The New York Times: Remote Appraisals of Homes Could Reduce Racial Bias

The New York Times, March 21, 2022, Remote Appraisals of Homes Could Reduce Racial Bias

The majority of appraisals on home purchases in the United States can now be conducted without an appraiser ever stepping foot into the home — a move that some lawmakers and real estate professionals say could address pervasive racism against Black homeowners in the appraisal industry.

In recent years, studies have shown that appraisers often undervalue homes, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars, when the homeowner is Black or Latino. The remote desktop appraisal, in which an appraiser never meets a homeowner or has an opportunity to see their family portraits on the wall, could serve as a remedy. The move went into effect on Saturday.

“You’re taking some of the potential for bias out of the equation,” said Ken Wingert, head of federal government relations for Zillow Group, which issued an advisory document to the Federal Housing Finance Agency on this topic last year. More than 85 percent of appraisers are white, and 77 percent are male, according to data from the Appraisal Institute, a global professional association of appraisers.

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