A Black couple wary of a low appraisal of their California home says race was a factor after a white friend pretending to be the homeowner received an estimate nearly $500,000 higher.

Paul and Tenisha Tate Austin purchased the Marin City house in 2016 from another Black family, making $400,000 in renovations that would increase its value, a local ABC News affiliate reported.

The Bay Area house, which was originally built in the 1960s, ended up with another 1,000 square feet of space and a new story, as well as a new deck, floors, fireplace and appliances.

But when the couple had the house appraised, they were shocked to find out it was valued at just $989,000 — only $100,000 more than the appraised price prior to the renovations.

The Austins said an older white woman who conducted the appraisal used coded language like “Marin City is a distinct area” in her estimate, the affiliate reported.

“I read the appraisal,” Tenisha told the station. “I looked at the number. I was like, ‘This is unbelievable.’”

“It was like a slap in the face,” Paul added.

After successfully pushing their lender for another appraisal, the couple tried a different tack: bringing in a white friend to pose as the homeowner.

“She was like, ‘No problem, I’ll be Tenisha, I’ll bring over some pictures of my family,’” Paul told the ABC affiliate. “She made our home look like it belonged to her.”

The second appraiser valued the house at $1,482,000 — or nearly 50% more than the first estimate.

The Austins said their situation was just another example of the racism Black people face within the country’s housing market.

“There are implications of our ability to create generational wealth or pass things on if our houses appraise for 50% less than what it’s valued at,” Tenisha said.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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  1. As we are now super familiar with appraisers and adjusters. Note in this article they got a NEW appraiser. That’s what made the difference. I find it extremely hard to believe that a house is now worth that much more when a white person poses for the home with the adjuster. After so many hurricanes we have learned every appraiser and adjuster is totally different and with every one our race never changed but the worth and values did tremendously each time.

  2. The same thing happened to us recently. The bank appraised our home at 1.2 and we had an appraisal with improvements around $150 thousand and the home came in $100 thousand less. Four months later, we had it apprasial again. It came in $70 thousand less than the first apprasial. Clearly, a newly built home less than two years old with no depreciations sitting on a the marsh and a lake directly in front wouldn’t deprecate in two years. Three homes similar and smaller than ours appraised between 1.2 to 1.6. We thought we would at least appraised 1.3 to 1.4.

  3. We aren’t black but same thing happened to us. We built a 1000 sq ft 1 bdrm, 1 bath large master walkin closet, living room, dining area, full kitchen , pantry and covered porch. We spent about $100k and when we went to sell it th month before the housing boom hit in Jan 2005 the appraiser said it didn’t add much value at all because it appraises as a swimming pool!!! WTH!!! You cannot live in a swimming pool! We were already committed to another home as well as the people we were buying from . I truly wish I had had the ba!!$ to tell them to stick it ! The people that bought it from us turned around and did a refi on it for over$250k than what we sold it for!!! I’ve never been so mad.

    We did a refin4 years ago and my house went from a 4 bdrm to a 3 bdrm .when I contested that the appraiser says we’ll the bedroom window opens into the Arizona room. Unless it opens to the outside it can’t be counted as a bedroom! Who the heck makes up these rules???

  4. This doesn’t prove racism at all!! All it proves is that the first one priced it low vs the second one. There is nothing to prove the second was based on white people!? This is ridiculous to ALWAYS put race on everything.

  5. Most home owners think that money spent creates value. They are wrong. Swimming pools,finished basements and cosmetics are usually a waste. This couple failed to get an expert opinion before they started spending boh money.The first appraiser was probably correct. Experienced old white lady appraisers aren”t racist and neither are Real Estate Professionals. It is very easy to make foolish home improvements no matter who you are or where you live. There is more to this story that is hidden.

  6. As an appraiser with 20+ years experience I can say two things without knowing the property:
    1. With such a big discrepancy in value its probably one of the appraisers being wrong. Also both can be wrong and the true value lies somewhere in between.
    2. You can put tons of money in your house without enhancing its market value if you spend it on features which the typical consumer does not value. Thats why its called market value and not personal value.

  7. I don’t understand a detail in the story. Why were they trying to ask their Lender for another appraisal? Were they trying to take a loan against their equity? It seems suspicious. Maybe the first appraiser did not really do much of a job if they just wanted a loan against their equity.

  8. It is against the banking laws to redo an appraisal the bank has commissioned. A borrower cannot just go out and ask for another appraisal or commission his own appraisal. That is how we ended up in the last housing crisis. You have to use the appraiser approved by the bank and bank regulators. Since all mortgages are sold to investors like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bank has nothing to gain and everything to lose i.e, monthly servicing fee on another loan, by telling the appraiser to lower an appraisal. This makes no sense.m

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