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Helping home insurance customers keep track of their valuables

The piano in your living room. The necklace that's been in your jewelry box for years. The painting hanging on the wall in the foyer. How much are they all really worth if you need to file a home insurance claim?

It's a question you need to answer in order to choose the right level of coverage.

ACE Private Risk Services introduced what it describes as the insurance industry's first home-contents valuation service to help policyholders determine their personal property coverage needs. The company specializes in providing insurance for high-net-worth individuals and families.Such products can help expedite claims in case of a loss, says Chris Hackett, director of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), a trade group.

home inventories"You could see where doing an inventory would help identify valuable property, and at that point it might be worth it for the agent to discuss with the customer additional coverage options," says Hackett. "It also helps with customer satisfaction during the claims process itself because nobody wants to have any unpleasant surprises during the claims process."

For instance, having an accurate inventory can help you spot insurance mistakes before they happen – such as finding out that a lost ring was only covered for $1,500 when it was actually worth $10,000, he says.

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An accurate home insurance inventory

Other home insurance companies offer tools to help policyholders determine the value of property. Allstate has a tool on its website that you can use to manage home inventory lists. It allows you to track the contents of your home electronically, cataloging items with photographs and notes.

In addition, the Insurance Information Institute offers free Know Your Stuff home inventory software.

Jim Whittle, assistant general counsel and chief claims counsel of the American Insurance Association (AIA), recommends that you review policy needs before every renewal and continue to do updates for new jewelry, furniture and electronics.

"Importantly, if someone doesn't know if they have adequate coverage, they need to ask," he says. "Making sure you have the money to not only rebuild but to replace important household items is too important to be ignored."

Do the proper documentation

"The insurance industry has long advocated that people take the time in some form or another to document the things they possess," says Gary Raphael, senior vice president of risk consulting for ACE.

As part of that process, Raphael says consultants gauge the quality and quantity of items inside the homes of people who use ACE's service. ACE and Asset Archives conducted more than 400 estimates as part of a pilot program and found that almost half of the people surveyed did not have sufficient insurance coverage.

Homes valued at $2 million to $7 million were underinsured by an average of nearly $600,000, according to the research. In nearly 70 percent of the cases, homeowners were underinsured when their contents coverage amounted to less than half of the value of the house.

"The challenge has always been that people do not know what they own and the value of making sure they know what they own," says Gerald Escobar, co-founder of Asset Archives.

Escobar says it's important to "know what you have so you have the right insurance" long before a loss occurs.

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