This is Keisha Credit, a 32-year-old entrepreneur whose family first settled in Seattle when her grandfather, Daniel Duncan, bought a home in Central District (CD) in 1968. After his death in 2020, Keisha inherited the home.
For her grandfather, the house was an affair of the heart. A plumber and architect by training, Daniel undertook an extensive renovation process in 1976, expanding the framework to accommodate a total of six bedrooms and four bathrooms. Today, the most comparable property is currently selling for $1,995,000, but as Keisha explained in a now-viral TikTok, she’s received offers for hundreds of thousands of dollars undervalued.
“When I inherited my house from my grandfather, literally the day after he died, letters came in the mail asking me to buy my house,” Keisha said in the video. “I can’t tell you how many robberies I have to buy my house below market value.”
For the average homeowner, letters in the mail from banks or scam services offering to sell their home for short is nothing new. However, it’s the crowd, the senders, and the frequency with which this happens to families like Keisha’s that make her story stand out.
“My home wasn’t just solicited by ‘big corporations’ and ‘real estate companies’ looking for lowball from mailers,” Keisha told BuzzFeed. “This [handwritten letter] was from a neighbor in my community…the day after my grandfather’s body was carried over his threshold for the last time.”
“We’re one of the oldest families on my block…he knew us,” Keisha continued while reflecting on how the neighborhood has changed in her life. “They have specific interests in this community and they wanted it to be known. Anyone who offers their condolences and then asks to buy your house in the same letter has clear intentions.”
When Keisha talks about intentions, she thinks it’s clear: a slow but steady transformation of the neighborhood that prioritizes new buildings, new families, and new customers rather than investing in existing homes and residents.
Otherwise, this process is referred to as gentrification: “A Neighborhood transformation process that encompasses economic change in a historically disinvested neighborhood—through real estate investment and the influx of new higher-income residents—as well as demographic change—not only in terms of income levels, but also in terms of changes in educational levels or ethnic composition of residents” as defined by the Urban Displacement Project.
And she’s not wrong. The Central District was red-flagged, and in the case of Keisha’s grandfather, this meant that when he was looking for a place to put down roots, land and homeowners refrained from leasing houses to blacks, Asians and Jews in the area sell or rent, which pushed them into bagged neighborhoods. As a result, CD was 73% black in the 1970s, reports the Seattle Times. In 2019, that number had shrunk to 14%.
As Seattle Times columnist Gene Balk observed, “While many of our neighborhoods have been gentrified, nowhere is there more of a racist component to this transformation than on CD.”
Now Keisha is getting offers for as little as $800,000. “It’s good money, but absolutely not. It’s disrespectful and assumes I don’t know the value of my home,” she said.
And when you’re engrossed in the grieving process and learning how to handle a loved one’s affairs after death, Keisha understands how easy it can be to fall into one of these traps.
“When I first became the owner of this house, I got a couple of letters about arrears on taxes and … they were all talking about reverse mortgages and scams like ‘call us for help.’ We weren’t behind on our taxes,” she said. “Handling matters after someone passed away took so much time and paperwork. There are accounts you don’t know about, policies, taxes, all that stuff. So, to get a letter saying I’m behind on my house and I might lose it? Yes, I took that seriously.”
But those letters weren’t truthful, she quickly learned, and looking around she marveled at how many in her neighborhood had fallen for the lies. “What I see in my neighborhood is that most of us have left, and not ‘happily,'” Keisha said. “These stories are not rare; the grief of families losing their family homes is rippling in this community. It is TANGIBLE.”
Discrimination against potential black homeowners was not outlawed until 1968 with the Fair Housing Act. For reference, my mother—like me, the 27-year-old author of this article—was born in 1966. That’s the equivalent of two generations of homeowners, including my mother and grandmother.
“[People of] Miscellaneous [races] can say they’ve owned land for centuries,” Keisha said. “There aren’t that many of us. … [But] We now have the experience and knowledge to help each other grow and avoid pitfalls. However, there’s so much we don’t know because we just didn’t know.”
The 32-year-old hopes her video can be a call to action for other young people learning how to manage newly inherited homes, as well as a warning for those in shifting neighborhoods who may one day receive an offer letter in the mail.
And if you’re curious about the true value of your home, you can hire a professional appraiser, consult a real estate agent, see estimates on home buying apps like RedFin or Zillow, or compare listings in your neighborhood.