Alleged Systemic Racism in Appraisal Myth

Alleged Systemic Racism in Appraisal MythIn virtually every single case of alleged racism to hit the media recently, admitted staged events were in play.

One could argue staging was necessary to identify if a valuation difference resulted from perceptions of what race the occupants are. Fair enough.

Provided that the staging itself does not alter the value scenarios. Provided that the results are being honestly reported. I’m skeptical. I’ve researched each case as far as can reasonably be done from the information provided.

The American Guild of Appraisers has also offered (repeatedly) to conduct thorough reviews of each and every appraisal involved in the reported instances to date. So far there have been no takers.

Without exception, each new instance (or articles on them) cite the thoroughly debunked Brookings Institute Studies on the topic.

Also, without exception as far as has been reported not one case was submitted to state appraisal regulators for analysis and review. Instead, even on non-FHA transactions, complaints were made to HUD alleging Fair Housing Act violations. In one instance I have seen the email correspondence back and forth between the HUD “investigator” and the appraiser. I also read the appraisal. No sign of a smoking gun. No sign of racism in my extensive conversations with the appraiser (over several hours). He seems like a well-trained, thoroughly conscientious appraiser with more than 20 years of experience. He has never had a complaint filed against him before. He is only interested in performing to the best of his ability and feeding his family.

HUD refused to cite the specific authority they are operating under in demanding to see his work file as well as all the appraisals he has performed over the past six months. His attorney suggested HUD MAY have such authority under the Fair Housing Act(s). Any reasonable person knows it’s a fishing exercise.

In doing my own research it appears that the concept of “disparate Impact” is or will be applied. That’s a concept where even if he has done NOTHING wrong, he can still be held liable for the ‘disparate impact’ of ALL OTHER appraisals done by all appraisers in the complainants ‘area’ if they show black area appraisals are lower than white area appraisals. Yes. He CAN be sanctioned (fined) or charged with violations of federal laws.

Market location preferences be damned.

Of course, HOW that area is determined to be relevant is not disclosed. Defined neighborhood? Competitive market area? Adjacent census tracts? Also, what value definition will be applied? The one used by virtually all loan transaction appraisers, or some Department of Justice, HUD, or Treasury Department variation such as “FMV” wherein exposure time is not a factor?

Recently, I watched a YouTube report citing yet another of this alleged race-based disparity in appraisal claims. from Canadian ABC TV.

It starts off with an alleged “valued $65,000 lower” than subsequent appraisal claims. It strongly inferred that there really was no difference at all except the appraisers and the race-reflective staged interiors.

(1) Three appraisals were obtained with no disclosure as to how they came to be ordered or by who. By lenders? By AMCs? By the owner direct?

(2) The stage-owners or residents were Black, Asian (Indian), and White. Interior decor was modified between each appraisal to reflect pictures and possibly other cultural or racial identifiers of undefined descriptions.

(3) EACH appraiser involved an exterior-only inspection by the three different appraisers. Some certainly seemed more detailed and attentive than others. As is normal. Each appraiser measured the exterior. The resulting GLA each calculated was never reported. Nor was the standard to which the measurements conformed. ANSI? Some Canadian standard?

(4) Interior conditions of the property were provided solely by the alleged (staged) owners by pictures of their composition and choosing.

(5) Not one of the appraisals is reported to have been subjected to independent professional peer review. They are instead tried in the court of public opinion. By people with no appraisal knowledge. By people that MAY have ulterior motives.

The appraised values were: $1,450,000; $1,415,000 and $1,385,000 (a variance of 4.48% from high to low or 4.69% low to high).

LESS THAN 5% variation between each appraised value. ALL three values would reconcile with each other.

To have a less than 5% variance between all three values of an over a million-dollar property based on an exterior observation is indicative of GOOD APPRAISAL WORK by all three appraisers!

ABC failed to identify normal appraisal variation ranges. Especially normal variances in over million-dollar properties.

The entire article was couched and presented to infer racial bias caused a Black Homeowner to be deprived of $65,000 in equity.

Admittedly it’s Canada. That historic hotbed of racial discrimination going back to its founding. Where blacks, Asian-Indians, indigenous Indians, French, and so many others have been racially profiled and repressed for so many centuries. The Canada where racism was so rampant that they had to fight a civil war over it. [sarcasm for those unsure]

Where there IS no Fair Housing Act and appraisers don’t have to follow American USPAP rules.

A variance of less than 4.7%. On a property transaction range where multiple appraisals are the norm rather than the exception because it is common for there to be some variance.

In the end, we are left with the impression that clearly hidden racism accounted for the differences. Rather than normal human perceptions or OPINIONS. Or differences in measured living areas.

I know of no systemic racism practiced by any appraiser. I have never observed it. Not in 35 years of appraising. I HAVE heard (read) where certain Automated Valuation Models (algorithms) are weighted based upon demographics.

Demographics required to be reported under Fair Housing Laws via census tract numbers to facilitate monitoring.

Census tract numbers prominently cite racial mixes of the populations within the census tract.

IF there is ‘systemic racism’ then I’d urge our regulators to look to the probable source of it rather than innocent professionals. That source is the Federal Government.

Census tract numbers are the ONLY place in an appraisal report where the specifics of race and a whole host of other prohibited demographic considerations are (indirectly) identified in any appraisal.

Keep promoting the false narrative of systemic bias in real estate appraisal, and eventually, real bias MAY result.

How many appraisers will decline or withdraw from appraising black-owned houses completely rather than risking frivolous but crushing HUD investigations? How many appraisers will suddenly realize they ‘lack competency’ due to ‘observed complexities’ at the subject property? USPAP demands that they withdraw if at any point they realize they cannot complete an assignment due to its complexity being beyond their expertise.

…alleged systemic racism in appraisal myth…I’m not suggesting this will happen. Merely that it might. Most appraisers are professionals and have not bought into this alleged systemic racism in appraisal myth yet.

Another side of the same coin is that if “these” imaginary racist appraisers truly hated other races, then wouldn’t it just be (hypothetically) easier to conclude whatever value is being sought? Avoid the risk AND set the oppressed up to become overburdened by debt?

OR appraisers MAY just start suing originators of the false claims. Or the deep pockets media that keep hyping the narrative.

Michael Ford
Latest posts by Michael Ford (see all)
Michael Ford

Michael Ford

Over 28 years appraising all property types and interests, in Southern California real estate. VP/Chairman National Appraiser Peer Review Committee, American Guild of Appraisers, #44OPEIU/AFL-CIO. - Michael Ford on e-AppraisersDirectory

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37 Responses

  1. Avatar MD appraiser says:

    Well written Mike! And yes maybe we should start suing originators of these false claims and the mainstream media selling these lies.

    • Mike Ford Mike Ford says:

      Thank you. Certainly we need to correct the record whenever this specific manufactured scenario rears its head.

      I urge ALL appraisal organizations and State Coalitions to offer free appraisal review anytime this particular chimera is presented as proof of purported racism.

  2. Avatar Dustin Harris says:

    Some of the best writing I have seen on this subject so far. Well done Mike! Excellent, excellent job.

  3. Avatar BoB says:

    Excellent piece Mike. So sad that many of the higher profile voices in our profession don’t have the cahoonas to step up to the plate for our profession as relates to the nonsense being spewed regarding those “damned racist appraisers”. You know, the ones that get to a house on a paying assignment and think to themselves, “I’m gonna exercise my white privilege and I’m really gonna lowball this value to throw a gut punch at this minority family”. The only color capitalism sees is GREEN. To combat any stray debate the word “unconscious” was subsequently added to the accusation….the attempt being to squash any rebuttal before it can get started, i.e. you’re too dumb to know your you’re gonna lowball the minority family. Sadly we have few voices that have your guts. The assertion being presented with the current narrative is a false one. It states that statistical disparities are unequivocally the result of the damned racist appraisers. Statistical disparities can be the result of a thousand different things. The NBA is widely predominantly black (75% to 16% white). There are no 5′ 6″ tall white Jewish guys in the NBA. It’s racist! It’s anti-Semitic! No, while statistically it’s true….it has nothing to do with damned ol’ racist or anti Semitic coaches. The whole thing is becoming a farce, but I guess the appraisal profession should have foreseen that it too was not going to be able to avoid being the target of the divisive piling on.

    • Baggins Baggins says:

      You were born. Just in time. To fight race war. It really is over the top these days. To the point people are finally learning to simply ignore the baiting. What exactly is wrong with lower housing pricing? The narrative falls flat without any injection, as if we’re all cheer leading for increased housing pricing, rampant inflation, and everything to cost more money and pay higher taxes forever. Give me a break! Audit the fed.

      • “Affordable” housing is only important when folks are buying. When they are refinancing, accurate analyses of those affordable houses is unwelcome.

      • Avatar don says:

        Mr. Baggins, your a research historian. Did Mike Fords referral to the French- Indian wars include our own George the first in his training days.

  4. Avatar Mark Skapinetz AGA says:

    Well said and well done Mike. Excellent article.

  5. Avatar Vince Kleinknecht says:

    Well done and well written Mike.

  6. Baggins Baggins says:

    We just hope it all blows over soon. Fake news nonsense steering people to the belief appraisers being racist and implicitly biased all the time. If you are out there thinking this about appraisers, I dare you to try it and do a better job yourself. Press your luck because every other request is a potential whammy. Appraisers be like; what the hell just happened?!

  7. Wyatt Powell on Facebook Wyatt Powell on Facebook says:

    It would of been nice if the author did some actual research on the appraiser’s who performed the reports, the reports themselves or those who ordered the report. Then we could at least have a bit more than just a pissy opinion piece……

    • Spoken like a true Black Knight defender, or uninformed layperson content with their own ignorance on the topic!

      I have researched each issue to the extent that the information is available. We (AGA) have a standing offer to arrange for a free appraisal review to any of these accusers willing to submit the appraisals to professional scrutiny. If we are insufficiently impartial as a result of having written critical articles on the subject, then there are numerous other professional organizations and state coalitions willing to do the same thing.

      I have also directly consulted with an appraiser accused of racism for allegedly having ‘come in low’ on one of these phony setup claims. That included a review of his work.

      • Avatar don says:

        Mike, we need a trio to review any reports. The fear of contradiction, among a defined group is more believable.

        A WSJ letter this week questioned congress about journalists defensibility, for verifying facts “impossible to prove”. We appraisers have to show our verifications.

      • Wyatt Powell on Facebook Wyatt Powell on Facebook says:

        Mike Ford so asking you (the author) for solid facts instead of opinion makes me a black knight defender lol? Put in the time to get facts or just call it what it is….. an opinion piece. Also agree we need peer panel reviews. Easy to agree when it’s based in facts….

        • Avatar don says:

          Facts are all important! especially when dealing with the opinion?? I always used facts to form an opinion amongst other things. Ever try verifying with both the buyer and the seller, want more? try the listing or selling agent, then add in the rents, Wow we get lots of facts.

        • Wyatt Powell, Of COURSE its an opinion! Its a professional opinion. One fueled by 36 years as an appraiser; 6 more as an agent, 8 years in consumer finance and 6 years as an analyst of filed state appraiser complaints; lender black listing and improper influence efforts against appraisers in behalf of a national union.

          If you choose to call it a “pissy opinion” piece that’s your business but at least have the intellectual integrity to admit you dont know what the hell you are talking about concerning the topic.

          If you write as if you are a Black Knight apologist you cant fault others for categorizing you as one.

  8. Avatar Donna says:

    Excellent job Mike. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to our profession when others just throw us, the unbiased, under the bus. Maybe force all borrowers to take a class to educate them on how appraisals work prior to their deal closing.

    • Thank you.

      Common sense solutions are not desired by the people promoting these lies. They are capitalizing on the federal government’s confession of systemic racism being a widespread practice in America since the Civil Rights Act was passed. Now, these two words have become the necessary buzzwords for any efforts to mobilize federal regulators to adopt any new policies ranging from Covid treatment to Housing and FInance issues.

      I am exceptionally contemptuous of appraisal software developers seeking to hustle their bogus appraisal ‘alternative’ snake oil.

      They never go away. They merely latch on to new buss words like ‘value added’ & ‘leveraging’ or climate change in the past. Now its systemic racism.

      Not that the latter two phrases don’t deal with important issues, but they have never been foundational issues with or for real estate appraisals.

      There are a number of articles written here in Appraisersblogs addressing these hucksters. I’ve written a few. Others have written more.

  9. Avatar Julio E Sune Jr says:

    Most Americans think they can spot fake news. They can’t, study finds

    “In all, these results paint a worrying picture: The individuals who are least equipped to identify false news content are also the least aware of their own limitations and, therefore, more susceptible to believing it and spreading it further,”

  10. Avatar Bill Johnson says:

    Seek the truth, spread the truth, and hope others don’t censor the truth.

    • Mike Ford Mike Ford says:

      Bill after the expected Tulsa speech today its going to take more than seeking.

      We ALL need to start writing rebuttals to the racist appraisal meme.

      Its whole point is to create “unbiased” trustworthy machine based valuations. Bypassing Congressional debate under the guise of ending alleged systemic racism.

  11. Avatar Evil Empire says:

    Boycott all ghettos don’t service them

    • We don’t do that. Hopefully, we don’t identify them as even being ghettos, or barrios or gangland…though I personally live in two out of the three I noted.

      It’s never valid professional consideration.

  12. Avatar Julio E Sune Jr says:

    We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency.

    There are just too many arbitrary news-media articles on appraisal racism that have been made without facts and circumstances presented, and it connotes a complete disregard of the evidence.

    There is NO TRUST when image is chosen over INTEGRITY, business convenience over TRUTH and company gain over CREDIBILITY.

  13. Avatar Bill Johnson says:

    This madness has to stop.

    True story, I’m doing an appraisal review (refinance) where I’m going to be cutting value by $50,000 to $100,000 and I can’t stop thinking about the borrowers skin color. If the borrower is of a certain race will I be called a racist if the loan doesn’t go through? Will it matter that I never met the borrowers? Should I assume, and falsify my report to protect myself from potential liability? Should I change my mind and rubberstamp the original appraisers value? If the borrower is white, and the original appraiser is white, and with a high original value is one or are both white supremacist? Why didn’t I know how to spell supremacist, and why was I afraid to have a digital footprint when I Googled how to spell it?

    Stop the madness, and Seek the truth.

    • Avatar Mark Skapinetz AGA says:

      Very valid points Bill. I actually agree with you on this and now we are seeing the effects of this trickle down into other areas of the profession. It’s not going to get any easier either.

  14. Avatar JULIO E SUNE, JR says:



    “Appraisals: Biden says a Brookings study in 2018 found that “homes in majority-Black neighborhoods are often valued at tens of thousands of dollars less than comparable homes in similar – but majority-white – neighborhoods,” and that the “crisis is worsening.”

    In this week’s announcement, Biden said he asked HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge to create a first-of-its-kind interagency to address home appraisal inequities. He said the goal is to use “the many levers at the federal government’s disposal,” including:

    Potential enforcement under fair housing laws
    Regulatory action
    New standards and guidance created in partnership with industry and state and local governments”

    INTERAGENCY = Appraisal police?????

  15. Looking out for our industry and all of our backs. I truly appreciate the opinions of a seasoned, educated and lucid mentor. Thank you.

  16. Avatar Marlaina Geddes says:

    I can’t help but notice the appearance in the comments that what you are saying is somehow correct. Regardless of the Brookings institute findings, one has only to use ones eyes to see, the historical under-valuation of the adjacent properties for comps, you would have found that by-and-large the properties owned by black Americans have been sluggishly plodding on appreciating slower than the rate of inflation, rather than appreciating the value they should have compared to other similarly constructed neighborhoods with a different racial demographic.

    One of the appraisals in question is in my Hometown of Jacksonville Florida, the neighborhood is quite affluent their house is prime Real estate, yet it was valued below all comps in the area. This is how they knew that something was wrong. Regardless of if there is implicit bias by the appraiser, Faulty evaluation models built into a computer system(programed and designed by a white developer), or just plain human error, the fact remains that overtime, those responsible for appraising real property, have by-and-large, never considered that the comps are low because another appraiser before before may have undervalued the homes adjacent and the under-valuation began during a time that being a racist appraiser was acceptable.

    The black community had their homes fire bombed in Chicago when they moved into a white neighborhood. Banks refused loans in “red-lined” areas. Credit Scores have already been shown to have inherent racial bias built into their fabric, why then is this so hard to acknowledge??

    If the blatantly clear racism in the appraisal/loan eligibility/purchase/and subsequent sale of Black American homes isn’t seen by any of you, the issue is not that it isn’t happening, the issue is you are choosing not to look.

    • Marlaina, Geddes, “One has only to use one’s eye to see.”

      That isn’t how real estate appraisal works. Or science. Observation is only part of the process.

      FIrst off we are dealing with the (false) allegations whether or not systemic racism exists within REAL ESTATE APPRAISAL, BY appraisers.

      Only TWO of all the incidents posted by any source have had sufficient data available to identify the properties involved. The one in Oakland owned by Mr. Thadeus Shaheed, and the other was the one in CANADA where the same organization (ABC7) staged three exterior valuation appraisals on a $1.385 million to $1.45 million dollar property. They provided all the interior photos used by the three appraisers.

      In the Oakland case there was roughly 250 SF of area in dispute as to whether or not it was legal living area. Two loan scenarios with completely different restrictions on appraisers were involved. One was FHA. The other was conventional. The property also fronted across the street to a school (could be a positive OR negative). IF the 250 SF of disputed area (and room count) was legal, then the first appraisal was low. If it was not legal as is strongly suspected, then the second appraisal was high. The area involved is comprised of eclectic sizes, ages and designs. Value ranges from about $400,000 to $950,000 all in the same area.

      The Canadian case had a low to high variance of only 4.88%. That amount is a perfectly normal variance between appraisers with access to the same or similar information. The article focused only on the $165,000 gap between the low and the high…on an over million-dollar property evaluated on an exterior basis only. All interior photos were provided by the owners and TV producers. It doesn’t even fairly hint at racism, let alone demonstrate it credibly. It’s also in Canada!

      Differences between white and black ‘neighborhoods’ has nothing to do with modern era racism. It MAY be an outgrowther of past racism pre 1965, but even that is suspect.

      Houses built new sold to white people back in the 20’s or 50’s after the war were brand new. When racial migration took place in later years (by either or both races) say circa 1965 (Civil Rights Act era) the houses were then 15 to 45 years old. If the surrounding new neighborhoods were newer it is logical they would sell for higher amounts.

      Old economics also play a part. There WAS a time when the color of ones skin dictated how much money one normally could earn. Again, only up to the Civil Rights Act and Affirmative Action. People that earned less money in the 1920s bought into cheaper housing. Same in 1950’s. Cheaper housing is already locationally considered less desirable than higher priced housing if all other factors are the same (such as size and quality).

      Cheaper housing appreciates more slowly than does more expensive housing as a rule. Contrast Georgetown DC with Southeast DC; or waterfront anywhere in FLorida, LA, AL, MS, TX, CA, OR, WA or HI. or the other way up GA, SC, NC, VA, MD, PA, DE, NJ, NY, CT, MA, ME or ski slope driven areas of NH.

      Beverly Hills sells for much more than adjacent unincorporated L.A. County or even adjacent Incorporated City of L.A.. Its not race-based. It’s location-based (location incorporating historically higher income and amenities such as views).

      ONE historic fact that MAY play a part today are areas hit by bad race riots in the 1960’s to present time. I live in such an area. Our old name brand market was burned down and remained vacant for over a decade until a third tier ethnic market catering to Latino moved in. MANY buyers will simply NOT pay as much money to live in an area where the local residents may at any time choose to burn and loot the neighborhood.

      THAT racism is not on appraisers’ backs. That is on the residents. We merely measure value of property sold inside whatever neighborhood(s) are there. Oddly in MY neighborhood (mixed), we are also a buffer area for industrial uses. Further north (TOWARD the area predominantly or at least more predominantly (40%-60%?) black, property values rise.

      The faulty models you refer to may or may not be developed by white software designers. (You are really reaching for that one). What IS known is that the corporate counsel or one such company (Abena Horton) is black, and her companies product is just as inaccurate and unreliable as every other AVM.

      Citing NON APPRAISER instances of historic racism (pre 1965) does NOT demonstrate any form of systemic racism in housing today. YOU are choosing not to see THAT.

      America elected a black president. Hardly evidence of racism. We are less than 14% Black as a nation. You ARE going to find white and other races often influence social mores, and perceptions of values more often than blacks…though culturally Blacks are affecting much of what goes on in America today. That’s not racism. That’s progress.

  17. Avatar Marlaina Geddes says:

    Here is another study for you:

    The link the the published study is below, but this article debriefs the data.

    • More spurious pseudo-science and information manipulation.

      “Racial inequality in home values is greater today than it was 40 years ago, with homes in white neighborhoods appreciating $200,000 more since 1980 than comparable homes in similar communities of color.

      Our new research on home appraisals shows neighborhood racial composition still drives unequal home values, despite laws that forbid real estate professionals from explicitly using race when evaluating a property’s worth. Published in the journal Social Problems, our study finds this growing inequality results from both historical policies and contemporary practices.

      In the 1930s, the federal government institutionalized a process for evaluating how much a property was worth. Often called redlining, this process used neighborhood racial and socioeconomic composition to determine home values. Homes in white communities were deemed more valuable than identical dwellings in communities of color.”

      “Legislative action in the late 1960s and 1970s prohibited this practice. But the law allowed appraisers to use past sale prices to determine home values. Our research shows how using old, race-based sale prices ensured appraisers continued to define homes in white neighborhoods as worth more than similar homes in Black and Latino communities. Racism was baked into the system.”

      In 36 years of appraising, I have NEVER used comparable sales data from the 1930’s for a 1980’s; 1990 or current market value analysis.

      Yes, we use historic data. Typically ranging from a few days ago to 90+- days in most instances. Where sales are fewer we may go back 6 months; a year or in VERY rare cases even 2 or 30 years. We don’t go back 90 years in the sales comparison.

      Claiming authors ‘have accounted for” all other differences except racially distinct neighborhoods lacks credibility. I’m supposed to believe non-appraisers with no remote idea of how appraisal works, are somehow able to accurately account for ALL differences EXCEPT location, and then conclude the disparity in overall prices is due to racism?

      Black People today are being sold a phony bill of goods by promoting most ‘social equity’ concepts today. The belief that one race today owes another race anything, due to ancestral abuses is a tool to control them. It is also a tool to influence their political thinking and sap their entrepreneurial drive.

      Black Americans have proven the ability to excel in every endeavor they try. Telling the rest of them that they are doomed to failure forever because of white slavers buying black slaves from OTHER black people in Africa hundreds of years ago undermines their sense of self worth and confidence.

      THAT is the real crime.

  18. Avatar Marlaina Geddes says:

    This published study by 2 sociologists found the following, that appraisal methods coupled with appraisers’ racialized perceptions of neighborhoods perpetuates neighborhood racial disparities in home value. The authors conclude with suggestions for future research and policy interventions aimed at standardizing the appraisal process.

    • Absolute gibberish. Euphemistic word stew without credible support in any fashion. The content of the paragraph doesn’t match the data from the cited sources.

  19. Baggins Baggins says:

    Now is the time to make your voice heard on the anti competitive nature of amc’s.

    I am one of only four comments. We need to flood this comment board immediately, please drop whatever you are doing and comment today. Phone a friend for them to do the same. Per this call to comment from the blogs just today. I posted an image of my comment for comment structure if needed, the other comments already visible.

    Mark, Dave, Dustin, George, Johnathan, Maureen, Julio, Cotton, Bill, Pat, Tammie, Mike, Advocate, Chase, MD, Bobbie, Midwest, Seneca, EJ, Vince, Wyatt, Marlaina, Donna, Anna, Wyatt, Anna, Diana, Denise, Pratt, Hamp, and even that deplorable Retired appraiser, and all the lurkers, where are you at? Please comment.


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Alleged Systemic Racism in Appraisal Myth

by Michael Ford time to read: 5 min