Guy Baxter, of insurance broker Lycetts, fears homeowners could suffer huge financial losses if they are burgled, due to underestimating the value of their contents.
The warning comes after new crime figures revealed a rise in the number police reported burglaries in the South East, with an increase of more than 7,000 incidents on last year.
The Sussex-based specialist said: “Unfortunately, it is often the case that homeowners only become aware that they are underinsured when they come to make a claim.
“This could land homeowners with a huge financial loss or even result in a failed claim – which is the last thing burglary victims need at an already distressing time.”
Home Office figures, published by the Office of National Statistics on January 25, revealed that 52,758 burglaries in total were recorded by police in the region between October 2016 and September 2017.
Burglaries increased 15 per cent, with 7,024 more incidents than 2015/16.
Domestic burglaries accounted for 28,986 of the total number of burglaries over the 12-month period, with 4,415 recorded in Sussex.
Mr Baxter said: “Those who own high value items – such as fine art, antiques, wine collections, family heirlooms, and jewellery – are particularly vulnerable to being underinsured.
“Owners may not necessarily know the true value of such items, particularly if they are gifted or inherited, and are often unaware how the value of these items appreciate over time.
“For example, gold prices have gone up by 25 per cent over the past five years – altering the value and level of cover needed.
“Art, antiques or vintage wine collectors should be aware of external events which influence their value. For example, fine art can soar in value following the death of an artist or wine collections may increase in value if it wins a prestigious award. All this needs to be factored into the insurance policy.”
Guy warned that a general household policy may not cover valuable or treasured possessions at all.
“This could be due to exclusions which apply to highly desirable, valuable or fragile items not covered by your policy,” he said.
“Some one-off items may need separate specialist cover such as very expensive jewellery, collectables, musical instruments, family heirlooms, wine collections, valuable antiques or fine art.
“Therefore, it is imperative that high net worth individuals regularly review the value of their items and inform their insurance provider of any changes - or face potentially huge losses if their possessions are stolen.”
Mr Baxter emphasised that the burden of calculating the value of home contents falls squarely with the homeowner – and that giving a flawed ‘educated guess’ to insurers is the downfall of many.
But he added that there are a number of ways to be more accurate when accounting for home contents.
He said: “Remember, an item’s value for insurance purposes is how much it would cost to buy new, not what it cost when you bought it.
“Don’t forget to check items in your attics, basements and outbuildings, as well room by room. Keep receipts for items such as designer handbags, jewellery.
“Always be clear about your single item claim limit. If unsure, ask for advice or clarification from your provider.
“Get advice from experts to value your most treasured possessions – never guess. Have antiques, family heirlooms and jewellery valued every two years and let your insurer know if they are stored in a safe or vault.
“And finally, be wary of online valuation tools as they may not be accurate. If in doubt, call a trustworthy provider who will offer personal, expert advice to find you a policy that suits your exact needs.”