Combatting discrimination in the appraisal profession

By Dave Bunton
President of The Appraisal Foundation

There is no place for discrimination in the appraisal profession. This has been the goal since The Appraisal Foundation began writing national standards for real estate appraisers more than 30 years ago. But recent tragedies across our nation have highlighted how much more work we need to do to combat systematic racism in the United States, and that extends to the housing industry.

Recent reporting in news outlets across the country has told the stories of Black families who received home appraisals which reflected a value lower than they expected raising the specter of discrimination and the devaluation of Black-owned property. While The Appraisal Foundation’s Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) has specifically prohibited discrimination since the first writing in 1989, it is clear that we must do more.

First off, we need to raise the awareness of the reporting mechanisms available for property owners to use if they suspect bias or discrimination. State regulators are empowered to enforce USPAP, and a system is in place to report individual instances of discrimination to state regulators. Appraisers who are found to have violated these standards can face discipline or lose their authority to practice.

Unfortunately, people who suspect discrimination, often do not use this reporting mechanism. In many cases, it is probably because they do not know this option exists. Failure to report discrimination enables an appraiser who has acted with bias to continue providing appraisals to other clients with no record of that past discrimination.

In addition to raising awareness about this reporting mechanism, The Appraisal Foundation is taking action to underscore that appraising without bias is a core tenant of appraisal standards.

One of the key ways we plan to do this is to modify our education requirements. Aspiring appraisers are required to take qualifying education courses before they are certified, and certified appraisers are responsible for taking continuing education classes every two years. As we update our courses, we plan to add more content related to fair housing and include case studies on implicit bias-related issues.

Another way to combat bias is to diversify our profession as a whole. Right now, the appraisal profession does not reflect the demographics of our country. To that end, our Board of Trustees created the Special Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in April of this year. This group’s charge is to promote more diversity in the valuation profession and in The Appraisal Foundation, and they have hit the ground running.

The Special Committee on Diversity and Inclusion is working with our Appraiser Qualifications Board to reach out to historically Black colleges and universities to see how we can partner with them to get their business curriculum approved as qualifying education for the appraisal profession through our University Degree Review program. They are also developing a mentor/trainee matching program to help aspiring appraisers connect with current appraisers looking for a trainee, a frequent barrier to entry in our profession. These efforts are all in their early stages, but we look forward to growing the appraisal profession in new and innovative ways.

There is no debate. Discrimination has no place in the appraisal profession, and our work is just getting started. We will continue to work toward removing barriers to inclusion to make the valuation profession more reflective of America.