Photo: Getty Images
  /  08.20.2022

A Black Maryland couple is suing a local real estate appraiser and an online mortgage loan provider after the value of their house increased nearly $300,000 due to race.

According to the New York Times, Nathan Connolly and Shani Mott filed the housing discrimination lawsuit in Maryland District Court on Monday (Aug. 15), almost a year after they applied to refinance their mortgage with loanDepot. Connolly, a professor at John Hopkins University, says he and his wife purchased the house in Baltimore for $450,000 in 2017 and have since completed renovations worth more than $35,000. Furthermore, Baltimore house values have surged 42 percent during the past five years, which is why the couple was shocked to learn that Maryland-based 20/20 Valuations had valued their house at just $472,000. As a result, mortgage lender loanDepot denied the pair’s refinance loan.

“Dr. Connolly, Dr. Mott, and their three children were home during the visit, and their house was also filled with family photos, children’s drawings of figures with dark skin, a poster for the movie Black Panther and literature by Black authors,” the lawsuit reads. “It would have been obvious to anyone visiting that the home belonged to a Black family.”

Months after the initial appraisal, Connolly and Mott reapplied for a loan, but tried what the lawsuit calls a “whitewashing experiment,” removing their race and giving the impression a white family resided at the house. “They cleared their bookshelves of works by Black authors. They asked white friends to share family photos and placed those in picture frames around the house; on their walls, they hung art bought at Ikea that showed white people,” according to the New York Times. The couple also had a white colleague stand in for them during the appraisal.

Once the inspection was completed, the second appraiser valued their home at $750,000. “We were clearly aware of appraisal discrimination,” said Connolly. “But to be told in so many words that our presence and the life we’ve built in our home brings the property value down? It’s an absolute gut punch.”

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