Rolling Out

‘Our America: Lowballed’ examines racism in real estate appraisal industry

Black and Brown communities face higher property devaluation than white property owners
'Our America: Lowballed' examines racism in real estate appraisal industry
News reporter Julian Glover (Photo courtesy of Stefan Stifter)  

As a reporter on race, culture and social justice for the South Bay ABC7 News team in northern California, Julian Glover started reporting on discrimination in the home appraisal process and devaluation of Black neighborhoods spurred by the Biden-Harris administration to address these longstanding inequities. The results of these efforts are revealed in the forthcoming documentary “Our America: Lowballed.” One disturbing fact is Black and Latino families have had their homes appraised for up to $500,000 less than expected, and they believe racial bias played a significant factor.

Why did you see the need to report on appraisal discrimination across the United States?
Many are familiar with the Austins, a Black family in California, who had the appraised value of their home jump nearly $500,000 after whitewashing their house — stripping it of family photos, artwork, even toiletries — and having a friend, who is White, stand in during the appraisal. We did the initial reporting of that, and when we broke the Austins’ story, countless families across the country came forward with similar experiences.

What are some of the reasons this situation remains in place without change?
The issue of appraisal bias has gone underreported for years. But the pandemic created a perfect storm to bring this issue into focus. With interest rates hitting historic lows in 2020 and 2021, more homeowners refinanced their existing mortgages to save money or withdrew from the home’s equity as property values soared. Black and Latino families disproportionately had their loans denied. Why? In many cases, the appraisal came in low.

This reporting on the devaluation of Black and Latino homes has spurred new state laws and led President Biden to create the Property Appraisal Valuation Equity task force to identify solutions to root out appraisal bias. In addition, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, featured in the documentary, introduced legislation to combat appraisal bias with the Fair Appraisal and Inequity Reform legislation. In California, appraisers are now required to take anti-bias training courses.

What can members of Black and Brown communities do to stem this from happening to them?
Every family I spoke to for “Lowballed” shared they felt as if they didn’t have any options to get help — that they wouldn’t be believed. But there are actions you can take. We walk people through the steps in the documentary. We’ve also posted a list of resources for families to act against suspected appraisal and other housing discrimination. To learn more, go to  Lowballed.ABC. and [click the About tab] where you will find a list of resources and action items you can do if you suspect that you or someone you know may have been affected by a housing lowball.

“Our America: Lowballed,” will debut on ABC-owned Television Stations’ 24/7 streaming platforms, 32 connected TV apps across streaming platforms Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku and Hulu beginning Dec. 2, with a linear release across eight ABC stations the weekend of Dec. 5.

Join our Newsletter

Sign up for Rolling Out news straight to your inbox.

Read more about:
Also read
Rolling Out