Focus on photos. After a major loss, Johnson will spend 30 to 40 minutes doing an initial walk-through of a home. But she might need a total, two to three days at the site with policyholders to complete the inventory. The goal is not just to remember items, but ascertain their value. So in the absence of sales records, Johnson asks questions about when and where items were purchased. She also asks for photographs—paper and digital. “A photo will speak 1,000 words,” she quips.
Determine shopping patterns. Stored items, such as the clothes and shoes in a closet, can be hard to recall. So, once the client mentions everything she can recall, Johnson will ask where she shops. A Walmart shopper is likely to be reimbursed less for her clothing than a Neiman-Marcus shopper, though the latter might have to provide more evidence for her loss, Johnson notes.
Not sweating the small stuff. It’s not worth getting into the weeds valuing small consumer goods, Johnson says. Instead, she uses what she called “bulk pricing” to make estimates. For example, items under a typical kitchen sink might be worth $200. “I’m not going to nitpick them about a can of Comet,” she says.
Valuing books generically. Johnson also doesn’t need the titles of books lost in a bookshelf. Rather, she estimates how many hardbacks, paperbacks, and coffee table books might have been lost, and assigns a value based on the type of book. Only with rare editions would she need to see more documentation.