When interracial couple Abena and Alex Horton ordered an appraisal of their Jacksonville, Florida, home, they expected a figure higher than that of the other homes in their neighborhood, considering they had more bedrooms, bathrooms and even double the land.
When the appraisal result came in, however, they were shocked to learn the appraiser valued their home far less than the other homes though theirs was bigger and had more amenities, calling the value “laughable.”
Sensing discrimination, the couple ordered another appraisal but this time around, they hatched a plan. Narrating their experience in a Facebook post that has since gone viral, Ms. Horton – a Black lawyer – claimed the first appraiser was “immediately unpleasant” when he came over, “making one rude comment after another.”
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“He expressed exaggerated surprise when he saw me working at my home office during the walk-through. At the end of it we received an appraisal result that was so low that it was laughable. We appraised far lower than *neighboring* home sales with fewer bathrooms, fewer bedrooms, significantly lower square footage and half the land,” she shared.
According to The New York Times, homes in the Hortons’ neighborhood – which is predominantly white – are usually valued between $350,000 and $550,000. The couple, who said they ordered the appraisal to take advantage of the low home-refinance rates brought about as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, said they expected their home to be appraised around $450,000. The appraiser, however, valued their home at $330,000.
Before the second appraiser came in, Ms. Horton removed all pictures with Black relatives and friends as well as those of trailblazing African Americans they display to inspire their biracial son. Instead, she displayed photos of her White husband and his grandparents as well as some oil paintings.
“Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison came down from the bookshelves; Shakespeare went up,” she shared.
She also took their son for a convenience store run the day the new appraiser came over, leaving her White husband to attend to the appraiser at home. When the second appraisal result came, their home was re-valued at $465,000. This was $135,000 and over 40% more than the previous appraisal.
“My heart kind of broke,” Ms. Horton told The New York Times. “I know what the issue was. And I knew what we needed to do to fix it, because in the Black community, it’s just common knowledge that you take your pictures down when you’re selling the house. But I didn’t think I had to worry about that with an appraisal.”
Mr Horton also told First Coast News the first appraiser even forgot to add a bedroom in his appraisal, KTHV reports.
“It seemed like incompetence that to us was suspicious based on what transpired inside the home,” Ms. Horton said, adding that she has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Even though this is personally a little embarrassing for me, all the attention this received, I take some solace in knowing others are being educated and talking about these issues that have been silent and under the table for too long,” she said.
“Black Lives Matter, but black wealth also matters,” she continued. “And we need to be able to attain the equity of our homes our neighbors can attain.”
Racial discrimination in the housing system in the United States continues to persist, with Black Americans usually struggling to secure home loans compared to their fellow Whites, The New York Times reports. The former are also subjected to redlining, where they are denied mortgages in some neighborhoods. This practice further devalues homes in Black neighborhoods. Black homeowners also reportedly claim their properties are usually appraised far less than that of their neighbors in mixed-race and predominantly White neighborhoods.
A 2018 report by researchers at Gallup and the Brookings Institution also shed some light on the devaluation of properties in Black neighborhoods compared to similar homes in White neighborhoods. According to the report: “Owner-occupied homes in black neighborhoods are undervalued by $48,000 per home on average, amounting to $156 billion in cumulative losses.”
Speaking to The New York Times, Andre Perry, one of the writers of the Brookings Institution report, said Black homeowners still continue to bear the brunt of their homes being devalued – irrespective of the neighborhood they find themselves in.
“We still see Black people as risky,” Perry said. “White appraisers carry the same attitudes and beliefs of white America — the same attitudes that compelled Derek Chauvin to kneel casually on the neck of George Floyd are shared by other professionals in other fields. How does that choking out of America look in the appraisal industry? Through very low appraisals.”