Various studies have revealed the discriminatory obstacles Black people face, not only as home buyers, but also as home sellers. Looking to get a top-dollar home appraisal, Black home sellers are often advised to remove any personal effects from their homes that would indicate their race. They are advised not to show the home themselves because doing could result in low appraisals.
A Black couple in California proved the theory to be true. Initially, a couple was given an appraisal of $989,000 for their home after they had done $400,000-worth of renovations. The homeowners, Paul Austin and his wife, Tenisha Tate Austin, knew they were being lowballed, so they conducted an experiment.
The couple, who purchased the Marin City house in 2016, had a white friend act as the homeowner, even redecorating the home to make it seem like a white family lived there.
The result was a new appraisal of a half-million dollars more.
Twitter has something to say about the Austin family switcheroo.
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The higher appraisal given to the white “homeowner” was proof of racism in real estate, according to one user. “Inherent institutional racism. It’s baked into the pie,” the tweet read.
Another tweeted, “Real estate is the most racist shit imaginable. The entire industry is rotten from top to bottom, built on segregation, discrimination and exploiting the vulnerable. And the people who work in that industry know it.”
Others agreed, tweeting that white people will deny racism. “Its political, financial, spiritual, educational, militaristic and we must continue to call it out every damn time.”
The Austins were shocked at the initial appraisal for $989,000 — just $100,000 more than what it appraised for before their renovations.
“I read the appraisal, I looked at the number I was like, ‘This is unbelievable’,” Tate Austin told ABC News. “It was a slap in the face.”
The couple had to fight with their lender for a second appraisal. When they finally got the approval, that was when they contacted their white friend.
“We had a conversation with one of our white friends, and she said ‘No problem. I’ll be Tenisha. I’ll bring over some pictures of my family,'” Austin said. “She made our home look like it belonged to her.”
The home appraised for $1,482,000, or nearly $500,000 more — almost a 50 percent increase in value.
“There are implications to our ability to create generational wealth or passing things on if our houses appraise for 50 percent less than its value,” said Tate Austin.
Others have faced the similar issues. “We know discrimination is in nearly every aspect of that home buying process,” said Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights for the National Association of Realtors. “We need to be addressing it as an industry.”
The Austins also aren’t the only couple to fake white ownership.
In 2020, a couple in Jacksonville, Fla., had to fake whiteness to take advantage of low home-refinance rates brought on by the covid-19 pandemic.
Abena and Alex Horton had their four-bedroom, four-bath ranch-style house appraised in June 2020.
Homes in their neighborhood tended to sell for $350,000 to $550,000, and the Hortons expected their home appraisal to be around $450,000. But their appraisal came in at $330,000. Abena Horton, who is Black, felt the appraiser was discriminating against them and undervauling their home, The New York Times reported.
The Hortons removed all of the family photos, replaced them with a series of oil paintings of Alex Horton, who is white, and his grandparents, and got a second appraisal. They even removed books by Black authors Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison off bookshelves. They left holiday photo cards showing white friends on display.
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When the second appraiser came, Abena Horton made sure she and her 6-year-old son were out of the house. Alex Horton was alone at home to greet the appraiser.
The new appraiser gave their home a value of $465,000 — a more than 40-percent increase from the first appraisal.