In a bid to help Australian homeowners get a financial safety net amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Herron Todd White unveiled an inspection tool to make the process of accessing a property’s equity more efficient.

Drew Hendrey, executive director for valuations and advisory at Herron Todd White, said the Contactless Inspection Tool allows property valuers to continue to provide assessments amid the social distancing and isolation measures.

The tool allows valuers to use a combination of self-verified and resident-supplied information to reach an assessment with "the highest possible accuracy".

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"Under normal circumstances, valuers assess the market value of a property by conducting a full external and internal inspection of the home. However, social distancing and mandated isolation have made this difficult in an increasing number of instances," Hendrey said.

The program is aligned with the API's crisis protocol. Furthermore, concerns regarding the degree of accuracy on a valuation-by-valuation basis are addressed by the platform, and additional measures have been adopted to ensure the integrity of the system, Hendrey said.

"For example, valuers might conduct an external inspection of the property as normal, but may need to rely on verbal, written and photographic evidence supplied by residents to help complete the picture," he said.

All the information will be utilised to arrive at a "confidence score", which will ensure transparency and ease of decision-making when a property cannot be internally-inspected. Hendrey said a copy of this score will be provided with each report, assisting lending clients in making the most appropriate decisions.

"It allows our financial markets to receive the most accurate information possible under current guidelines and ensures the system can maintain full integrity while still providing a safety-net service for Australians struggling under COVID-19 isolation rules," Hendrey said.

Gary Brinkworth, CEO of Herron Todd White, said while the tool has the approval of the Australian Property Institute (API), it also needs the support of the government and regulatory bodies such as the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

"We are also seeing all parties adapt to ensure the nation's strong financial system will be maintained as property owner's free up liquidity. This is also while still staying within the health guidelines that will limit the spread of COVID-19," he said.

Many Australians, Brinkworth believes, are "asset-rich, cash-poor." This move for easier equity access will help them bounce back quickly and create a financial safety net.

"We believe the time to act is now, to provide additional liquidity to eligible property owners to help them navigate these uncertain times, creating opportunity to survive this downturn and establish a strong position that will help contribute to the economy," he said.