We have known for generations that the segregated neighborhoods that refuse to show any signs of integration, which cause segregated schools, which are enabled by redlining (although today there are more sophisticated names than redlining), are caused by the collusion between realtors, those serving the professional real estate community, banks and other financial institutions.
We am having an experience of what that is like in 2019 because one of our own is selling her house and is mind blown by what she is experiencing.
Her neighborhood is one of the “upper class” neighborhoods in Cambridge, MA. It is about 99% white and for the last 37 years that she has lived and owned a house in that neighborhood there has been no change. One black man lives in the neighborhood and has lived there longer by a fluke of government contracts. Architects built an apartment building using HUD money. Those HUD contracts were to bring “affordable housing” into the neighborhood and to help insure people with very little could afford to buy condominiums and live and raise their families in a really fantastic place.
Unfortunately, the HUD contracts were only for one generation of buyers, so once the condominiums were sold if the people who bought them were foreclosed on or met some other kind of tragedy which mandated they move then the builders were free to take back the condo’s and resell them at market rate to whoever, no matter their wealth or financial status.
Since the terms to buy were way beyond what most in the economic/financial situation to which those contracts were pointed and the terms under which the condo’s were being sold were generous to encourage such buyers – people bought who could not afford the condo’s they were put into and in short order the buildings units were being foreclosed or people were forced out by turning over their deeds or whatever arrangements they made to get out of what they bought as a dream, which was actually a nightmare. There were no safety measures in place under that HUD contract which could have helped many retain their homes.
One lone African American man remains in the neighborhood because somehow he managed to keep his condo and is still there today. Otherwise, it is like looking for hens teeth to find any other African American homeowners, unless they are temporary residents under the wing of Harvard University.
So now the stage is set. Along comes one of our leaders – an African American woman who buys into the neighborhood. That was horrific on its own. But that settled down and she lived a mostly peaceful, rewarding life making many friends of her neighbors.
She decides to sell. Looks up Zillow and find her house has a Zillow Estimate of about $4.9 million. And then the fun starts.
That Estimate stays for several months after the house is listed on Zillow and is close to professional appraisals of the house. Until, apparently, Zillow discovers the African American residents and the house tumbles in value on Zillow by almost $1 million dollars within two to three days.
How did Zillow do that? And what are they counting on to erase their attack? The way they set up their Estimate. In one to two months that history will be history and things will look normal – well, sort of.
To reach that Estimate, Zillow compared her property not to other houses in the Brattle Street, Gold Crown Historical District, but made a comparison of her house to homes in Brighton/Alston, Central Square, etc. and the size of the homes to which her home was compared were 1,000 to 2,000 square feet smaller. A comparative value, found from such circumstances would be much lower than one if the house was compared to those actually similar.
When Zillow was called and emailed to say – why? They did not respond.
What happened to the house that after a few months with the house on Zillow at $4.9 million approximately, the Zillow Estimate drops to $3.5 million – which is actually substantially below the value of the house in todays market and that drop happened within about 24 to 48 hours..
After more investigation, we discovered the answer. It has to do with race.
What is that called? Why are they allowed to do such? What are the alternatives?
That made us look around to ask – Zillow can’t be alone with these practices and are there official places which make this possible and Zillow comfortable in what it is doing?
Let’s investigate!!!!! Stay tuned for more. We have started some investigative work to look closer and deeper.
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