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Black woman's home value jumps $100K after she removed all evidence of her ethnicity

"I get choked up even thinking about it now because I was so excited and so happy, and then I was so angry that I had to go through all of that just to be treated fairly."

Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Grace Cary

A Black homeowner in Indianapolis, Indiana, was able to get her house appraised for over $100,000 more after she restaged her home by removing all evidence of her ethnicity. The homeowner, Carlette Duffy, has now filed a housing discrimination complaint in conjunction with the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, or FHCCI, alleging that her home value rose substantially after she removed items from her home that identified her race and asked a White male friend to sit in on an appraisal. "I get choked up even thinking about it now because I was so excited and so happy, and then I was so angry that I had to go through all of that just to be treated fairly," Duffy told WXIN.

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Duffy explained that she wanted to take advantage of the housing boom last year and refinance her home in a historically Black neighborhood just outside downtown Indianapolis. She planned to use her equity to purchase her grandparents' home nearby. But when she got her house appraised—twice—they came back close to the price she paid for the home in 2017 instead of reflecting the value it gained. "When I challenged it, it came back that the appraiser said they're not changing it," she said.

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A frustrated Duffy finally got some answers when she saw FHCCI Executive Director Amy Nelson speak to a community group about discrimination in housing appraisals during which Nelson pointed to a 2020 New York Times article about the issue. Duffy read up on the subject and decided to find out if racism was behind the low appraisals she was getting. "I decided to do exactly what was done in the article," she said. "I took down every photo of my family from my house… I took every piece of ethnic artwork out, so any African artwork, I took it out. I displayed my degrees, I removed certain books."

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Duffy, who didn't declare her race on the appraisal forms the third time around, then got a White male friend to sit in on the home appraisal. The new appraisal came back at more than double the first two, increasing the value of her house by over $100,000. In her housing discrimination complaint, Duffy and the FHCCI ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate the difference in the appraisals. Nelson revealed that in Duffy's first two appraisals, comparable sales—aka comps—were pulled from Black neighborhoods over a mile from the home, rather than those nearby that were closer to the specifics of the house.

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"Whether or not those comps were fairly selected is something that is the basis of the complaints that we have filed," Nelson explained. "We think it's happening a lot more than is being reported and we want to get the word out to know that we are here as a resource for individuals if they feel this may be happening to them." Duffy, who was able to use the third appraisal to purchase her grandparents' home, hopes that her case will serve as a catalyst to examine discrimination and bias in the appraisal and housing industry. "I'm doing this for my daughter and I'm doing this for my granddaughter, so that when they come against obstacles they will know that you can stand up, you can say that this is not right," she said.

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This isn't the first instance where Black homeowners have had to hide their ethnicity to get a fair home appraisal. As we previously reported, a Black couple living in the Bay Area also believes race was a significant factor in their house being lowballed by roughly $500K in a home appraisal. Paul Austin and his wife Tenisha Tate Austin found that their house was actually worth hundreds of thousands more than they had been told after a White friend stepped in and posed as the homeowner.

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