Black homeowner sees value of property double after asking white friend to stand in for appraisal

A fair housing organisation looking into the case has filed a housing discrimination complaint

Maroosha Muzaffar
Wednesday 19 May 2021 12:04
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Black woman double house value by having white friend pose as owner
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A Black Indianapolis homeowner’s property value almost doubled after she asked a white friend to stand in for appraisal, according to reports.

Carlette Duffy removed her photos and all evidence of her race and asked her white friend to pretend to be her brother during the third appraisal of her property.

And the value shocked her — it was almost double the initial amount.

According to the nonprofit Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI), Ms Duffy’s home was assessed in 2020 by two different companies. One valued it at $125,000 and another at $110,000. When the white man posed as Ms Duffy’s brother, the property was valued at — to her surprise — $259,000.

The Fair Housing Center has now filed a housing discrimination complaint on Ms Duffy’s behalf with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Amy Nelson, executive director of FHCCI, said that it was “heartbreaking” to see that Ms Duffy had to do so much just to secure a fair appraisal.

After two low appraisals of her property last year, she had a nagging suspicion that race had something to do with it. The third time around, she tried to keep any interactions with the appraiser strictly to email. NBC News reported that she had not declared her race or gender in the appraisal application process.

Ms Nelson told the media on Monday: “In order for the value of her home to be accurate, she had to remove herself completely from the home. She was at first ecstatic that she did in fact get the value that she thought her home deserved.... But then almost immediately after, she was heartbroken with the fact of what she had to do in order to get that value.”

The FHCCI complaint on behalf of Ms Duffy alleges that she was discriminated against on the basis of race and colour. They argue that the lower valuations amount to violations of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as amended by the Fair Housing Act of 1988, NBC News reported.

Ms Duffy had bought the house in a historically African-American neighbourhood in Indianapolis for $100,000. Challenging the first two appraisals, Ms Duffy said that home values were “rising dramatically” at the time. She challenged the appraisals with market analysis data but was rebuffed both times, the FHCCI statement said.

Andre Perry, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution in Washington and who co-authored a 2018 study called “The devaluation of assets in Black neighbourhoods” told NBC News: “When a white person stands in for a Black owner, you’re literally seeing the intrinsic value of whiteness being played out.”

Meanwhile, Ms Nelson told the media that the appraisals industry has a diversity problem. “It’s overwhelmingly white males. That is never good when there is a lack of diversity.”

Black Americans have consistently struggled to get home loans more than their white counterparts, the New York Times reported last year. And denying mortgages to people of colour in certain neighbourhoods has led to plummeting property values in Black neighbourhoods.

The Appraisal Institute — which represents the appraisal companies around the country — issued a statement that said: “When we see even one story of a consumer who feels they were treated differently because of their race, it is very concerning because that goes against everything we stand for.”

“Appraisers take a lot of pride in being an objective source of real estate value information,” they added.

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