Black homeowners resort to ‘white-washing’ their homes to avoid appraisal discrimination
Black homeowners in America continue to be discriminated against in more ways than one.
Whether it’s being denied mortgages they can easily afford or being shifted away from predominantly white neighborhoods by selling agents, or—as will be detailed below—having their homes appraised well-blow their actual value simply because of the color of their skin, prejudicial practices still exist en masse in America. This has helped keep the wealth gap between Black and white Americans the same today as it was when the Fair Housing Act was first put into law—in 1968.
Here are three stories from across the country about Black homeowners who had to “white-wash” their homes, by pretending they aren’t Black, to get a better appraisal on the value of their home.
(Details from the Indianapolis Star)
Carlette Duffy wanted to get her home appraised so she could refinance her mortgage by taking advantage of low interest rates that would allow her to purchase her grandmother’s home so they could keep it in the family.
The first appraisal said the value of her home was $125,000.
She didn’t trust that figure, especially since she purchased the home for $100,000 in 2017.
So, she went for a second appraisal.
This time it came back at $110,000. She was wondering how she lost $15,000 in the process. She was also perplexed because her sister owns a comparable home nearby that was appraised at $198,000 in 2019.
Frustrated, she challenged both appraisals, and provided data and comparable homes in the same neighborhood to both companies. Neither changed their final number.
That’s when a friend shared with her a story that was in the New York Times about a Black woman in Jacksonville who had a similar problem, and then had her husband, who was white, do all the communicating with the appraiser and had the value of their home improve vastly.
So, Duffy had an idea. She went to a third appraiser. She communicated solely via email and never spoke to the appraiser over the phone.
She said that she was going to be out of town, but that her “brother” could be present to meet the appraiser at the home. The “brother” was really the white husband of a friend of hers.
In addition, Duffy basically sanitized the home of any inkling of a Black woman living there: all photos were removed, all African American cultural decorations were removed. The home was “white-washed.”
When the appraisal came back at $259,000 Duffy was floored yet felt justified that she was right and that racial discrimination had taken place with the first two appraisals.
“I’m excited, vindicated, relieved, angry, extremely peeved since I can’t say the other expletives that were running through me at that point in time — destroyed that I had to go through all of that,” she told the Indianapolis Star. “This is real … just being able to prove it is the hard part.”
(Details from the Cincinnati Enquirer)
Eric and Aaron Parker were looking to sell their home in Loveland, Ohio. They had purchased it brand new seven years earlier and now were looking to move and take advantage of the hot housing market that came out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They contacted their REALTOR® and posted the home to Facebook. That day, a friend of hers wanted to see the house. She came by and loved it. Her husband came by the next day and he loved it too. They wanted to buy the home – for a price in the low $500,000 range.
The Parkers were ecstatic. They didn’t expect their house to sell this quickly, but they were getting a great price on it, which would allow them and their two young daughters to get into a bigger home in the area.
But they needed to get the home appraised first. The appraiser came by when the Parkers were home and toured the house. When his appraisal came back, it was $40,000 less than they were asking for the home.
The Parkers were stunned. There was a lot of misinformation in the appraisal, especially concerning the age of the home – which was listed at much older than it is – and the claim there weren’t any updates made to the property, which also wasn’t true.
They challenged the appraisal but, upon review, nothing changed.
So, they decided to try another appraiser. Like Duffy, they felt there might be a racial element to this appraisal, so Erica went to her neighbors – who are white – and asked them if they could borrow family photos to put up in the hose to make it look like a white family lived there.
On top of that, Erica and Aaron also took down anything that would suggest Black heritage. Yet another “white-washing.”
A second appraiser came in while the Parkers weren’t present. They left their REALTOR® there, who is white.
The second appraisal came in at $557,000, or $92,000 more than the original.
“In the Black community, we know selling your home means take down your pictures. Don’t be present. As soon as I told my dad about our experience, he said, ‘Why was Erica home? Why didn’t you take down your pictures?’ He knew right away,” Aaron told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s unfortunate.”
In a statement to the USA TODAY Network, of which the Enquirer is part, officials with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said this type of discrimination leads to further inequality.
“Homeownership is the principal source of wealth for most American households and properly setting a home’s value is critical to wealth creation for families and communities. The devaluation of property makes a family least likely to build or pass intergenerational wealth to children,” officials said.
(Details from CBS News)
Paul and Tenisha Tate-Austin bought their home in Marin City five years ago. Since then, they have been working hard to remodel it and improve it to bring its value up over $1 million.
In 2020, when mortgage rates plummeted because of the pandemic, they jumped at an opportunity to refinance their mortgage.
They had refinanced once before – in 2019 – and the home was appraised at $1.4 million. Refinancing again would allow them to continue to use the wealth that had accrued in their home to improve it even more.
However, when they went for a second appraisal, it came back this time at $995,000.
“I mean, it’s the financial impact, but it’s the emotional impact. It’s the feeling every day like, the tax of being African American in this country, like you don’t know, it’s a coin toss. You’re not for sure what’s going to happen,” Tenisha told CBS Mornings.
The couple decided to ask a white friend of theirs to pretend to be Tenisha to see if they would get a higher appraisal. With their friend, Jan, pretending to be the homeowner, the couple removed all photos of them and their family.
After doing this with Jan’s help, the new appraisal came in—nearly $1.5 million dollars, more than the appraisal roughly a month before.
“It’s messed up, right? Like, we shouldn’t have to. I mean, it’s, you might as well say it’s heartbreaking,” Paul said.
A recent study from the Brookings Institute Metro Policy Program finds homes in the nation’s black neighborhoods are often undervalued by an average of $48,000.
Over the summer, under HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, the agency launched the interagency Property Appraisal Valuation Equity task force to combat appraisal discrimination.
Over the next six months, the task force will examine the cause and consequences of the undervaluation of properties.
Officials said the task force plans to combat valuation bias by educating consumers and practitioners, and making appraisal data more available.
The agency also plans to create a comprehensive approach to combating valuation bias through enforcement, compliance, and other efforts.
“It left me just, with a realization that America hasn’t gotten as far as it may think it has when it relates, when it relates to race,” Paul said.