Valuing Irreplaceable Items

When you’re valuing the contents of your home for your home insurance or even your removals insurance, it’s a lot easier when you have a receipt for everything that you’ve bought. Or, at the very least, a product that actually came with some sort of price tag. But how do you value those irreplaceable items? Family heirlooms, artwork, unique bespoke / custom-made items… where do you draw the line?

Many insurance companies require you to list anything and everything. If it has any value, no matter how little, they may insist that it be included in your inventory and it can hurt your claim if you have been overly selective. Some insurers may allow you to exclude sentimental items of little monetary value, but you should always double-check with your insurer’s policy. You also need to be aware whether the insurance will be new-for-old cover or contents indemnity cover.

If you can’t find a price online, or in the suitable marketplaces, for the item you have (or today’s modern equivalent), you need to find some sort of comparable replacement and value your item similarly. You only have to be able to provide a reasonable explanation as to why your item is valued the same.

Don’t forget that some irreplaceable, sentimental items can still be repaired even if they cannot be replaced so also consider the cost of repair and not just the cost of replacement.

Antique jewellery can fluctuate in value over time, meaning that family heirloom may be worth a lot more today than it was all those generations ago. It may be worth consulting an expert jeweller to help you appraise your jewellery appropriately. Even over the course of a couple of decades, the value may have increased significantly. It is for this reason that jewellery is one of the most undervalued categories in most households’ contents insurance.

Aside from jewellery, ideally you will also want your art pieces appraised. Realistically, if a painting has been in your family for decades and only has sentimental value to your family then it’s unlikely that you will ever actually want to replace the item if something were to happen. The very idea may even leave a nasty taste in your mouth. As if a beloved family pet had died and you were simply told to replace them. You’d probably be more concerned about the loss than the replacement cost. But you should still be compensated for the loss, either way. That is the point of the insurance.

Sentimental items can often be the most difficult to value objectively. Handmade artworks that your great-grandfather lovingly crafted for you from the wood he chopped himself on his land that has long since been paved over… How do you value something like that? How much is it worth to you? How much is worth to someone else?

You could argue that someone else may not place much worth in it at all. You might even realistically expect to see a similar item at a car boot sale for no more than a fiver. But, to you, if held to ransom you may gladly pay thousands for its safe return. How much money would you give your great-grandfather for that wooden carving?

Fortunately or unfortunately, you need to differentiate between personal value and monetary value. When it comes to insurance, you should be valuing with your head and not your heart. It might hurt, but that wooden carving should only be insured for its realistic cost of replacement…

It can be so hard not to overvalue these precious items, and this is where having a professional appraiser can be a real help.

If you bought something from your travels around India, it may only have cost you £5 at the time but finding an equivalent piece in the UK might cost you ten times or even one hundred times the price that you paid! The local UK value will be the insurance value of the item. After all, your insurer is likely not going to go forth on an expedition to India to track down the original seller.

Make sure that you keep a detailed inventory of every item, and take photos of each insured item. You could even go one step further and create accompanying videos of your items. The main thing is to document everything. A good way to organise your inventory is to list items in a spreadsheet, with:

  • product name/model;
  • location in your home (e.g. living room, bedroom #1, etc);
  • description;
  • year of purchase or age;
  • insurance value;
  • comparable items or direct modern equivalents for price matching.

Bear in mind any items that may come as a set. If one item from the set were to be damaged or stolen, this could drastically depreciate the value of the remaining, incomplete set. You should always include the set and the total value as a set in your inventory, rather than listing these items individually.

Keep your inventory up to date with continuous policies, to ensure that you are fully covered. If anything has gone up in price since last year, you will want to update this accordingly.

Underestimating the value of your personal items can mean that should you ever need to make a claim, you will not receive full compensation for their replacement but just a fraction of what they are worth. If the worst event were to occur, having your claim rejected or only partially compensated can be the last thing you need…

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