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How the White House plans to tackle home appraisal bias

Federal authorities have been investigating discrimination in the home appraisal process.

INDIANAPOLIS — How much is your home worth?

It's the job of a home appraiser to figure the value, based on facts and figures.

But a Black Indianapolis homeowner and others nationwide say they got different prices after hiding their ethnicity. 

Now, the White House is stepping in with a plan to tackle bias in the home appraisal process.

Carlette's Story

Carlette Duffy of Indianapolis made headlines in 2021 after revealing what happened to her home appraisal after hiding her race. 

She called the result "depressing."

"Here is the evidence of it. It's you. You're bringing on the value of your home. And it hurts," Duffy said. 

Duffy said she received a total of three home appraisals. The first came back at $125,000 and the second at $110,000.

Not satisfied with the results, Duffy sought a third appraisal, except this time, she hid her race. 

RELATED: Indianapolis woman sees home appraisal jump nearly $150K after hiding her race

That meant asking a white friend to stand in for the appraisal and "whitewashing" her home. Whitewashing is a phrase used to describe what owners to do to hide their race.

Duffy put her pets' ashes front and center because it sounded like something a white family might do, hid certain books and took down African-looking art. The toughest part, she said, tucking away pictures of her and her daughter.

"It truly is like you are selling out. Your selling yourself, just to advance," Duffy said. 

That appraisal came back at $259,000. 

RELATED: Bill to increase discrimination protections in home appraisals, lending fails to advance in Indiana House

"I figured it would come back higher. But more than double, more than doubled the high-end value," Duffy said.

Duffy, along with the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, filed complaints.

Amy Nelson, the executive director at Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, said when Duffy's story was active in the news, they received calls from people from not only in Indianapolis, but nationwide.

"Individuals felt that they may have experienced something similar, some of whom did go so far as to so-called 'whitewash' their home to try to get a fair value like Carlette, and some that didn't know to do that. And they shouldn't have had to do that," Nelson said. 

Nelson said in January 2022, FHCCI issued a report on mortgage lending in Marion County that analyzed the most recent three years of data. 

She said they found just a staggering difference in homeownership rates when it comes to people of color versus whites in Marion County. And out of that, they raised concerns on the role that mortgage lending has played in that gap.

Research from Freddie Mac found "12.5% of appraisals for home purchases in majority-Black neighborhoods and 15.4% in majority-Latino neighborhoods result in a value below the contract price (the amount a buyer is willing to pay for the property), compared to only 7.4% of appraisals in predominantly white neighborhoods."

To try and fight bias, the White House created a task force that released an action plan Wednesday. Some of the goals include diversifying the group of people who appraise homes, provide accessible data to better value homes and give consumers more power to fight back if they don't think an appraisal is correct.

"The appraisal industry has admitted that very few requests for reconsideration are successful. The report talks about that to some extent, about trying to put more foundation to an appeal processes there. That part may not go as far as maybe advocates such as myself may have liked, but certainly, it is a start," Nelson said. 

Changes that that Duffy welcomes so that no one has to go through what she did.

Here's what you can do

If you're concerned that you've been discriminated against, Nelson said there are several things you can do. 

"They can contact the Fair Housing Center Central Indiana, they can file a fair housing complaint with US Department of Housing and Urban Development. At our state level, they could file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office, their Homeowner Protection Unit."

Nelson added we also have a state licensing agency, professional licensing, when it comes to appraisers. That involves all and any appraiser misconduct , it doesn't have to be tied to discrimination.

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