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What to know about fair-housing issues before getting an appraisal

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Real-estate experts are chiming in to tell you what you need to know when getting your home appraised.

News 8 on Tuesday reported on an Indianapolis woman who said her home appraisal value nearly doubled after she had a white friend stand in for her.

Carlette Duffy is a Indiana homeowner who was looking to refinance her home just outside downtown near Indiana Avenue. Three appraisals she got were so far off from what she had estimated as the value of her home.

In partnership with the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, Duffy filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“How do we change the policies and the practices that allow this level of subjectivity to completely discriminate against whole swaths of communities?” Duffy asked.

She said as a Black women she ended up having to “whitewash” her home to finally get a larger appraisal. Doing things like leaving her ethnic background off the paperwork, removing all family pictures, African art, displaying her degrees, and having a white man who is a friend stand in for her.

In April, Congress received House Resolution 2553, which if passed in to law would address fair-housing issues, but housing advocates say it’s important to advocate for oneself.

“Why was all that necessary just for me to be treated fairly,” Duffy said.

Housing experts said “all that” should not be necessary. The lowest appraisal Duffy said she got was $110,000; the highest, $259,000.

Myra Lillard with Home Guide Realty Services says that’s a drastically wide margin. She isn’t connected to Duffy’s case but says, even a year ago, the housing market and Duffy’s home location would have drawn in bigger rates for her.

“If you have that level of disparity, you really have to go through it with a fine-tooth comb each and every one of those appraisals. Something is amiss,” Lillard said.

Lillard said these kinds of issues are real, and protections are on the books, but it a matter of people following them. She said, even when dealing with appraisals, partner with a real-estate broker; from there, if you have other issues, contact the lender.

“A homeowner should not be held down just because two houses away you may have a board-up. That’s pretty typical in areas that are being developed,” Lillard said.

Amy Nelson, executive director with the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, said, “We need to acknowledge that past history of that structural racism that is impacting our neighborhoods, and we need to do something about it.”

The Fair Housing Center says if you feel like you’ve been discriminated against in an appraisal process, contact them.

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