Last year, Indianapolis homeowner Carlette Duffy wanted her residence refinanced so she could use the equity to buy another property belonging to her grandparents. But when the appraisal reports came in, her property had been valued around the amount she purchased it back in 2017. And this was even after two home appraisals, FOX59 reported.
Sensing bias after the appraiser refused to review the property’s valuation, Duffy told the news outlet she made her White male friend act as the owner of her home for her next appraisal appointment. Before the appraiser came in, Duffy also said she removed evidence that could expose the residence belonged to an African American. Her plan eventually worked out and the home was valued at over $100,000 more than the initial appraisals.
In the aftermath of the incident, Duffy filed a discrimination lawsuit with support from the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI). The African-American woman said her decision to transform her home and make a White person pretend to be the owner was inspired by an article about another couple who faced a similar situation. Face2Face Africa reported that story in August. Duffy said FHCCI Executive Director Amy Nelson made reference to that incident during a discussion on discriminatory appraisal practices.
“I decided to do exactly what was done in the article,” she recalled. “I took down every photo of my family from my house. … I took every piece of ethnic artwork out, so any African artwork, I took it out. I displayed my degrees, I removed certain books.”
Besides earning the favor from her White male friend, Duffy also said she did not indicate her race when she was filling the application form and also did not disclose her correspondence with the company doing the appraisal, FOX59 reported. This time around, her property was valued twice more than the previous appraisals.
“I get choked up even thinking about it now because I was so excited and so happy, and then I was so angry that I had to go through all of that just to be treated fairly,” she said.
Per the complaints, Duffy and the FHCCI are requesting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to look into the wide appraisal margins. Nelson also told the news outlet the comparable sales for Duffy’s home for the first two appraisals were questionable as her property’s value wasn’t measured against similar ones nearby but rather from Black neighborhoods that were over a mile away. Duffy’s home is also situated in a historically Black neighborhood.
“Whether or not those comps were fairly selected is something that is the basis of the complaints that we have filed,” Nelson told the news outlet.
Duffy also explained her reason for pursuing the case, saying: “I’m doing this for my daughter and I’m doing this for my granddaughter, so that when they come against obstacles they will know that you can stand up, you can say that this is not right.”
Nelson added: “We think it’s happening a lot more than is being reported and we want to get the word out to know that we are here as a resource for individuals if they feel this may be happening to them.”
Meanwhile, Duffy successfully bought her grandparents’ home with the third appraisal.
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.