Black couple sue appraiser valuing home $500k less versus white friend


The Austins ‘whitewashed’ their home and had a white friend pretend to be the owner and found its appraisal rose by 50% (Picture: ABC7)

A black couple is suing a real estate firm, alleging a white appraiser undervalued their home by nearly $500,000 because of their race.

Paul, 45, and Tenisha Tate Austin, 42, were shocked beyond belief when their Marin City home in the San Francisco Bay Area valued at $989,000. Over the course of five years, the couple made $400,000 worth of major renovations to the home, including a new floor, creating another 1,000 square feet of space, a new deck, fireplace and other improvements.

Yet the value of their home increased by just 10%.

‘It was a slap in the face,’ Austin told KGO-TV in February.

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Three weeks later, the couple decided to get another opinion, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco, California.

For the second appraisal by a different lender, they enlisted the help of their white friend, Jan, who agreed to pretend to be Tenisha.

The Austins ‘whitewashed’ their house by removing their family photos and stripping the walls of their African-themed art, the lawsuit says. Jan helped the couple by providing photos of her own family to place around the house.

‘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”. She made our home look like it belonged to her,’ Tenisha said, according to the Daily Mail.

Real Estate appraiser Janette Miller is being sued along with her company, Miller & Perotti Real Estate Appraisals (Picture: Lorin Rhaney)

‘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 added.

The lawsuit filed by the Austins accuses the first appraiser, Janette Miller, of giving them a lowball valuation because they are black.

The couple of the nonprofit Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California are now suing Miller and her company, Miller & Perotti Real Estate Appraisals in San Rafael, the Washington Post reported.

They are seeking financial damages and asking the court to order the defendants to ensure they won’t discriminate when appraising houses.

The couple put in about $400,000 worth of major renovations to their Bay Area home, yet its value only originally increased 10% (Picture: Google)

Paul told the state reparations task force in October he believes the property was devalued ‘because we are in a black neighborhood, and the home belonged to a black family’.

Attorneys with Fair Housing Advocates, who are representing themselves and the Austin family, did not immediately respond to Metro for requests to comment.

Jessica Lautz, of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), said discrimination is in ‘nearly every aspect of that home buying process’, adding, ‘We need to be addressing it as an industry’.

Just 34% of black Californians own a home, according to research from NAR, which claims that black applicants are three times more likely to be rejected for mortgage loans than their white counterparts.

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