A Maryland realtors’ association is investigating after homeowners in a majority Black community reported multiple cases of alleged appraisal discrimination, leaving home values in the area thousands of dollars lower than what similar properties in nearby communities are worth. The Prince George’s County Association of Realtors sent surveys to more than 3,000 realtors in the county to assess their experiences with appraisal bias. Although fewer than 500 of those surveys have been turned in, Black homeowners in the community shared their individual experiences with alleged appraisal discrimination with local news station WUSA9.
Homeowner Jacqulyn Priestly told the news station her almost 9,000 square-foot home in Bowie, Maryland, that her family built from the ground up ended up appraising for lower than the cost to build it. “In neighboring counties, we’re seeing the exact same builder with the same style home, and [their] homes are worth twice as much,” Priestly said.
She told the news station that her family decided to build to get “more space, multi-generational living with mom and my stepdad living with us too.”
“We looked in other counties in Maryland and then decided to stay in Prince George’s County because we recognize the fact you can’t put a price tag on community,” Priestly told WUSA9.
Appraisers, however, tried. After one appraisal report came back with errors, a second came in at $1.3 million, almost $500,000 lower than construction costs, Priestly told WUSA9. “How is it that the wood and the walls and the nails that were used … how are they worth less than what they cost us?”
Homeowners Derrick and Roshaunda Ingram-Harvey reported a similar experience to WUSA9. They said they were preparing to sell their five-bedroom home for $1.275 million and move to Texas, but their home appraised some $60,000 lower than expected at $1.19 million. “We lost about $60,000,” Roshaunda said. “I think it’s biased because of the stature. How often do African American people buy million-dollar homes … they look at Prince George’s County as an area that’s made for Black people.”
“Every realtor said, we don’t know that your house will sell for that price, because it’s not going to appraise for that in Prince George’s County,” Roshaunda said. “Houses in Prince George’s County don’t appraise for over a million dollars, and they definitely don’t sell.”
Appraisers involved in the sale of the Ingram-Harvey and Priestly homes didn’t return WUSA9’s requests for comment.
What they reported, however, aligns with reports in Black communities throughout the nation. Erica and Aaron Parker, a Cincinnati family, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) when their four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home complete with a finished walkout basement appraised more than $40,000 less than a buyer was willing to pay, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
In their situation, an appraiser acknowledged errors in the report but refused to adjust the home’s appraised value. “We saw homes sell for much more than the asking price. It didn’t make sense. What was so different about our house? Why were we being told we had to sell for so much less?” Aaron asked the Cincinnati Enquirer. When the family borrowed a white neighbor’s photos to display in their home and had it appraised again, the value came in almost $100,000 higher, the Parkers told the Enquirer.
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge assembled a task force, the Interagency Task Force for Property Appraisal Valuation Equity, to address appraisal discrimination earlier this year. “PAVE will join forces with businesses and local leaders to forge a more equitable America; where every person gets a fair chance at building their wealth,” Fudge tweeted in July when she announced the task force.
Andre Perry, a Brookings fellow working on a study about the effects of racial bias in housing on Black communities, told the Cincinnati Enquirer homes in Black areas are undervalued by an average of $48,000, totaling $156 billion in losses. “If we can detect how much racism depletes wealth from Black homeowners, we can begin to address bigotry principally by giving Black homeowners and policymakers a target price for redress,” Perry and other researchers said in the study. “Laws have changed, but the value of assets—buildings, schools, leadership, and land itself—are inextricably linked to the perceptions of black people. And those negative perceptions persist.”
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