Why is Only One Side of This Story Being Told?
There are always two sides to every story; however, understanding is a three-edged sword: your side, their side, and the truth in the middle.
Recently there has been a wave of news stories about racism in the appraisal profession brought on by a couple in Jacksonville, Florida. That couple, Abena Horton, a black woman, and her husband Alex Horton, a white male, made claims that an appraiser who first appraised their home came in low on the appraisal due to her race. You can read one of the numerous stories here.
Before anyone here accuses me of being racist etc., I will state that I appraise homes in a major city made up of all races but primarily African Americans. I don’t appraise race. I appraise real property consisting of homes and land, and yes, I am a white male. I am bound by USPAP and a code of ethics to protect the public trust, which I take seriously. Could some appraisers be racist? I can’t say no to this because anything can happen, and there are always bad apples in every profession, and if that were to be the case, I would be one of the first to condemn that sort of behavior and want them to be removed immediately.
Now I won’t get into the specifics as once again you can read the story from many news outlets, including watching a video done by Good Morning America; however, what I will get into, is that this story is being told by only one side with no actual second side being presented. Why? Why hasn’t anyone done their research to determine the truth on this matter? Why didn’t the news outlets do their due diligence to find out the facts before reporting on something so one-sided? Why hasn’t any of the Appraisal profession organizations demanded that both reports be supplied to be reviewed? Where is the Florida State Board? These are questions that need to be answered, yet instead, it appears that everyone is taking the word of this couple for the experience and reporting just one side of this story. I get it, racism is a significant issue in this country, and it shouldn’t be tolerated period; however, not every issue has to deal with race.
Let’s go even further into this as it appears there are many things missing from the news reports as we once again are only hearing it from one’s side. Per the new stories and Abena Hortons’ initial Facebook post, her husband and herself had a predetermined number in mind that they needed to refinance their house at a specific rate. Where did this number come from? Zillow? Redfin? Or perhaps it came from Abena Horton’s employer Black Knight Inc. Who is her employer? Black Knight, Inc., formerly known as Black Knight Financial Services, is an American corporation that provides integrated technology, services, data, and analytics to the mortgage and real estate industries. Black Knight is one of the leaders in AVMs (Automated Valuation Models), which uses algorithms, much like Zillow and others, to estimate a home’s value based on public record data, MLS data, and other online data sites. These algorithms fail to take into account external influences (train tracks, gas stations, cell phone towers, or high tension power lines, to name a few), interior and exterior conditions of the homes ( upgrades or areas of deferred maintenance) as well as neighborhood locations. Could this magical number they needed and well they were given on the second appraisal came from her own company looking to replace the traditional appraiser?
Now, as of this writing, here are some of the values given to their home via three different AVM sites. Notice who the highest one is? I am just speculating here, but it does seem very odd.
Next let’s look at the lender. The lender was the Coastline Credit Union. These are the questions I have for the lender: 1) Did this lender use an AMC (Appraisal Management Company) to perform the appraisal? 2) What was their involvement in the second appraisal ordered since they, too, were surprised by the original appraisal value, according to Abena Horton? I have been an appraiser for a very long time, and before the crash, lenders would influence appraisers by telling them details of what value was needed, issues with a particular property, etc.. Could this lender have influenced the second appraiser and informed them of what happened on the first appraisal and the information from the Hortons of possible racism? Did they hire an appraiser that they knew would help them out? Again more unanswered questions due to the one-sided story.
Now we will get into the appraisals themselves… Where are they? Abena Horton has supplied no significant data other than her own story. While the reports were asked to be supplied numerous times, she continued to skirt the issue of supplying them to anyone. Why? What was her reasoning for not supplying them for additional help? On her Facebook post, any and all comments she did not like were deleted even when actual facts were provided to her. Why would she delete them? The only thing she did was contact HUD and make a claim of racism. Why didn’t she file a state complaint with the real estate appraiser board even after many suggested she do so, she didn’t? Why are both reports not being supplied so that they can be reviewed? Why hasn’t anyone investigated the appraisers and the lender? Your guess is as good as mine.
Now along these lines, we had one appraisal come in at $330,000 and another at $465,000. Now, if I recall correctly, the magic number the Hortons had in their minds in order to refinance was $460,000-$465,000. Interesting that they got that exact number on the second appraisal. Now look back at the AVM numbers I shared above. Not that they really mean anything, but they are still well below the second appraisal even months later. This will show you something… The accuracy of these AVMs if nothing else.
Now the question is… which appraiser was correct? Who were the appraisers? Did they have geographical competency to perform the appraisals? Did they understand the market in these areas? Did the appraisers use the correct comparable sales? According to a local Agent in the area, they believe that the first appraisal was more accurate and that the second one used sales that were not representative of the subject property. The realtor stated that the subject is located near train tracks and across the main road from an extension of the subject’s subdivision where sales are commanding a higher sales price. Were these factors taken into consideration in either report? Again we don’t know because only one side of the story is being told. We know nothing other than one woman’s story.
So here we are today. One woman telling her story; however, the other side has remained hidden. If you are going to make a claim on anything, then I would expect you to have actual facts rather than just your observation. Abena Horton claims to have taken all pictures and more down for the second appraisal.. Well from what I know about appraising, there will be interior pictures of the home within the reports. Let’s see the pictures as well to determine if this is in fact true. If this is an act of racism, I hope the appropriate actions will be taken by the state and other licensing boards as this should never happen. If the second appraisal was influenced and inflated their home’s value, based off hidden info etc., I hope the same actions would be taken. Abena Horton has taken to social media, has been on Good Morning America, and tells her story, devalues the appraiser profession due to her own opinion and thoughts on what happened. It’s time to get to the bottom of this and get the real facts presented. The appraisal profession commands ethical behavior, and it’s now under attack by a story that has not been proven correct.
Here is a recent post below by Abena Horton. However, no comments are allowed unless you follow her. My opinion here is that someone is on a mission and enjoying the spotlight.
There are two sides to every story, with the truth in the middle. Why hasn’t anyone tried to figure out the truth, the facts, and deal with the issue since it came about? Why is it being ignored? Why are appraisal organizations putting a bandaid on an open wound and not trying get to the real issue or cause of it? It’s a shame that anyone can claim whatever they want without providing facts in this day and age. We have no appraisals; we have no facts but rather one person’s opinion and how they perceived things. If you, Abena Horton were a victim of racism, then I applaud you for your actions and will fully support you going forward. If you received a poor appraisal the first time, I would hope you have FACTS to suggest racism rather than just an appraisal that was done poorly. If it turns out you were not a victim of racism, your home was overvalued for your refinance, which you wanted and got the value you needed, then I hope you accept the responsibility of your actions as well as the harm, issues, and more you put others through. Without the facts from the other side of this story, it’s your word against no one and it’s not proven accurate.
There are two sides to every story. We only have one. It’s time to get the full story here before more harm is done to a profession that prides itself on ethics and doing the right thing for the consumer.
By Dean Merriweather, Certified Residential Appraiser