One couple and an improvising friend went to extraordinary lengths to uncover racial discrimination.
Something didn’t add up
Home ownership remains one of the reliable roads to a better future. That’s exactly what Paul Austin and wife Tenisha Tate Austin of California had in mind when they went house hunting.
However, after being constantly and significantly outbid on home offers, the process got “a little bit depressing,” Austin tells ABC.
They eventually found their dream home off-market, from a family in Marin City.
Shortly after moving in, the couple sunk over $400,000 of renovations into their new home. Upgrades included a new deck, fireplace, and an entirely new floor.
Yet the couple is shocked when they have their home appraised.
“I read the appraisal, I looked at the number I was like, ‘This is unbelievable'”– Paul Austin
Their home was valued at $989,000, which the couple claim was only $100,000 more than the value before the renovations.
The Austins’ surprise quickly turned into suspicion.
Call a friend
The Austins are African American. The “off-market” family mentioned earlier was another African American couple who wanted to give members of their community an opportunity at homeownership.
The appraiser was an older white woman whose evaluation contained what the family believes was coded language, like “Marin City is a distinct area.”
This aroused the couple’s suspicion that their race played a factor in the home’s low valuation.
They decided to find out if their suspicions were correct.
After securing a second evaluation, the Austins turned to a friend for help.
“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”– Paul Austin
With the white friend posing as Tenisha, the home appraisal soared to $1,482,000. Almost a 50% jump from the initial valuation.
The Austins were outraged, realizing that more than their home’s value was being short-changed.
“There are implications to our ability to create generational wealth or passing things on if our houses appraise for 50 percent less”– Tenisha Tate Austin
Industry insiders say that the Austins’ story is sadly common.
“We know discrimination is in nearly every aspect of that home buying process,” said Jessica Lautz, National Association of Realtors’ vice president of demographics and behavioral insights. “We need to be addressing it as an industry.”
Positive change takes everyone
Racism isn’t a moment, event or a story, but a reality that poisons generations. The Austins experienced it firsthand.
It also reminds us that true friends – of any creed and color – go the extra mile for their besties. Just like with the Austins, they can help attempt to rectify an unjust situation.
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