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‘It Was a Slap In the Face’: Black Couple’s Home Valuation Increased by 50 Percent After White Friend Posed as Homeowner During the Inspection

A Black California couple said they believe race definitely played a role in the significantly different appraisal values of their home after its value increased by 50 percent when a white friend of the family pretended the home in suburban Sausalito was their own.

Paul Austin and his wife Tenisha Tate Austin say their Marin City home was valued at just $100,000 more than what they bought it for even after the couple staged major renovations to the property, costing them $400,000.

But after the couple spoke with a white friend who agreed to make the home “look like it belonged to her” during a second appraisal, the home value increased by 50 percent.

“It was a slap in the face,” said Paul Austin.

Paul Austin and his wife Tenisha Tate Austin say their Bay Area home was valued at just $100,000 more than what they bought it for even after the couple staged major renovations to the property, costing them $400,000. (Photo: ABC7 YouTube screenshot)

The couple first bought the home off-market in 2016 from another Black couple.

The home-buying process in the Bay Area could be frustrating, Paul Austin told ABC7. “As soon as like a house came on the market, you go in, you put your bid in, and then you get outbid by like, $100,000 or more, rather quickly,” Austin said. “That can be a little bit depressing.”

After moving into the 1960s home, the couple added an entirely new floor and 1,000 square feet of space.

The couple also built a deck, added new flooring, new appliances, and a fireplace.

The first appraiser, an older white woman, according to the family, valued the home at $989,000, just $100,000 more than what they paid for it, despite the $400,000 in renovations.

“I read the appraisal, I looked at the number I was like, ‘This is unbelievable’,” said Tenisha Austin.

The first appraiser used what the family believes to be coded language, like, “Marin City is a distinct area” in her appraisal.

After pushback to the lender, the couple was approved for a second appraisal. This time, a white friend of the family posed as the homeowner.

“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.'”

The home appraised for $1,482,000, or close to $500,000 more than several weeks before.

Homeownership, long recognized as a valuable wealth-building tool, remains more common among white families than Black ones. According to the Census Bureau, 44 percent of Black families owned a home in the first quarter of 2020, comparted to nearly 74 percent of white families.

“There are implications to our ability to create generational wealth or passing things on if our houses appraise for 50 percent less than its value,” said Tenisha Austin. The couple believes race played a role in the major difference.

“Half of all blacks born between 1956 and 1965 were homeowners by the age of 50, but blacks born from 1966 to 1976 have a homeownership rate of just 40 percent,” said Donnell Williams, president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, a Maryland-based organization formed in 1947 to promote equal housing opportunities. “If trends continue, black millennials may not even reach a homeownership rate of 40 percent by the time they turn 50.”

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