Racial Bias Often Creeps into Home Appraisals. Here’s What’s Happening to Change That

Note from Class Valuation: Two Class Valuation executives were interviewed by NPR to share their appraisal expertise. Click “view full article” to read what they have to say.

Written by Jennifer Ludden

Years of homeowner horror stories and a growing body of research has cast a harsh light on how frequently racial bias can skew home appraisals. It’s an industry that’s dominated by white men whose methods for valuing homes haven’t changed much in decades.

Now there’s an intensified a push to diversify and to revamp the appraisal process in ways supporters say could limit this discrimination.

The pressure comes from allegations like those of Tenisha Tate-Austin and Paul Austin, who announced a legal settlement last week over what they believe was a racially biased appraisal. The Black couple were shocked in 2020 when a white appraiser valued their home in Marin City, Calif., at only $995,000 — far lower than a previous assessment. Tate-Austin recently told a federal panel how they scheduled a do-over with a white friend posing as the owner.

“Our friend Jan brought over a family photo,” she said. “We took down our family photos and replaced artwork so there was no trace of us in our own home, a term often referred to as whitewashing.”

That appraisal came in at $1,482,500.

Homeownership is the biggest source of wealth for many families, but a long history of racism in real estate has shut out many Black, Latinx and other families of color. The Biden administration has pledged a wide range of actions to tackle appraisal bias.

Change is also happening within the industry, as appraisers seek ways to replace judgment calls with concrete data, and even reconsider whether an appraiser needs to visit a home at all.