Natural and unnatural disasters: Be prepared

Hurricane season is once again upon us, along with the summer storms ravaging the inlands, plus vacation time break-ins. If you have ever experienced any of these disasters, you know how vulnerable you feel afterwards. We had our home flooded when we lived in New Orleans, and it is the closest I have felt to being homeless. I also know, that is when I read my flood insurance policy thoroughly for the first time! (BBA: Before becoming an Appraiser) A little late for any preparation, and unfortunately it was the same for most of our neighbors. It is human nature that we believe we are adequately covered if we are insured. However, unless you have a current inventory of your prized possessions and know their worth, the loss of the physical item and its value may never be recovered. Who can remember every item in a great room, much less a collection? So, here are a few tips to be prepared.

Document your collection. It’s always a good idea, as you build a collection, to write down what you know about the item, its history, where you purchased it, when, and how much you paid. Keep the documentation in a safety deposit box and/or in another off-site location.
Know the current replacement value for your items. It is recommended to have an updated appraisal performed every five years to adequately secure the appropriate coverage. No one wants to be over- or under-insured. Contact an antiques and residential contents appraiser for information. Appraisers should be credentialed by a recognized society: ASA (American Society of Appraisers), ISA (International Society of Appraisers), or AAA (American Association of Appraisers). Web sites with locators for an appraiser near you:,,

Photograph your valuables. This should be included in a replacement value appraisal to show you did own the item, and what its condition was prior to its loss or damage. Keep two copies, one in your safety deposit box and another off-site from the collection. There are companies that will photograph and video your entire home, recreational vehicles, boats, etc. You could also do this yourself if you can’t afford the service, but the question is: Will you be disciplined enough to do every room, object of importance, and catalog the same with receipts or a current appraisal?

Insurance: Most homeowners’ insurance policies cover the contents of your home (i.e. personal belongings) on an actual cash value. Most insurers offer an option of insuring personal property at replacement cost. The premium will be slightly higher for this coverage, but it will help you recover the value of the item at its date of loss versus a depreciated value because of its age. Check with your insurance company on an annual basis to make sure your property is adequately insured. In North Carolina the Department of Insurance has a “Consumer’s Guide to Homeowners Insurance” on their Web site: or call 800-546-5664. Check with your state department of insurance, or your insurance agent if you live elsewhere.

A new book, Dealing with Disaster: How to Protect Your Collection from Theft, Fire and Natural Disasters and How to Handle a Disaster If it Strikes can help individuals assess their preparedness. You can find it online at

As consumers, we will usually research and do our due diligence when making the largest purchase of our lives, our homes, but we can’t stop there once we fill them with the possessions we hold dear. Hopefully these suggestions will be of help to give you assurance you have done all you can to protect your investments.

About the author:

Jan Robbins Durr, ISA CAPP, is a certified appraiser with The International Society of Appraisers. Additionally, she is certified in the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices. She is the owner of Robbins Appraisals and can be reached at 704-635-7694,