A Black California couple has filed a lawsuit in a federal district court against a White appraiser they allege valued their home at nearly $500,000 less than it was previously appraised.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Paul Austin and Tenisha Tate-Austin’s Bay Area home was valued at $995,000 by the appraiser. But an initial appraisal some ten months earlier valued their property at $1,482,500. And that was even after they had a White friend pose as the homeowner, Face2Face Africa reported at the time.
Speaking to ABC7 in February, Paul and Tenisha Tate Austin said they purchased their Bay Area home in 2016 after initially struggling to close deals on properties they were interested in due to challenges including being outbid. They said they eventually became homeowners thanks to another Black family that wanted to sell their property off to a Black couple.
The couple said when they moved into the 1960s-built home, they invested heavily in renovations, spending $400,000 in constructing new floors, a deck, and a fireplace. They said they also installed new appliances and added 1,000 square feet of space as well as a whole new floor.
The couple has filed a lawsuit against the appraiser, Janette Miller, her firm Miller and Perotti Real Estate Appraisers Inc., and AMC Links LLC – which is a national appraisal company. Per the details of the suit, the couple is seeking a trial by jury, payment in damages as well as a court order demanding appraisers put in the effort to ensure such practices highlighted in the suit do not happen again, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“We did our homework,” Austin told a state’s Reparations Task Force in October. “We believe the white lady wanted to devalue our property because we are in a Black neighborhood, and the home belonged to a Black family.”
The attorneys for the couple also argue that “Marin City has a long history of undervaluation based on stereotypes, redlining, discriminatory appraisal standards, and actual or perceived racial demographics.”
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 reported in 2020. 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.”
A report by Redfin also revealed only 44% of Black Americans managed to own homes in 2020 as compared to 74% of White Americans. President Joe Biden has proposed financial reforms to make it less cumbersome for Black Americans to purchase homes.