How to Estimate the Value of Your Belongings

Three things to note when creating a home inventory.

  • Sharon Tanenbaum

Know what your insurance policy says. Some policies reimburse you for the original amount you paid for an item. Others reimburse you only for what the item would cost today. So even though you shelled out $500 for that DVD player five years ago, a comparable machine might cost only $200 today, and that’s what the insurer would pay. The same goes for most everyday items, like kitchen utensils and furniture that isn’t antique or designer.

 Don’t overlook the small stuff. “Sometimes the smallest things have more value than the larger ones,” says Fred Winer, founder of Parting With Possessions, an appraisal firm in Towson, Maryland. Art prints made by specialists, for example, are more valuable than ones bought at a museum gift shop. One-of-a-kind pieces, like pottery or artistic ornaments, can appreciate, too. If in doubt, get a professional appraisal.

 Use the Internet for pricing. If you lost the receipt for your television, look online for a similar model, print out the page, and attach it to the inventory. “The more documentation, the better,” says insurance executive Jeanne Salvatore.