Indianapolis News and HeadlinesIndianapolis Local News


Hoosier woman's story makes national documentary highlighting appraisal bias

Our America: Lowballed
Our America: Lowballed documentary
Posted at 10:54 PM, Apr 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-20 12:39:00-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A Hoosier woman is taking a national stand against home appraisal discrimination after a troubling revelation while she was trying to refinance her home.

"In a couple of days, I got the appraisal report back, and I was right. The only thing bringing down the value of my home was me," Carlette Duffy said.

ABC's documentary, "Our America: Lowballed," now streams on HULU. It highlights Duffy's story; a story WRTV told you about last year after she got her home appraised twice before whitewashing it to get a fair value.

On Wednesday, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana hosted a screening of the documentary highlighting at the AMP at 16 Tech.

"If we don't know that it's happening, or even know that it’s happened in the past, then we don't know how to correct it in the future," Mike Ford, who attended the screening, said.

It's a situation that is still hard for Duffy to fathom.

"For the longest time, I thought I was crazy. I had people telling me, 'well, maybe that's just the value of your home,' But I had this other voice in my head saying that's not right," Duffy said.

It all started in February 2020 when Duffy wanted to purchase her grandparent's home.

"The first step to the process was for me to pull equity from my house so I could do a cash purchase," Duffy said.

Her sister, who lives right next door, had her house appraised for $189,000. But to her surprise, her appraisal came back at $125,000.

"I was confused, and then I started reading through it, and there was language in there that seemed like it was racially biased," Duffy said.

She asked a Realtor, who agreed it was not right. So, she got a second appraisal, and this time, it came back at $110,000.

"How did I lose $15,000 in roughly three months?" Duffy asked.

She then turned to Amy Nelson, the Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, who introduced her to whitewashing.

"Very often people of color feel not only do they need to take photos down, but they also need to take even stronger means of changing books in the bookcase, hiding clothing, having somebody stand in for them who's white or Caucasian," Nelson said.

Duffy asked a friend if her husband could sit in for her.

The third time, with her friend's husband posing as her brother, Duffy's house appraised at $259,000.

"The only difference in all three appraisals was a black woman sitting there versus a white man sitting there," Duffy said.

Duffy's story inspired people from across the country to reach out to the fair housing center for assistance.

Nelson said a national reckoning needs to happen.

"The problem we certainly have at the fair housing center is we hear far too many of these stories," Nelson said.

Indiana Rep. Cherish Pryor introduced House Bill 1151, which addresses discriminatory appraisal practices. The bill went nowhere.

She hopes this documentary will promote change while they work to close the gaps.

"My hope is that people wouldn't see color. To be honest, I don't know if that will ever happen," Rochelle McDaniels, a Realtor who attended the screening, said. "I thought we were almost there, but it seems like a few years ago we went backwards instead of moving forward."

Duffy said she plans to file a lawsuit against the first two appraisers once she gets her right-to-sue letter from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).