The Power is Now

How Three Black Women Hope to Change the Home Appraisal Industry – The New York Times

The home appraisal industry is overwhelmingly white, male and aging: the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that of the 75,000 appraisers in the United States, 97 percent are white, and other surveys show that nearly three-quarters are both male and above the age of 45.

This lack of representation, Black real estate professionals say, is a glaring problem, contributing to a persistent, widespread practice in the home appraisal industry to give higher values to homes when the occupants are white, and devalue them if the owners are Black.

“The issue of discriminatory appraisals is a major challenge in our community,” said Lydia Pope, president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, an advocacy organization for Black professionals in the industry.

The simplest solution, Ms. Pope said, is recruiting more Black appraisers, and particularly Black women. The New York Times spoke to three of them — two industry veterans and one just completing her training — about racism, representation, and cautious optimism in the industry. The responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Jillian White

Chief executive and founder of a consultancy addressing bias in appraising

Ms. White, 41, has been a certified appraiser for 20 years. She estimates that of 75,000 appraisers in the United States, she’s one of about 300 Black women actively working in the industry. Part of the issue is the appraisal industry’s training structure: In addition to the cost of education, most states also require aspiring appraisers to find a mentor to spend hundreds of hours or more training them. For Black people — and particularly Black women — looking to enter the profession, the lack of mentors within their communities is often a dead end.

Ms. White said she is driven to serve as an adviser for young women eager to enter the industry. Formerly the head of growth for Aloft, an appraisal start-up, she recently launched her own consultancy to help homeowners understand their rights if they feel their home was appraised unfairly.

When I look back on my career, I can definitely say things have gotten better in terms of the opportunities presenting themselves as I become more established. But when I think about my early days, it’s only in hindsight that I see just how many odds were stacked against me in terms of even being able to become an appraiser.

My new venture is a combination of consulting, educating and speaking. It’s about putting out content that educates the homeowner on what to do if you get an appraisal back and it is low and you think it is due to bias or any other reason.

In the event that a Black homeowner has an appraisal that comes in low and they don’t have a family member who is a Black appraiser, the information they have available to them usually comes either from someone who isn’t an actual appraiser, but is trying to offer advice on the appraisal process. Or if that person is an appraiser, they might be concerned about bias, but they aren’t a person of color themselves. Black appraisers in this space are generally still only talking about how to become an appraiser in the first place. There wasn’t anybody in the space who was a Black appraiser speaking to Black homeowners about the specific issues they face. I can step into that space and provide guidance.

My mandate to stay in that industry is crystal clear. There are so few of us who can speak to both sides of this conversation, both what it’s like to be Black in America, and also to what it’s like to be an appraiser and have an appraiser’s methodology.

Ayako Marsh

Licensed appraiser and member of the Appraisal Foundation Advisory Council

Ms. Marsh, 54, lives in Baltimore and has been an appraiser for 22 years. She was previously president of the Appraisal Institute’s Washington, D.C. chapter. To attract more Black appraisers, she said, the profession needs to be marketed as a family business that can be passed down from generation to generation.

What we’re finding is that when we try to introduce the industry to young Black people, they know nothing about it. So we’re trying to catch them while they’re in college. There are a lot of programs developing around the country to bring new appraisers into the industry. But on the flip side, it’s going to be another two, three or even five years before they’re working in the market. And while this happening, Black homeowners continue to lose equity every day.

There needs to be mandatory bias training within the appraisal industry. And there has to be a more active role by lenders in banks to develop an appraisal bias review process.

Representation is important. I definitely wanted to make sure, when I entered the industry, that I was active and representing. It’s important for the people behind me, and for other appraisers who are looking up at me. Now that I’m more visible, there are lot of young African Americans who reach out to me.

Yotunde Oshodi

Currently training to become an appraiser through the New York Mortgage Coalition Appraisal training program

In New York State, the New York Mortgage Coalition is covering the cost of appraisal training and materials for dozens of aspiring Black appraisers, the majority of them women. Ms. Oshodi, 36, is one of them. She lives in Harlem and runs diversity and equity training programs for nonprofit organizations. A longtime renter, she became interested in a second career as an appraiser after spending three years trying — and failing — to buy a home for herself.

It’s no wonder that the home appraiser field is not really talked about in our communities. Without this training program, I would never have been able to keep going while working full-time because there are just so many classes you have to complete. All the time, after work, I’m studying.

The fact that there are so many white male appraisers is why I want to be an advocate. I understand that for community wellness, diversity plays a huge part. It makes me feel like, OK, I have to do this. As a woman and a person of color, my perspectives will be different.

A lot of folks try to avoid racism or discrimination by just not talking about it. And in fact, that just causes it to perpetuate. Being a Black woman, though, I don’t have that option. You have to be anti-racist, or working toward it.



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