Black Couple Sues Appraiser, Alleging Racial Bias

An illustration of paper mâché profile faces in various skin tones

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A California couple has filed a housing discrimination lawsuit, alleging that an appraiser lowered the value of their home by nearly $500,000 because they are Black.

Paul Austin and Tenisha Tate-Austin say their Marin City home in the San Francisco Bay area was appraised at $989,000, which was much lower than previous appraisals done when refinancing. The couple also says they’ve since invested $400,000 in renovations, including a 1,000-square-foot addition to their home. But the new appraisal showed their home value had increased by only 10%.

The couple arranged for a second opinion from a different appraiser. This time, they asked a friend, who is White, to pretend to be the homeowner in “whitewashing” their home, as they called it. They removed family pictures and artwork or any indication that the homeowners were Black.

This time, the home appraised for nearly $1.5 million.

The couple is suing the first appraiser, who is White, claiming she was racially biased in her assessment. Their lawsuit has been widely reported by media outlets.

Other cases of minority homeowners taking steps to “whitewash” their homes for an appraisal have surfaced in Indiana and Ohio, with similar results raising their homes’ valuation, CBS reports.