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An ‘Option for Chinese’: Couple Sues Real Estate Agent They Say Refused to Sell to Them Because of Their Race, Discussion Reportedly Captured on Tape

A Texas couple believes their civil rights have been violated by a real estate agent they say refused to sell them three condominiums because of their race. The Black husband and wife are suing the person who should have facilitated the deal and the two real estate brokerages in a federal court.

On Friday, Sept. 16, Misty and James Ra-Amari, who already live in the city of Katy, and Misty’s sister Rosemary Afful filed a civil lawsuit in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston claiming housing discrimination and are asking to have a trial by jury.

The three have listed RE/MAX, LLC, EXP Realty, LLC, UMRE Investment Holdings, LLC, United Property Management, Cheng Cheng “Josie” Lin, and Grand West Residential Condominium Association, Inc. as the defendants and say they have a recording of a real estate agent refused to sell them three units in the Grand West Condominiums at 1207 Grand W Blvd, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The family has a history of including real estate as a portion of their financial portfolio, regularly investing in buying and renting homes. In August, the Ra-Amaris wanted to purchase two units to lease and one for a family member, Misty’s sister.

Lin, the agent, allegedly took them on an uncomfortable tour of the property, but still, the family was not discouraged. For them, this was not personal but a business investment.

“This was a great investment opportunity for us, and I wanted to get the deal done,” Misty Ra-Amari said according to an interview with ABC 13. “I don’t have to deal with you after I purchase, so it was no big deal for me.”

The lawsuit says the couple captured the agent on audio saying she would not approve the family to move into the three-story building, located in what is known as Katy’s Asia Town because she believed they would not “be able to get along with each other well.” She also told them she did not believe they could qualify for the specific type of financing she was looking for.

The husband is heard telling Lin that he has seen the property twice and that she probably could check her records to see how qualified he is. He also informed her that he and his wife already have a $2 million home and own multiple properties that she might be familiar with.

James said he learned about the Grand West Condominiums over lunch at the Jia Kitchen, a restaurant close to where he, his wife, and his four children live. While ordering his favorite lunch, crispy tofu with white rice and General Tso’s sauce, he saw the flier promoting an open house for the condominiums.

Ra-Amari was excited about the property, believing it would complement his other real estate investments in Acres Homes and northeast Houston.

But fast forward to Aug. 20, the realtor sought to stop those plans.  

She said since she was also the owner of the unit, she had the final say on who would be able to live in the building, adding, according to the complaint, all the other owners “were personal friends and knew each other.”

Lin also said on the recording she was not willing to negotiate the price, before slipping in “Fannie Mae lending would not be approved due to the owner-occupancy ration of the condominiums.”

The family still offered to pay the asking price for all three units flat out in cash, according to the lawsuit, but Lin continued to refuse their offer.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs point to a flier marketing the building, saying it reveals the real reason why they were denied. It said the building is an “option for Chinese and Asian communities in Houston” where many could live “a safe and simple Asian life.” The African-Americans believe this substantiates their claim that race played a part in the decision not to sell.

Flier promoting Grand West Condos

James Ra-Amari said, “I felt very dark. I felt very upset. As you can feel my vibration now, I am still upset about this. She made it very clear.”

Misty chimes in saying, “I was really flabbergasted because, in this day and age, I know this is not happening, let alone to me.”

This is when they decided to record Lin on their cellphone, later securing Justin Moore as their attorney.

“The fact that this agent found the gumption to post a marketing asset that directly promoted a specific race only buying into this community and that in conjunction with the Ra-Amari’s interaction that they caught on camera, that led me to believe that there was pure racism,” Moore said, “and that the reason they were not allowed to buy into this condo community is because they were Black.”

The lawsuit also alleges Lin told the family she wanted to sell to people 55 years and older.

The Ra-Amaris are asking the courts to award them and Afful $2 million for the violation and to be able to purchase the three condos after the trial.

In addition to Lin, they are suing the homeowner’s association and the two real estate agencies that she works for, however, one of the companies, RE/MAX Realty, said the woman is no longer working with them.

“We can confirm that Josie Lin left RE/MAX as of December 2021 and had no affiliation with the RE/MAX brand in any way at the time of this alleged occurrence. Any use by Ms. Lin of any RE/MAX-branded materials after her departure from RE/MAX is impermissible and unauthorized. RE/MAX is committed to supporting homeownership dreams for everyone equally, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, nationality, disability, gender, sexual orientation, or family status.”

According to Lin, these are some of the exact same attributes she possesses. On her website, it says she is “a Texan by way of Taiwan,” and her purpose is to help immigrants have access to the American dream, specifically through homeownership.

The Ra-Amaris are asking the courts to award them and Afful $2 million for the violation and to be able to purchase the three condos after the trial.

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