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Documentary highlights home appraisal discrimination against Indianapolis woman

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indianapolis woman who filed a complaint of racial discrimination in the home appraisal process has been featured in a documentary called “Our America: Lowballed.”

In the movie, she joined other black homeowners who faced the same issue.

Carlette Duffy needed a home appraisal in 2020 so she could use the equity in her home to purchase her grandmother’s home and keep it in the family. After research, Duffy was anticipating her home would be worth approximately $185,000. She was shocked to find out it was valued at $125,000 initially. A second attempt at an appraisal less than three months later had the home at $110,000. Duffy took action after this.

News 8 first shared her story nearly a year ago.

“I proceeded to whitewash my home,” Duffy said. “So I took everything that I thought gave any kind of hint of ethnicity, anything that I thought said I’m a black woman, I took it out.”

From there, Duffy was granted a new appraisal only this time she had a white male friend stand in during the appraisal acting as her “brother.” The home came back valued at $259,000.

“When I saw it I kind of screamed a little bit and then I instantly got sad because what it told me is it’s not my house, it’s nothing that I did to my house,” Duffy said. “It’s me.”

Duffy said this was a difficult experience. Others in the documentary said there was no real victory in knowing someone was being discriminated against.

“It was really traumatic going through this process because you’re going through every single piece of yourself and you’re taking it apart,” Duffy said.

Duffy worked with the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana. That group says there is work to be done including public access to appraisal data, diversity in the appraisal industry and regulating fair appraisal practices.

“Our Indiana General Assembly could have done something this year,” said Amy Nelson, the executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana. “There was a bill that was filed to start to address the bias in appraisals and it never got a hearing this year. The same thing happened last year.”

The federal government launched the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity, known as PAVE, in summer 2021. There are five commitments to help end the racial inequities in home valuation.

Duffy said through it all she did it for the next generation including her granddaughter so they do not have to live through this, too.