Is There Systemic Racism in Appraising?
Brian Stevens of NREP questions why no evidence has been put forward to support systemic racism in appraising. He proposes that a comprehensive non-partisan study of the industry be conducted before labeling an entire industry with easy and cheap terms like “systemic”.
So we have all heard the story about systemic racism in residential appraising. There have been a handful of cases where it’s been determined that appraisers have brought appraisals in low based on the homeowner’s race. Now I don’t know if this is true and you don’t know if this is true. We don’t know the value, the comps, the adjustments, the neighborhood or the appraiser. So for me to chime in and say that these appraisals had an inherent racial bias would be foolish. I simply don’t know. It is one of two things right? Either they did or they didn’t.
Now here’s what I think. When we use words like systemic, that means that the entire residential appraisal profession has a racial bias. For me this is a fairly new topic. I haven’t heard about it in appraising as far as I can tell. A portion of our industry has decided that systemic racism and appraising exists based on three fairly well-known cases. Again I don’t know the details. My thinking is this though. I think it’s irresponsible to use words like “systemic” or make accusations about an entire industry where individuals who may be pure of heart are accused of deeds for which they are not guilty. Perhaps. Question: Were these bad appraisals? If they were, were they isolated or is this systemic? What about other appraisals that consumers, lenders or realtors disagree with of clients that are of other ethnicities? Do these bad appraisals carry an inherent bias or are they just bad appraisals or are they the right appraisal and you just don’t like the value? Again I don’t know and you don’t know.
My thinking is this. Before we pigeonhole an entire industry with easy and cheap terms like systemic, a word that is wildly misallocated under the circumstance, a word for which there is zero evidence to support, I would suggest that our industries start with a word like comprehensive. Is there systemic racism in appraising?
Let’s find out. Let’s conduct a comprehensive non-partisan study of the industry as a whole. Then and only then can we draw a conclusion and make the corrections if it is determined that they are needed in the first place. Until we use terms like comprehensive, casting judgment, making accusations feel more partisan and agenda driven than anything else. Again please hear what I’m saying. Keep the knives in your belt and out of my path. I’m just saying, let’s find out before we find fault.