Black Woman Says House Appraisal Increased After Removing Family Photos

A Black woman in Indianapolis says the value of her home jumped by more than $100,000 after she removed family photos and other items indicating her race for an appraisal.

Carlette Duffy has filed housing discrimination complaints against two lenders in conjunction with the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI).

She began the process of refinancing the mortgage on her house in a historically Black neighborhood last year due to the hot sales market. She planned to use the money to buy her grandparents' home nearby.

Duffy anticipated that the value of her home had increased since she bought it for $100,000 in 2017, estimating it was probably worth around $185,000 in 2020.

But the first appraisal in March last year valued her home at $125,000. A second, a couple of months late, came back at $110,000.

Duffy had purchased a market analysis for her home that concluded a possible list price of $187,000. But when she provided it to the lenders, she was told the appraised amounts would not change. "I felt completely defeated," she said.

Later in the year, after her credit had recovered, Duffy reached out to a new lender.

Home appraisal stock photo
Stock photo. A Black woman says the value of her home jumped by more than $100,000 after she had a white friend pose as her brother. Getty Images

This time, she didn't declare her race or gender during the application process and interacted with them only via email.

And when the time came for the appraisal, she told the lender that she was going to be out of town and her brother would be at her house.

Duffy had a white friend pose as her brother when the appraisal was conducted on November 4 last year. She also took down pictures of herself, removed African American art and any books in her home that might indicate her race.

Two days later, she received a copy of the appraisal valuing her home at $259,000.

"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 Fox 59.

In the complaints, Duffy and the FHCCI allege that the two lenders have violated fair housing laws by allowing race to impact their appraisals and/lending practises. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will investigate to determine any violations of law.

"At the time Ms. Duffy was attempting to refinance, home values throughout Indianapolis were rising dramatically. There were multiple offers being made on home listings," Amy Nelson, the executive director of the FHCCI, said in a statement.

"Ms. Duffy had a newly renovated home. She was a Black female. She lived in a historically African American neighborhood. She questioned if her race or color or that of her neighborhood was impacting how her home was being valued and the comps being used. Ms. Duffy did not give up. Instead, she did what fair housing organizations across the country have been doing to root out fair housing violations–she conducted a fair housing test."

Duffy and the companies listed in the complaint have been contacted for comment.