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Black Couple’s Legal Victory: Settles Lawsuit After Race-Adjusted Home Valuation

Adjusted Home Valuation

A black couple in Marin City, California, who claimed that their home’s appraisal value had dramatically improved when a white friend pretended to be the owner during a second appraisal, have resolved their lawsuit with a real estate company.

According to NBC, Tenisha Tate-Austin and Paul Austin sought to refinance their home in late 2020. The initial appraisal, conducted by Janette Miller and her firm, Miller and Perotti Real Estate Appraisers, estimated the home’s value at $995,000. Believing that their race influenced this low appraisal, the couple decided to seek a second opinion.

The Austins went out of their way to remove family photos and artwork with African themes for the second appraisal, and they had a white acquaintance pretend to be the homeowner. This time, the appraisal was valued at $1,482,500, more than $500,000 above the original projection according to the suit.

Supported by the Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, The Austins filed a complaint alleging housing discrimination based on their race. Although the settlement agreement is confidential, it contains an undisclosed sum of money. The defendants will also have to view the film “Our America: Lowballed,” go through training about the background of racial discrimination in real estate and swear never to discriminate again in the future.

The Austins case received widespread media coverage, bringing attention to the persistent housing discrimination that minority groups experience. The couple discussed the difficulties they had getting a fair appraisal, pointing out the historical undervaluation of homes in Black communities and how it affected wealth inequality.

While the settlement provides closure for the Austins, their case is seen as a landmark example of how unfairly low appraisals can hinder access to favorable loans and hinder the ability to build generational wealth. This incident shows how housing prejudice still occurs decades after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 attempted to eliminate it.

Miller and her company are among the defendants in the case, but they have not made any statements to the public about the claims or the settlement.