Our Job Is to Observe & Report
Dear President Biden,
Sir, I welcome your incoming administration, and my sincerest hopes and well wishes are extended to you in terms of healing in this nation. Additionally, as an appraiser, I welcome the desire for equality in housing opportunity in the United States, and if there is any bias in my profession, I support efforts to correct this. However, in watching your party’s position on race and housing over the past four years, I fear that there is a fundamental misunderstanding as to the roll of the appraiser, and to the level of bias that there “might” be in the profession.
Most notable were the statements made during the “What’s Your Home Worth? A Review of the Appraisal Industry“, in June of 2019. The desire for fairness at all levels of the industry is palpable in the questions, however, the recommendations that appraiser’s “fix” the problem of disparity in home values based on race is at best a drastic misunderstanding of the industry and at worst an attempt to coerce appraisers to commit mortgage fraud.
Appraisers observe and report. This is our job in short. We observe the subject home, the surrounding neighborhood and the market data, and we develop a report based on those observations that is consistent with best practices. The sad reality is that what we are observing in many cases is the fallout of 100 years of overtly the racist practices of race-based zoning and redlining.
In the city of Richmond, market value boundaries are still similar to the 1950’s redlining, which was based on the previous race-based zoning. This is a sad reality, but it is reality. For an appraiser to arbitrarily go into another area to get “comps” merely because it would result in a higher value is an act of fraud. Our job is to observe and report.
Mr. President, it is the job of legislators, with legal grounding backed by the judiciary, to pass laws that the executive branch can enforce, to correct this issue. My job is to observe and report. Based on my observations and reporting to organizations like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, you will see that data and know if your policies have had the desired effect.
Again, I welcome education on how appraisers can perform our task free from bias. However, please keep in mind that we are reporting data that displays the fraught racist history of this country in terms of housing.
Please, don’t shoot the messenger.
By Jesse Ledbetter is Certified Real Estate Appraiser and owner of RVAvalues.com with a background in philosophy, math, and teaching.