Friday, November 5, 2010

Henning Home Inventory Services offers invaluable peace of mind

Living in South Florida, most of us understand the importance of hurricane preparedness during the months of June through November. We wouldn't think of neglecting to equip our homes with plenty of flashlights, bottled water, back-up generators and imperishables just in case Mother Nature might decide to unleash her fury, irrespective of the National Hurricane Center's predictions. Whether the experts have called for a typical season or an unusually active one, Floridians know the best defense is a good offense.

No doubt, those who live in other natural disaster-prone regions threatened by earthquakes, floods and tornadoes are also aware of the need to proactively mitigate material loss -- particularly for personal items possessing both monetary and sentimental value.

Yet how many of us -- no matter where we live in the USA -- forget to protect our most treasured keepsakes not just from the ravages of extreme weather, but from other inevitable life events like moving and relocating, estate planning and marital changes?

Enter Christine Henning, a local Delray resident who identified the need for all Americans (regardless of income) to document the valuable contents of their home after years of providing inventory services for one of the wealthiest, most famous women in the world. Henning set up her business, Henning Home Inventory Services, for the purpose of making such a service affordable to as many people as possible -- not just the wealthy.

But as she noted in a recent interview, getting started proved a bit daunting:

"My biggest challenge first and foremost, was getting the word out that my inventory services not only existed, but were actually affordable. There's a perception out there that only the very wealthy have the means to pay for professional cataloging and documentation, and part of my motivation in starting my business was to change that. I learned first-hand through my experience as an employee of one of the most successful entrepreneurs in history the importance of protecting one's valuables. Regardless of our financial means, most of us own items of immeasurable personal value -- from family photographs to heirloom jewelry. I decided that protection of these assets shouldn't be a luxury reserved for the rich, which is why I created Henning Home Inventory Services."

Daria: You offer both estate planning and inventory services. What's the difference between them and why are they both important?

Chris: "Estate Planning includes inventory services. Estate Planning is basically taking the inventory of the "estate", which helps the family identify what is actually in the estate and determine if they are interested in particular items. Once the family sees the inventory and the history of the inventory, they can alert other relatives of their interest in particular items. The parent or grandparent can then indicate these desires on their inventory list, denoting that a particular item must go to the person expressing interest in it. A lot of these inventories are included in the will as an 'addendum'.

On the other hand, inventory services is fundamentally photographing and describing all items in a home or business and recording them into the program for insurance purposes. Once you have this list, you present it to the insurance company and if a disaster hits, all this information is ready for reimbursement."

Daria: Are all of your clients in South Florida, or do you travel throughout the United States?

Chris: "I travel all over the USA. Just this year, I spent time with clients in Colorado and California for estate planning purposes."

Daria: I think our readers would be intrigued to know how you got into this line of work. Please share.

Chris: "For 15 years, I worked for Oprah Winfrey. Part of my job description as Oprah's personal accountant and head of household was to inventory each of her estates. As is typically the case, it was for insurance purposes and for determining the contents of each estate, so she could decide if she wanted to transfer some of the items to other properties."

Daria: Wow, that must've kept you extremely busy! What are some of the most critical things you learned from that experience? How did you transfer those lessons into your own business and what is your advice to anyone considering hiring a home inventory specialist?

Chris: "Obviously, having an inventory done is helpful after a catastrophe. When you can provide a listing of all of your inventory, you will receive at least 20% more of a reimbursement from your insurance company than you would without one. In the aftermath of a devastating event, most people will not remember every item they own, so it only makes sense to list everything.

The critical things every potential client should ask of an inventory specialist is: Are they bonded? What type of listing do they include? Are there pictures? Do the descriptions make sense? Do they have a back-up of their inventory?"

Daria: Taking inventory of someone's most cherished possessions is a highly personal task requiring a certain level of trust. How do you put your client's mind at ease?

Chris: "I am bonded and have references, which is most important. As I mentioned, I worked for Oprah Winfrey for over 15 years, and I am very proud of the fact that I have a tape of Oprah recognizing me as the most trustworthy person/employee she knows."

Daria: That is a powerful testimony! For anyone considering your services, do you offer a free consultation and/or quote?

Chris: "Absolutely! Anyone interested in contacting me can do so via my website, Henning Home Inventory Services. I look forward to meeting them and helping them decide on the right course of action, based on their unique circumstances."

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