Black homeowner launches legal fight after property value doubled when she used white man as a stand in for estimate

·2 min read
Carlette Duffy - Michelle Pemberton/The Indianapolis Star via AP
Carlette Duffy - Michelle Pemberton/The Indianapolis Star via AP

A black homeowner in Indianapolis was so dismayed after her house was twice valued at just over $100,000, that she removed family photographs, African American artwork and got the white husband of a friend to stand in for her when a third appraiser came round.

After the house was valued at $259,000, Carlette Duffy filed a housing discrimination complaint alleging that the low appraisals were offered because of her race.

Ms Duffy was attempting to take advantage of lower interest rates last year and refinance the mortgage loan for her home in a historically black neighborhood just outside downtown Indianapolis, The Indianapolis Star reported.

She purchased the house for $100,000 in 2017 and expected it to be valued similarly to her sister's home in the same area, which was given an estimate of $198,000 in 2019.

But the first valuation came back at $125,000, while a second, conducted by a different mortgage broker and appraiser, said it was worth $110,000.

Carlette Duffy is photographed at the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana - Michelle Pemberton / The Indianapolis Star via AP
Carlette Duffy is photographed at the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana - Michelle Pemberton / The Indianapolis Star via AP

A third appraisal, conducted after Ms Duffy did not declare her race in her application and went to great lengths to conceal her identity, came back at $259,000.

"I had a lot of pushback from family, from friends, from friends in real estate who were like 'Maybe that's just the value of your home, you know, maybe you're wrong, that there's nothing nefarious occurring. This is just how things are,'" she told The Indianapolis Star.

"I just felt like, no. Something else is happening here that we're just not seeing."

In the first two appraisals, comparable sales were pulled from Black neighborhoods more than a mile from Duffy's home, rather than those nearby that were closer to the specifics of her house, said Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana Executive Director Amy Nelson.

In their complaints, Ms Duffy and FHCCI asked the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate.

"I'm excited, vindicated, relieved, angry, extremely peeved since I can't say the other expletives that were running through me at that point in time, destroyed that I had to go through all of that," Ms Duffy said.

"This is real. just being able to prove it is the hard part."