ATLANTA — A home is the biggest investment most Americans have. For some, the value of their home will create generational wealth, help send kids to college or even prepare for retirement.
But metro Atlanta homeowners told Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray they believe their homes were valued tens of thousands of dollars less than they’re worth because their families are Black.
“It’s a very well-known fact, especially in Black communities, that our homes are undervalued significantly in comparison to white communities,” Douglasville homeowner Asmirh Davis said.
Davis told Gray her home was appraised in June 2021 to refinance her mortgage.
That appraisal valued her home less than it was worth in 2016. Before asking the bank for a second appraisal, she did a full makeover of her home.
Davis took a Mohammad Ali poster off her basement wall and a painting of her child out of his bedroom. The goal was to disguise the fact that the Davises are Black.
“For the second appraiser, we removed not only everything in the home, but my husband and I removed ourselves,” Davis said.
She told Gray that a white neighbor stood in for her during the second appraisal. That second appraisal valued her home at $640,000 — $138,000 more than the June appraisal.
“So almost a 30% increase from the one that we had gotten only a few weeks prior,” Davis said.
“There’s not much doubt in your mind what that was about?” Gray asked Davis.
“Absolutely,” Davis said.
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Sarah Hayden recently moved to Missouri. Family photos now cover the walls in her new home.
She took down all the prized family memories in her metro Atlanta home after having the same experience as the Davis family.
“I made arrangements for my husband to leave the house. I made arrangements for our nanny to take our son out of the house during the time of the appraisal,” Hayden said.
After an October 2021 appraisal came back lower than expected, Hayden felt she had to hide her biracial family.
“We got the second appraisal back less than 24 hours later, and it came back at $504,000. So, a huge difference. I mean, $70,000 difference,” Hayden said.
It’s a problem happening not just here in metro Atlanta, but nationwide. The Biden administration has even created a special task force, PAVE, to address the issue.
“The appraisal industry is 97% male-dominated, white-dominated,” said PAVE executive director Melody Taylor.
She told Gray that addressing an extreme lack of appraiser diversity is among the top priorities in an action plan issued by the White House task force.
“The appraisal industry is loosely regulated and that subjectivity, that bias can tend to be baked into various processes along the way,” Taylor said.
Atlanta real estate agent Amy McCoy said she has seen it happen to too many families but said there is something homeowners can do.
“You’re going to have to report it. You know, just like we want to talk to the manager when our cheeseburgers aren’t right,” McCoy said.
So, Hayden filed an official complaint with HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
“That’s why I made the complaint,” Hayden said. “Because I wanted other people to know this happened to us. It can happen to anybody.”
Customers can also do what both Hayden and Davis did — ask the bank for a second appraisal.
“To have to remove yourself from it in order to get what is, you know, justly yours is very demoralizing,” Davis said. “And it’s something that has to change.”
The Georgia Real Estate Commission & Appraisers Board, as well as three national and state groups representing the appraisal industry, did not return Channel 2 Action News’ request for an on-camera interview for this story.
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