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Homeowners risk undervaluing contents

Under-insuring your possessions can cause major problems should you need to make a claim as your insurer may scale down any losses – leaving you out of pocket.

For most people, their house is the most valuable item they own.

But when it comes to applying for home contents cover, many individuals seriously under-estimate the total value of their possessions.  

Recent findings from Sainsbury’s Home Insurance found that the value of belongings in the average home currently stands at £55,000.

But homeowners typically believe their contents are worth just £31,000.

This means they are leaving themselves at risk of being uninsured by around £24,000.

Getting to grips with home contents cover

As a rule of thumb, anything you would take with you if you moved house should be covered by your home contents policy – and that includes items such as carpet and curtains.

"Remember, contents cover is not just there to protect against burglary," says Gareth Lane, head of home insurance at Confused.com.

"It is also important should you home get destroyed by fire – as if this happened, you would need to replace practically everything you owned."

This is why it is so vital to know precisely how much your belongings are worth – so you can be sure of getting an accurate level of cover in place. 

Walk around your home and draw up an inventory

One of the easiest ways to calculate how much cover you need it is to go around room by room, adding up all of the contents within each room, according to Lane.

"This includes items stored outside, such as garden furniture and things stored in your shed or garage," he says.

Forgetting items is likely to leave your final figure short, so here are some of the things to consider.

Living room

Begin by working out the value of the furniture in your living room, such as sofas, armchairs, bookcases (and books), and TV stands. 

Also tot up the value of soft furnishings, as well as carpet and curtains or blinds.

"You’ll need to add in electronic items such a TV, DVD player, computer games and consoles and hi-fi – along with all of your computer games, CDs and DVDs," says Lane.

"And don’t forget to include any pictures and ornaments, as well as lamps."

Dining room

In the dining room, you need to factor in furniture such as your dining table and chairs, along with any sideboards or display cabinets you have.

Also remember to add in the cost of crockery and cutlery – and again, don’t forget to include carpet and curtains or blinds.

Kitchen

In the kitchen, big-ticket items will include your cooker or oven, as well as your fridge, washing machine and dishwasher.

"Be sure to add in any non-fitted units as well as blinds, and then include the cost of your kitchenware, such as pots and pans," says Lane.

"And don’t forget other appliances such as kettles, toasters and microwaves – as well as the value of any frozen food you have stored."

Bedrooms

The bedroom is the place where valuables such as jewellery or other heirlooms are likely to be kept.

But note that many home contents policies have an upper limit for covering individual items.

"This means that if something is worth more than £1,500, for example, it may need to be covered separately – at additional cost," says Lane.

Make sure you include any IT equipment, such as computers, printers, as well as any other electronic items such as games consoles, TVs or iPods.

Equally, check you’ve added in the value of bedrooms furniture such as beds, wardrobes, chests of drawers, as well as soft furnishings, such as bed linen – and also clothes.

Outside the home

Given that garden furniture can be expensive, it’s important you have cover in place for this too.

"Check your policy insures you for items outside the home," says Lane.

"Also take into account gardening equipment such as lawnmowers and hedge trimmers – and don’t forget to include any bikes you keep outside or in a garage."

Further tips

  • As most policies offer "new for old" replacement cover, work out how much it would cost to replace your belongings as new.
  • Consider accidental damage cover – and make sure it extends to soft furnishings check if your policy covers personal possessions "away from home".
  • Familiarise yourself with your insurance policy summary to avoid finding out you’re not covered for something when it’s too late.
  • Note that while being under-insured can leave you out of pocket, it’s important not to end up paying too much for cover you don’t actually need.

Calculator tool

To make things easier, if you go onto Confused.com and go through the quote process there is an online calculator tool available to help you on your way.

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Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw is a regular contributor to Confused.com and is the former deputy money editor at The Independent and Independent on Sunday. Before that, she worked as a money and City reporter on The Daily Express and Sunday Express.
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