Unfortunately, this is a story that keeps recurring. A Black couple gets lowballed on an appraisal but when they have a white friend step in and fake that they are the homeowner, the appraisal comes back thousands of dollars higher.
This is exactly what happened to Dr. Nathan Connolly and his wife, Dr. Shani Mott, both professors at Johns Hopkins University. According to the couple, an appraisal company undervalued their home based on their race, and now they have filed a lawsuit in Maryland against an appraiser and a mortgage lender.
Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott live in the North Baltimore neighborhood of Homeland, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Last summer, their Baltimore home was estimated to be worth $472,000. Then, the couple removed any indications that Black people lived there, such as photographs, and had a white colleague pretend to be the homeowner. Under this scenario, a second appraiser valued the home at $750,000.
The couple was persistent because they had done lots of improvements on their home and knew the house’s value had gone up. They added a new $5,000 tankless water heater and $35,000 in other renovations. They had paid $450,000 for the house in 2017. But Maryland appraisal company 20/20 Valuations put the home’s value at $472,000, and in turn, loanDepot, a mortgage lender, denied the couple a refinance loan. The couple had wanted to take advantage of the lower interest.
Dr. Connolly, who shares the home with his wife and three children age 15, 12, and 9, said he wasn’t shocked. A professor of history, Dr. Connolly is an expert on redlining and the legacy of white supremacy in American cities. Still, to become the victim of appraisal discrimination was a significant hit.
“We were clearly aware of appraisal discrimination,” Dr. Connolly, 44, told The New York Times. “But to be told in so many words that our presence and the life we’ve built in our home brings the property value down? It’s an absolute gut punch.”
More than 97 percent of home appraisers are white, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to the couple’s complaint, they applied to loanDepot.com to refinance the mortgage on their four-bedroom home in Homeland, Maryland, a predominantly White Baltimore neighborhood.
“Plaintiffs were shocked at the appraisal and recognized that the low valuation was because of racial discrimination. They told this to their loanDepot loan officer and challenged the appraisal in a detailed letter,” the suit reads.
Photo by Kindel Media: https://www.pexels.com/photo/couple-standing-in-front-of-their-house-7579042/