A Black couple in the Bay area has exposed the continued inequities and bias in the housing market. They found out the hard way that their home was worth a half-million dollars more when they had a white friend pose as the homeowner.
According to ABC 7, Paul Austin and his wife Tenisha Tate Austin invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the Marin City, California, home they purchased in 2016.
Austin recalled to the news outlet the couple’s excitement and the challenges they faced during the purchase.
“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,” he said. “That can be a little bit depressing.”
He elaborated how they were able to purchase the 60s-built domicile from another Black family who hoped to create new Black homeowners in the Austins.
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The couple not only renovated the home to the tune of $400,000, but they added a floor and increased the square footage of the house by an additional thousand feet. A deck, fireplace and updated appliances were also a part of the home improvement project.
After the Austin family’s diligent work, the home was appraised for a little under a million dollars. To their surprise, the appraisal was a measly $100,000 more than what they paid initially.
“I read the appraisal, I looked at the number I was like, ‘This is unbelievable,’” said Tenisha.
“It was a slap in the face,” Austin added.
According to Zillow, homes in that area are worth roughly $1.3 million.
The appraiser was an older white woman, the couple disclosed to ABC 7. They also believe that their appraisal used coded language to describe the area. Marin City is a racially-diverse area, according to Data USA.
The Austins believed that they were lowballed because of race. The couple was finally approved for a second appraisal after escalating their complaints to their lender.
The husband and wife devised a plan to see if their hunch was correct. They told a white friend about the situation, and she volunteered to help.
“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,’” Austin said. “She made our home look like it belonged to her.”
The couple’s gut feeling paid off. The second appraiser inspected the home and determined the value to be $1,482,000—five-hundred thousand dollars more than it appraised for previously.
Tenisha weighed on the original number and attributed the housing market’s bias to directly connecting to the inability of Black people to create generational wealth.
“There are implications to our ability to create generational wealth or passing things on if our houses appraise for 50% less than its value,” she said.
Once ABC 7 posted the couple’s story to its Twitter account, reactions ranged from shock to anger.
$400k is A LOT OF MONEY on top of what they paid for the house! I want to see the appraisals printed with the names of the appraisers. The couple paid for the appraisals they own it they can show them. Call them out. Let everyone know who they are.
— girlgitsworld (@girlgitsworld) February 18, 2021
That appraiser should be fired and their license should be permanently revoked. That’s the only way to stop this from happening to someone else.
— Leron Ford (@leronford) February 13, 2021
Amazing how many hoops people will jump through to deny that there is in fact racism. Most don’t even know half the story and right away they call it perfectly normal…For blacks!
— Marcos (@WillyBo42471423) February 18, 2021
The ghost of redlining. America is determined to not let us accumulate any wealth, even from our own investments.
— Skillmonger, 1st of His Name (@Skull_Vet) February 14, 2021
According to the Urban Institute, only 42% of Blacks own homes– leaving a 30% gap between white homeowners. The organization referenced the disparities are worse now than before the Fair Housing Act was enacted.
“A gap in the homeownership rate between black and white families in the US is bigger today than it was when it was legal to refuse to sell someone a home because of the color of their skin,” the site said.
The Urban Institute went on to say that Black families did not reap the benefits of socio-economic recovery when the housing market crashed in 2008. Black homeownership rates dropped two percentage points between 2000 and 2010 and decreased even more after 2010.