precious possession that made up our past life. We made a number of hand written lists while evacuating the charred contents of the house to the dump, and are thumbing through pictures and our mind’s eye to remember it all.
For things like antiques or very expensive items like the electric guitars (ack!), the depreciation will be ridiculous. As explained to me by our Contents Adjuster:
A couch bought in 1975 for $250 and left in plastic for 30 years would depreciate the same as the same couch with heavy wear.
Continuing the analogy, we can take the depreciated check and buy the same couch in the same condition. Let’s say it costs $5,000. Then, armed with that purchase receipt, we go back to Allstate to haggle over the real value of the possession. This process will rinse and repeat until we reach the Contents policy limit, at which point they’ll pay no more.
To track this list we’re using a Google spreadsheet with multiple tabs. This allows us both to edit the file at the same time. So we can sit in the same room and brainstorm together. Each tab holds the list for the rooms and one tab at the front tallys everything up. We’ve programmed the list with our coverage amount, so we know just how insufficient our contents policy is.
UPDATE: Four months later we’ve entered 4,787 items and are 72% over our policy limit. Finding toddler-less time to work on the list isn’t easy, as is mustering the willpower to trudge on through it. Hopefully we’ll be sending the final list in to Allstate within the next month or so.
UPDATE: According to this depreciation schedule, my initial estimates of depreciation were way off. Looks like most of our items will end up with an ACV of $0. Take children’s clothes for instance. Meadow had a huge collection, but they depreciate at 50% per year, which means anything over two years old will be $0 ACV.