A black couple’s house was valued $278,000 higher than it was shown to agents by a white colleague

Two black professors whose house in Baltimore was built around 278.000 dollars higher than it was appraised to agents shown by a white colleague, suing for discriminatory lending practices.

Nathan Connolly, a researcher on the role of race in the housing market, and his wife Shani Mott, who are both professors at Johns Hopkins University, said they wanted to take advantage of low interest rates and refinance their mortgage last year.

However, her application to refinance her mortgage was denied when her four-bedroom home, which sold in 2017 for 450.000 US dollars was purchased, despite several upgrades to increase the value to 472.000 US dollar was estimated.

The couple said they later applied for another assessment after they "whitewashed" their home – replacing family photos with pictures that suggested a white family lived there and having a white colleague stand in for them.

At the second valuation, their house was valued at 750.000 US dollars, which is 59 percent more than the estimate seven months ago.

"We were clearly aware of the valuation discrimination," said Dr. Connolly, an expert on "redlining," to the New York Times.

"But to be told in so many words that our presence and the life we have built in our home is lowering property values? It is an absolute gut punch."

Issue highlighted by Joe Biden

Much of the research by Dr. Connolly focuses on the legacy of white supremacy in U.S. cities and the impact of racial bias on the country's housing market.

The professors have filed a lawsuit in a Maryland district court arguing that their initial low "rating was due to racial discrimination".

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The U.S. housing industry has a long history of racial discrimination, a legacy of the Jim Crow era. The issue brought into the spotlight by Joe Biden, the U.S. president, who last year launched an interagency initiative to combat bias in home appraisals.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 97 percent of home appraisers are white.

Dozens of black homeowners have reported alleged discrimination in the valuation of their homes following the murder of George Floyd, which sparked a nationwide reckoning over racial bias in the U.S.

The Maryland lawsuit is the latest high-profile case to highlight differences in home valuations.

The lender claims it strongly rejects bias

Last year, a black couple in California filed a lawsuit accusing an appraiser of inflating the value of their home by nearly 500.000 dollars to have underestimated.

In the lawsuit filed by Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott, they claim that the appraiser ignored nearby sales in majority white areas, similar to theirs, with higher values.

They claim that their house was compared with houses of lower value, including one outside their neighborhood boundary and in a majority black area.

The lender charged in the case, LoanDepot, said it strongly rejects bias. "While valuations are conducted independently by external expert valuation firms, all parties involved in the home financing process must work to find ways to help eliminate bias," the company said.

The valuation was done by 20/20 Valuations. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.

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