A Black, female Indianapolis homeowner and the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana have filed a complaint with the federal government, claiming that appraisers violated fair housing laws when evaluating her home.
Carlette Duffy said the valuations of her home more than doubled when she removed anything from her home identifying her race and had a white male friend be present during the appraisal, the Indianapolis Star reported. The complaints said appraisers knowingly used unfair comparable sales prices motivated by race, and request the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development investigate.
One appraiser denied accusations of discrimination when confronted by the Associated Press, while others did not respond to requests for comment.
However, the numbers on Duffy’s requested appraisals are difficult to deny. She originally purchased the home in 2017 for $100,000 and anticipated an appraisal comparable to her sister’s (who lives in the area), which was valued at about $198,000 in 2019. She sought out the appraisals in order to refinance her home, located in a historically Black neighborhood, in response to record-low mortgage rates.
The first appraisal Duffy sought out from CityWide and Jeffrey Pierce of Pierce Appraisal in spring 2020 came in at $125,000. The second appraisal Duffy received from Freedom Mortgage and Tim Boston of the Appraisal Network valued the property at a mere $110,000.
During the third appraisal, Duffy removed her family photos and African art from the home and did not declare her race in her application. She also had a white male friend sit in on the appraisal, and only communicated with the appraisal company via email. The result was an appraisal that came in at $259,000.
“I had a lot of pushback from family, from friends, from friends in real estate who were like maybe that’s just the value of your home, you know — maybe you’re wrong, that there’s nothing nefarious occurring,” Duffy told the Indianapolis Star. “This is just how things are. I just felt like, no. Something else is happening here that we’re just not seeing.”
Boston countered the allegations to the Indianapolis Star, saying, “My appraisal reports are data-driven. I could care less about culture or sexual orientation. It’s all about bricks and sticks and dirt.”
“From the appraisal management company to the bank, those appraisals go through statistical packages, a logarithm type software to test my value,” he added. “If it’s not within a certain range of those software programs, it’ll kick back.”
Comps pulled for the first two appraisals were drawn from Black neighborhoods more than a mile away from Duffy’s property — not closer properties that were more aligned to her own home, according to Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana Executive Director Amy Nelson.
“I’m excited, vindicated, relieved, angry, extremely peeved since I can’t say the other expletives that were running through me at that point in time — destroyed that I had to go through all that,” Duffy said. “This is real … just being able to prove it is the hardest part.”