PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — Intently watching a small computer screen in her Southeast home, Ayako Marsh, a licensed home appraiser of more than 20 years said within the first few minutes of Monday’s Economic Matters Committee meeting, it was clear an important voice was noticeably absent.
“There wasn’t an appraiser in the room and we’re talking about appraisal bias,” said Marsh confused by the glaring omission.
The meeting included presentations by Maryland’s Commission of Real Estate Appraisers, Appraisal Management Companies and Home Inspectors, The Maryland Association of Realtors, and the Prince George’s County Association of Realtors. The group gathered to address allegations of appraisal bias in Prince George’s County that were profiled in a WUSA9 investigation published in November.
In that report, several homeowners claimed their homes were appraised differently because they are Black and live in a majority Black neighborhood.
“We have seen and heard the same stories that have prompted this hearing. I can understand the families’ frustration,” said Hunter Pickels, Chief Policy Officer for Maryland’s Department of Community Development.
Some of that frustration turned to representatives with Maryland’s Commission of Real Estate Appraisers—who are directly responsible for investigating submitted complaints. Representatives were unable to answer questions about appraisal bias complaints and the demographics of appraisers licensed by the state.
“Of the 2096 home appraisers and 1306 home inspectors, how many are African American?” inquired Delegate Ben Brooks (D).
“That’s not information we record,” said Gregory Morgan, Commission of the Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing.
Delegate Marvin Holmes (D) was also in attendance.
“They kept defending themselves saying they respond to complaints only,” said Holmes, who represents constituents in Prince George’s County.
Delegate Holmes told WUSA9 he drafted a rough proposal to establish a commission to further examine claims of alleged appraisal bias. Work at a federal level is already underway. The Biden Administration launched a task force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity. Members of the task force recently joined Marsh on a home appraisal to get a better sense of how appraisals work and vulnerabilities within the process. Marsh said subjective areas of the process can include location, selection of comparable homes and the rating of condition.
“That’s the primary area that if you’re talking about bias, that’s where it’s going to happen,” said Marsh.
The Economic Matters Committee has yet to schedule its next meeting, but members are eagerly awaiting mandated data from the Department of Housing and Community Development that will give them specific numbers and the makeup of those impacted by alleged appraisal bias.