Mixed race couple blasts ‘racist’ home appraiser after value of their Florida home went up by $135,000 when they removed all evidence that a black mother and biracial child live there
- Abena and Alex Horton had their four-bedroom house in Jacksonville, Florida appraised in June for $330,000, lower than other homes in the area
- Abena, who is black, then removed family photos and books by black authors and displayed Christmas cards from white friends
- Only Alex, who is white, was home for a second appraisal — when the value of the home was put at $465,000, or 41% more
- Abena said she was ‘ashamed’ to put up with that ‘indignity’, feels ‘absolute anguish,’ and wants better for their six-year-old son
- Fair Housing Act of 1968 outlawed race discrimination among home appraisers; the couple filed complaint with Department of Housing and Urban Development
A mixed race couple was left heartbroken and crushed when their Florida home was appraised for $135,000 more after they removed evidence that a black woman lived there.
Abena and Alex Horton said that when they first had their four-bedroom house in Jacksonville valued, the appraiser told them it was only worth $330,000 — which was considerably lower than the couple had expected.
Suspecting that racism might be at play, the couple removed all family photos and books by black authors from the house, and made sure that only Alex, who is white, was home for the second appraisal; lo and behold, this time the appraiser assigned the value at $465,000, over 40 per cent more than the previous estimate.
Suspicious appraisal: Abena and Alex Horton are looking to refinance their four-bedroom house in Jacksonville, Florida and had it appraised in June
Home sweet home: The first appraiser valued it at $330,000 — lower than the couple expected and less than other homes in the area
The couple was starting the process of refinancing their home when they scheduled the first appraisal in June.
They estimated that their four-bedroom, four-bath ranch-style house in a predominantly white neighborhood would be appraised for $465,000 — and looked to other homes in the area, which were valued at $350,000 to $550,000.
When the appraiser came, however, had different ideas.
‘The appraiser came by and he was immediately unpleasant — making one rude comment after another,’ Abena wrote in a viral Facebook post.
‘He expressed exaggerated surprise when he saw me working at my home office during the walk-through.’
Ultimately, the appraiser valued the home at only $330,000, which Abena called ‘laughable.’
‘We appraised far lower than neighboring home sales with fewer bathrooms, fewer bedrooms, significantly lower square footage and half the land,’ she wrote.
Terrible: Abena removed any photos that showed black people and replaced them with images of white friends; she also stored away books by black authors
Compelling evidence: A second appraisal came back 41% higher at $465,000, which Abena and Alex attribute to racial discrimination
Speaking to ABC News, she said rolled her eyes at the number, calling the original appraiser ‘so petty and hateful.’
‘Why did I let myself forget that I live in America as a black person and that I need to take some extra steps to get a fair result?’ she said.
The Hortons managed to get the bank to agree to a second appraisal, and this time around they made some changes.
Abena, a lawyer, removed the photos of their multiracial family, replacing them with paintings of her white husband and his parents, as well as holiday cards from white friends.
She also put away books by black authors like Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison and made sure Shakespeare was on display instead.
When the second appraiser came, only Alex was home, as Abena and their six-year-old son had gone out.
The experiment worked: The second appraiser valued the home at $465,000 — $135,000 and more than 40 per cent more than the original estimate.
‘My heart kind of broke,’ Abena said. ‘To know just how much, me personally, I was devaluing the home just by sitting in it’
Reported: The Hortons said they have filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development
‘My heart kind of broke,’ Abena told the New York Times. ‘I know what the issue was. And I knew what we needed to do to fix it, because in the Black community, it’s just common knowledge that you take your pictures down when you’re selling the house. But I didn’t think I had to worry about that with an appraisal.’
She said the experience was ‘crushing’ and was ‘ashamed’ that her son would noticed that she’d hid their race.
‘I’m ashamed to say that I really wanted to refinance and pay off my house sooner and have full equity in my home, and so I was willing to put up with that indignity to do it because I knew it was going to be effective,’ she told ABC News.
‘So it was a combination of pragmatism and deep and profound sadness.
After the second appraiser left, Abena was in tears.
‘Because we realize just how much more removing that variable increased the value of our home,’ she said.
‘Racism silently but conspicuously steals wealth,’ Abena wrote on Facebook
‘To know just how much, me personally, I was devaluing the home just by sitting in it. Just by living my life. Just by paying my mortgage. Just by raising my son there. How much [the first appraiser] felt that that devalued my house, devalued the neighborhood.’
In addition to being emotionally crushing for the Hortons, this kind of discrimination is illegal.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 says that home appraisers cannot discriminate based on race, religion, national origin, or gender. Those who do can lose their license and even go to prison.
The Hortons said they have filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
‘Racism silently but conspicuously steals wealth,’ Abena wrote on Facebook.
‘Racism wastes time. Racism raises blood pressure. Racism makes me hate myself for my calm acceptance of what I had to do, and have always had to do, to achieve a fair result.
‘I write this from a place of absolute anguish, to sort through my emotions. I want better for my son.’