Black California Couple's Home Value Shot Up by Half a Million After They Asked White Friend to Pretend to be Owner

A black couple in the Bay Area says they were discriminated against after a realtor undervalued their home by $500,000 – something they discovered after their white friend pretended to be the property's owner.

Paul and Tenisha Tate Austin purchased a home in Marin City for $550,000 five years ago. They put in around $400,000 into renovations, including adding an entire floor and an additional 1,000 square feet to the home. They also added an outdoor deck, a fireplace and made other improvements to the property and even added new appliances.

Their improvements to the property and considering how the market value of homes in Northern California tend to rise, led the Austins to anticipate a good return when they decided to move. However, one appraiser they approached valued their home at $995,000, which was barely more than the amount they had invested into the property over the years.

Property Value Shot Up After Austins Erased Themselves from the Home

Paul and Tenisha Austin
Paul and Tenisha Austin YouTube

The Austins then decided to try a new tactic. They removed every trace of their ethnicity from the home, including family photos, African art. They replaced the photos with their friend's pictures and asked her to step in for the next appraisal.

"We had a conversation with one of our white friends, and she said. 'No problem. I'll be Tenisha. I'll bring over some pictures of my family'. She made our home look like it belonged to her," Tenisha told ABC7. And the value shot up to $1.48 million.

The Austins have now filed a lawsuit against the appraiser, a white woman named Jannette Miller, and her appraisal firm for undervaluing their home because they were black. The couple are alleging racial bias and are seeking a jury trial and financial damages.

"We believe the white lady wanted to devalue our property because we are in a black neighborhood, and the home belonged to a black family," Paul said. "I don't wish that on anybody. I want to see a change. I don't want to see my children have to deal with that."