Florida couple say they faced discrimination in home appraisal due to wife’s race

Florida couple Abena and Alex Horton got more value for their home when an appraiser thought only a white family lived there

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A couple in Florida claims they faced discrimination in having their home appraised.

As reported by theGrio, when Abena and Alex Horton attempted to refinance their Jacksonville, Florida home last June, they found out just how racial disparities play out in homeownership. In their case, the discrimination was made obvious because Abena is Black and her husband is white.

The Hortons are being profiled on ABC’s Nightline, hosted by Diane Sawyer to discuss what happened to them when an appraiser came out to value their home so they could ultimately pay off their mortgage early.

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Florida couple Horton housing thegrio.com
Abena and Alex Horton (Credit: ABC News)

Their home is filled with pictures of their family, including their 6-year-old son. A bookshelf with books by Black authors and African American anthologies is prominently displayed.

Horton, who is an attorney, met with their appraiser in the four-bedroom, four-bathroom ranch-style home she shared with her husband, a painter. The Hortons thought the appraised price of their property was “shockingly low,” compared to comparable others in the area. Even the bank was surprised.

“It clicked in my mind almost immediately that I understand what the issue was here,” Abena said.

She added that her reaction was a “a big eye roll.”

“This person is being so petty and hateful, and he’s wasting my time,” she said. “Why did I let myself forget that I live in America as a Black person and that I need to take some extra steps to get a fair result.”

Horton decided to take matters into her own hands and conduct an experiment. She requested a second appraisal but this time, her husband would be the only one at home, and only photos of her husband and his white family members were visible.

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It was “crushing” to her spirit and she felt “ashamed of the fact that my son will see that this is something that I did.”

“I’m ashamed to say that I really wanted to refinance and pay off my house sooner and have full equity in my home, and so I was willing to put up with that indignity to do it because I knew it was going to be effective,” she said. “So it was a combination of pragmatism and deep and profound sadness.”

Horton’s instincts proved correct and in the second appraisal, the home’s value increased by 40%, or another $100,000. Abena was relieved by the more favorable appraisal at first but then the tears flowed.

“Because we realize just how much more removing that variable increased the value of our home… To know just how much, me personally, I was devaluing the home just by sitting in it. Just by living my life. Just by paying my mortgage. Just by raising my son there. How much [the first appraiser] felt that that devalued my house, devalued the neighborhood,” she added.

Horton shared what she went through in a viral Facebook post that led others to share similar experiences of discrimination.

Andre Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that research shows that Black neighborhoods are devalued by 23%. He gave an estimate of $156 billion lost in equity.

“That discrimination is leading to a widening of the wealth gap,” he said, “and so one can argue that we’re in worse shape than we were 20, 30, 40 years ago.”

Watch the full story on Nightline tonight at 12 a.m. ET on ABC

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