File a Home Insurance Claim Like a Pro

Let's say the worst happened, you had a fire, lost your personal property, and now have to send a list of all your household items to the insurer to be replaced. 

Making your list, checking it twice

Some carriers will use the information you provide and give the lowest value replacement they can find for your item. They are a for-profit enterprise after all - so it is up to you to make your list SPECIFIC.

basic toaster compared with a luxury toaster

For instance, if you list "toaster" - they will come up with a $4.88 toaster from Walmart, meant to toast one side of one piece of bread at a time. They will take this approach for everything you own if all you list is the simple description of the item name. These companies have private master lists of the most commonly used item descriptions, and the cheapest viable replacements. They also get wholesale pricing on almost everything, so they get reasonable pricing. So let's think of how you could claim for your toaster:

  • If you said "toaster - $25" - they would have to be within -20% of that... so would find something that's pretty much dead-on $20.01.
  • If you said "toaster- $200" - they would kick it back and say NEED MORE INFO, because that's a ridiculous price for a toaster.
  • If you said "toaster, from Walmart" - you get that $4.88 one.
  • If you said "toaster, from Macy's" - you'd be more likely to get a $25-35 one.
  • If you said "toaster" AND all your other kitchen appliances were Jenn Air / Kitchenaid / etc., - you would probably get a matching one.
  • If you said "Proctor Silex 42888 2-Slice Toaster from Wamart, $9" - you just got yourself $9.
  • If you said "High-end Toaster, Stainless Steel, Blue glowing power button" - you might get $35-50 instead. They have to match all features that were listed.

Of course, you need to be truthful about your claim. Lying is illegal and could cause much more significant issues (i.e., invalidating the entire claim). But on the flip side, being specific and using the complete language can help you get a full replacement on what you lost. A total replacement is what you are entitled to if you bought your policy using Young Alfred.

Now a legendary story. This story is about a man named James, who had an unfortunate fire. The fire destroyed his old POS projector from the mid-'90s that could stream an equally POS consumer camcorder. This projector was probably worth $5 at a scrapyard. But it did have some oddball resolution it could record at, and James specified this feature on his list and firmly insisted that it be replaced with "Like-Kind And Quality" (trigger words). It ended up costing the insurance company $65,000 because the only camera on the market that could shoot that resolution happened to be a high-end professional video camera for shooting actual movies. $65-goddam-thousand-dollars because he knew what he was entitled to, and did the research ahead of time.

With that, Young Alfred recommends that you list every item. Even the most mundane thing that crosses your mind. For example, if I were writing up the shower in my bathroom:

  • Designer Shower Curtain - $35
  • Matching Shower Curtain Liner for Designer Shower Curtain - $15
  • Shower Curtain Rings x20 - $15
  • Stainless Steel Soap Dispenser for Shower - $35
  • Natural Sponge Loofah - from Whole Foods - $15
  • Natural Sponge Loofah for Back - from Whole Foods - $19
  • Holder for Loofahs - $20
  • Bars of soap - from Lush - $12 each (qty: 4)
  • Bath bomb - from Lush - $12
  • High-end shampoo - from the salon - $40
  • High-end conditioner - from the salon - $40
  • Refining pore mask - from the salon - $55

I could probably keep going, but this alone is $300 for the contents of my shower. Nothing in the list is "unreasonable." The prices are a little on the high-end, but the reality is, many people have expensive stuff in their shower. If you are one of those people, you have a right to get it replaced. No claims adjuster is going to bother nitpicking over the cost of Lush bath bombs when there is a 20,000 item file to go through. 

Many people writing up their claim items for a total home loss wouldn't even bother with the shower - it's just some used soap and sponges. But those people would be losing out on $300.

When to use age?

Some things require proof of purchase and year purchased. For example, if you say "tv - $2,000," you're probably just getting a 32" LCD unless you can prove it was from the last year or two with receipts. Check your credit/debit card statements, product registrations, email confirmation, or warranties for proof. 

Really expensive, no receipt

If you're missing paper trails for things that were legitimately expensive, go through your phone pictures, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Tweets from parties you hosted, ask friends for their pics at parties you hosted, etc. Check every photo you can find that was taken in your house and come up with any evidence you possibly can. For anything that could potentially be deemed expensive, you are going to need proof.

At your service,
Young Alfred

Source: article inspired by this helpful Redditor