One list to rule them all

I’ve worked with a lot of lists in my time. But never one quite like this.
Contents Inventory-1

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.

So far we’ve entered a quantity of more than 3000 items, are 26% over our policy limit, and still have plenty more to add.
Contents Inventory Summary

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.

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6 thoughts on “One list to rule them all

  1. R- I regret that you are having to go through this grueling process. It sounds consuming and frustrating to say the least.

    I am wondering, as you look back, and for the benefit of your friends and family… what suggestions would you give us in retrospect to be more proactive? As you set up and rebuild what kinds of record keeping will you do differently? What will you do (if anything) different with your insurance policy? What can we learn from you?

    Two years ago, we drove one of our babysitters home and their house was literally going up in flames. The fire department hadn’t even arrived yet. It was so heart breaking. I told Shawn (the mother of our babysitter) about your situation and she passed this tip along for you:

    “Keep diligent record of ALL conversations with your insurance adjuster. Even when it is in good context. They keep record quite to their advantage, meaning it may well be taken out of context and be used not necessarily in your favor. If your phone has a record option, use it. If not, after a conversation with your adjuster, write down the specifics of your conversation. ie: dollar amounts, dates, who, when, why, what where. Hope fully you will never have to look at them again and burn them too, but a good thing to have for reference and dates. Believe me. Things can get a bit blurry.”

    Sending hugs your way, Jessi

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    1. Jessi you bet. I’ve got a draft saved, “home insurance tips” and will publish it once it’s ready. Also I’m sure as we transition from recovery to rebuilding and everything in between there will be plenty more tips we’ll have to share. I WISH my telephone had a record option!

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  2. Makes you wonder if you should start this list the minute you move into the new house or when you start buying and keep a backup in a fire proof place.. But if it was me I would have ever good intention of doing and not start… then have regrets..
    I am so sorry for your loss especially to childrens things..
    Have often wanted to visit Ak.. such a beautiful place have lots of relitives there… Anchrage area…
    good luck and god speed…

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