Posted on May 14, 2021

Black Homeowner Had a White Friend Stand in for Third Appraisal. Her Home Value Doubled.

Alexandria Burris, Indianapolis Star, May 13, 2021

Carlette Duffy felt both vindicated and excited. {snip}

For months, she suspected she had been low-balled on two home appraisals because she’s Black. She decided to put that suspicion to the test and asked a white family friend to stand in for her during an appraisal.

Her home’s value suddenly shot up. A lot.

During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the first two appraisers who visited her home in the historic Flanner House Homes neighborhood, just west of downtown, valued it at $125,000 and $110,000, respectively.

But that third appraisal went differently.

To get that one, Duffy, who is African American, communicated with the appraiser strictly via email, stripped her home of all signs of her racial and cultural identity and had the white husband of a friend stand in for her during the appraiser’s visit.

The home’s new value: $259,000.

“I had to go through all of that just to say that I was right and that this is what’s happening,” she said. “This is real.”

Now she wants justice. Along with the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, Duffy has filed fair housing complaints against the mortgage lenders and appraisers she accuses of undervaluing her home because of her race.

Housing experts and historians say residential real estate has been historically marred by discrimination. Across the nation, homes owned by Black Americans are significantly undervalued next to homes in comparable white neighborhoods, according to a study by Brookings.

Andre Perry, a senior fellow for the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program who studies housing discrimination, said anecdotal evidence of housing discrimination can be found around the country.

“It’s almost when people see Black neighborhoods, they see twice as much crime than there actually is. They see worse education than there actually is,” Perry said. “I think this is what’s happening when appraisers, lenders, real estate agents see Blackness. They devalue the asset. They devalue the property.”


Duffy and the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana filed the complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She’s asking for the federal agency to investigate the appraisals.

Respondents in the complaints include Indianapolis-based appraiser Tim Boston, appraiser Jeffrey Pierce, CityWide Home Loans and employee Craig Hodges, lender Freedom Mortgage and two of the company’s employees.

The complaints alleges they violated fair housing laws by allowing race and color to impact their appraisals of her home and their lending practices. The appraisers, the complaints said, purposely pulled comps that were unfair and racially motivated.

Appraiser Tim Boston denied the allegations.

“My appraisal reports are data-driven. I could care less about culture or sexual orientation,” he said. “It’s all about bricks and sticks and dirt.”


When Duffy sought the first appraisal on her home, she didn’t do it with the intention of selling the house.

Instead, she wanted to refinance her current mortgage loan, take of advantage of the pandemic’s historically low interest rates and use some of the equity she built up in her own home to buy her grandmother’s house near Crispus Attucks High School. Duffy hoped to pass the property along to her daughter.

Despite the public safety orders and businesses closures caused by the pandemic, the real estate market in Central Indiana was red hot. The Federal Reserve was keeping interest rates low. And, Duffy said her sister, who lives nearby, had her home appraised at roughly $198,000 in 2019.


So Duffy began the process of refinancing her home mortgage, which she purchased for $100,000 in 2017.

But, the process didn’t go as she expected, according to the HUD complaint. Duffy worked with CityWide and Jeffrey Pierce of Pierce Appraisal in March and April 2020. They valued her home at $125,000.

CityWide and Pierce could not be reached for comment.

In an interview, Duffy said she initially wasn’t sure what to think about the assigned value, that is until she read the appraisal report.

“The wording in it just it sent out red flags,” Duffy said. “It said there were comps within the half mile, but it said the quality of construction of the other homes were far more superior to the quality of construction of my home.”


Between May 2020and July 2020, Duffy worked with her then-lender Freedom Mortgage on her second attempt to refinance her home.

She was assigned Indianapolis-based appraiser Tim Boston of the Appraisal Network, according to the complaint. Boston and Freedom Mortgage appraised her home at $110,000 — just $10,000 more than its purchase price and $15,000 lower than the first appraisal.


Freedom Mortgage did not respond to IndyStar inquiries. Boston said that he followed the rules for appraisers and the process is scrutinized.

“My appraisals are always supported by data because my license is at risk if I don’t do it correctly,” he said. “From the appraisal management company to the bank, those appraisals go through statistical packages, a logarithm type software to test my value. If it’s not within a certain range of those software programs, it’ll kick back.”

He also said his appraisals are internally reviewed for accuracy.

Boston told IndyStar his appraisals are based on factors such as a home’s square footage, architectural style, neighborhood values, cost to build if brand new, comps on surrounding comparable properties, income costs and market.

Market, he said, is typically what drives an appraisal.

At the time, Duffy challenged Boston’s appraisal and provided market analysis for review. She said she was told that no changes would be made. She decided to walk away.

Boston said he doesn’t recall receiving additional documentation from Duffy.


After her credit had recovered from the previous refinancing attempts, Duffy started the refinancing process for a third time in October and November, reaching out to unidentified company. That time, the complaint notes, she did not declare her race or gender as part of the application process as she did with previous lenders.

When an appraiser was assigned, Duffy said she kept the interaction to email with no phone interaction. And unlike the first two times, she took down the photos of herself and her family, and removed her African American art and books that might identify her race.


Minus the missing artwork and identifying items, before-and-after photos shared with IndyStar show a home with identical living rooms and kitchens.

Duffy said she would be out of town and that her brother —who was really a friend’s white husband posing as her relative — would meet with the new appraiser. On the day of the appraiser’s visit, Nov. 4, Duffy gave her friend the Wifi password so he could get work done and left the home.

He texted her when it was time for her to return, noting that nothing about the visit was extraordinary. Two days later, Duffy received a copy of her new appraisal with the higher $259,000 value.

Boston had no explanation for the more than 40% difference between his appraisal and the final one.

“We should have to look at those appraisals to figure out what why there’s such a big difference,” he said.

But, he questioned why the third appraiser’s identity is redacted in the HUD complaint publicly released by the Fair Housing Center. He said he also wondered whether that party is certified.

Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center, said since no complaint was filed against that third appraiser the center did not see a need to identify that person publicly.


It’s not lost on Duffy that she lives in a historic African American neighborhood constructed in response to discriminatory housing policies in the 1950s and 1960s.


Today the neighborhood is surrounded by gentrification. {snip}