According to King 5 News, the Clark family staged the experiment after receiving what they believed was a low appraisal on their Seattle home in the Columbia City neighborhood, where residences are typically valued at over $900,000, per Zillow.
The Clarks initially bought their home four years ago and began renovations to make room for their two children.
“We put in a new kitchen, new bathroom, an extra bathroom. And we have plans to expand the second floor,” Joe Clark said.
The family sought out an appraisal as they were considering financing options for their renovations. However, they were surprised to learn that the value of their home had gone down despite their renovations. A home appraiser, who was sent by their mortgage company in April, valued their 3-bedroom home at $670,000.
“It was quite amazing to have an appraisal that low in this market,” Clark said.
The low appraisal prompted the “whitewashing experiment” — Clark asked his white neighbor Marta Eull to stand in for a second appraisal, and the family took down all of their photos and African art.
“The objective was to see if you had a person that was not someone of color in the house…if that would change the amount that he got for the appraisal to see if there was some kind of bias there,” said Eull.
The second appraisal valued the home at $929,000, $259,000 higher than the first.
“We’re talking a three-week period, and nothing else changed in the house outside of me,” Clark said. “It is a part of our systematic racism that is here in America but we need to do something about it. It’s taking away our generational wealth,”
Dr. Junia Howell, an urban sociologist and race scholar, said the Clarks’ case wasn’t an anomaly.
“Homes in communities of color are worth 70% less, on average, when holding everything else constant as homes in white neighborhoods,” Howell said. It’s really insane.”
According to a Brookings Institute study, appraisal disparities have amounted to about $48,000 per home or $156 billion cumulatively in majority Black neighborhoods.
“It is something that is going to affect [my children],” Clark said. “Because our Black and brown families’ homes are often devalued. They’re often taken away from us.”
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