A black couple from California are suing a real estate firm after their home went up in value by 50 per cent when they had a white friend pose as its owner.
Paul, 45, and Tenisha Tate Austin, 42, who are black and from Marin City near San Francisco had their home valued at $989,000 in January, having purchased it in 2016 for $550,000.
Following a second appraisal from a different lender the following month, they were shocked to find the home’s value increased by a further $500,000. The couple credit ‘whitewashing’ the home of all signs of its owners’ identity, and asking a Caucasian friend to pose as Tenisha for the second viewing as the reason for the jump in value.
They have now filed a fair housing lawsuit against appraiser Janette Miller, her firm Miller and Perotti Real Estate Appraisers, Inc. and national appraisal company AMC Links, LLC in the $487,500 discrepancy over the two valuations they received.
AMC were tasked with handling the couple’s valuation, and were also behind the second valuation which saw a dramatic increase in price, the lawsuit alleges.
Paul, 45, and Tenisha Tate Austin, 45, say they believe race was the reason their home in Marin City in the Bay Area was undervalued by a realtor
The couple are now suing appraiser Janette Miller, pictured, her firm Miller and Perotti Real Estate Appraisers, Inc over the low-ball figure the couple first received
Paul and Tenisha couple say the January estate agent was an older white woman – Miller – who used coded phrases like ‘Marin City is a distinct area’ when she valued the property which they believe was race-related.
The couple complained to their lender describing as ‘a slap in the face’ before the pair were finally approved for a second appraisal.
This time, the pair decided to run an experiment to see if their suspicions were right and got a white friend to pose as the owner.
They hid photographs and art work and replace it with their friend’s photos.
‘We had a conversation with one of our white friends, and she said. ‘No problem. I’ll be Tenisha. I’ll bring over some pictures of my family’. She made our home look like it belonged to her.’
‘There are implications to our ability to create generational wealth or passing things on if our houses appraise for 50% less,’ Tenisha added.
The couple carried out $400,000 of significant renovations in the five years since buying the home including a brand new floor which added 1,000 sq feet of space, a fireplace, new appliances and an outdoor deck.
The couple bought their home in 2016 for around $890,000 but was valued at only $995,000 despite spending $400,000 on renovations
The couple carried out significant renovations in the five years since they had purchased the home including a brand new floor which added 1,000 sq feet of space, a fireplace, new appliances and an outdoor deck
Paul believes the low figure was as a result of the color of their skin and they are now suing the real estate company who gave them the first valuation
But when it came to listing the property they found it had increased in the home’s value by just 10 per cent.
Paul believed the low figure was as a result of the color of their skin.
‘I read the appraisal, I looked at the number I was like, ‘This is unbelievable”, wife, Tenisha said to ABC7.
‘We did our homework,’ Austin told the Reparations Task Force in a panel on the racial wealth gap in October, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The couple then had a white friend post as the owner and hid photographs and art work, replacing it with their friend’s photo
Following a second appraisal, they were shocked to find the home’s value increased by a further $500,000
The couple are alleging racial bias over their home’s valuation and are seeking a jury trial and financial damages
‘We believe the white lady wanted to devalue our property because we are in a black neighborhood, and the home belonged to a black family,’ the couple say
When the couple’s white friend, Jan, pictured, posed as the owner of their home which went up in value to $1,482,000 – almost $500,000 more
‘We believe the white lady wanted to devalue our property because we are in a black neighborhood, and the home belonged to a black family.
‘My stomach hurt, my head hurt, just because of what we went through,’ Austin said. ‘I don’t wish that on anybody.
‘I want to see a change. I don’t want to see my children have to deal with this,’ he added.
Marin City, where the Austins live, is a historically black community.
‘There are definitely things about this complaint that are uniquely strong,’ said an attorney for the couple, Julia Howard-Gibbon, to the Chronicle. ‘They erased themselves from the home, essentially.’
Attorneys for the Austins note: ‘Marin City has a long history of undervaluation based on stereotypes, redlining, discriminatory appraisal standards, and actual or perceived racial demographics.’
Jessica Lautz, from the National Association of Realtors’ vice president of demographics and behavioral insights, said the couple’s case was not unusual.
‘We know discrimination is in nearly every aspect of that home buying process,’ she said. ‘We need to be addressing it as an industry.’
Black home ownership is far less across the country with only 44 percent of black Americans owning their home in 2020 compared to 74 percent for white Americans according to areal estate firm Redfin.
In the state of California, only 34 percent of black Californians own a home, according to the National Association of Realtors.