This is Keisha Credit, a 32-year-old entrepreneur whose family first settled down in Seattle when her grandfather, Daniel Duncan, bought a house in the Central District (CD) in 1968. After he passed away in 2020, Keisha inherited the home.
For her grandfather, the house was a labor of love. As a plumber and trained architect, Daniel undertook a massive renovation process in 1976 and built out the frame to include six total bedrooms and four bathrooms. Today, the closest property in comparison is currently being sold for $1,995,000 but, as Keisha explained in a now-viral TikTok, she's received offers for hundreds of thousands of dollars under value.
"When I inherited my home from my grandfather, literally the day after he passed away, there were letters in the mail asking me to buy my house," Keisha said in the video. "I cannot tell you how many predatory letters I've got to buy my home below market value."
For the average homeowner, letters in the mail from banks or scam services offering to buy your home under value is nothing new. However, it's the amount, the senders, and the prevalence of this happening to families just like Keisha's that set her story apart.
"My home was solicited not just by ‘big corps’ and ‘real estate companies’ looking to lowball by mailers," Keisha told BuzzFeed. "This [handwritten letter] was from a neighbor in my community...the day after my grandfather’s body was carried across his threshold for the last time."
"We are one of the oldest families on my block...he knew us," Keisha continued while thinking back on the way the neighborhood has changed during her life. "They have certain interests for this community, and they wanted it known. Anyone who would offer condolences and then ask to buy your home in the same letter has clear intentions."
When Keisha speaks about intentions, she thinks it's clear: a slow but steady revamp of the neighborhood that prioritizes new buildings, new families, and new clientele instead of investments in existing homes and residents.
Otherwise, this process is known as gentrification: "A process of neighborhood change that includes economic change in a historically disinvested neighborhood — by means of real estate investment and new higher-income residents moving in — as well as demographic change — not only in terms of income level, but also in terms of changes in the education level or racial make-up of residents," as defined by the Urban Displacement Project.
And she's not wrong. The Central District was redlined, and in the case of Keisha's grandfather, this meant that when he was searching for a place to plant roots for his family, land and homeowners averted selling or leasing homes to Black, Asian, and Jewish people in the area, which pushed them into pocketed neighborhoods. As a result, CD was 73% Black in the 1970s, the Seattle Times reports. In 2019, that number has dwindled to 14%.
As Seattle Times columnist Gene Balk noted, "While many of our city neighborhoods have gentrified, nowhere more than in the CD is there such a pronounced racial component to that transformation."
Now, Keisha's getting offers for as low as $800,000. "That’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 wrapped up in the process of grieving and learning how to handle a loved one's affairs after they've passed, Keisha understands how it could be easy to fall into one of these traps.
"When I first became owner of this home, I got a couple of letters talking about taxes being behind and...they were all talking about reverse mortgages, and scammy things like, ‘call us for help.’ We were not behind on our taxes," she said. "Handling the affairs after someone has passed required so much time and paperwork. There’s accounts you don’t know about, policies, taxes, all this stuff. So, to get a letter saying I am behind on my house and I may lose it? Yeah, I was taking that serious."
But these letters weren't truthful, she quickly learned, and when looking around, she wonders how many in her neighborhood fell 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 sorrow of families losing their family homes ripples in this community. It is FELT."
Discrimination against potential Black homeowners wasn't outlawed until 1968 with the Fair Housing Act. For reference, my — as in me, the 27-year-old writer of this article — mother was born in 1966. That equates to two generations of homeownership, including my mother and grandmother.
"[People of] other [races] are able to say they have owned land for centuries," Keisha said. "There’s not as many of us. ... [But] we have the experience and knowledge now to help each other grow and avoid pitfalls. However, there’s so much that we don’t know because we just weren’t aware."
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 to those in changing neighborhoods who may one day get 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 Realtor, check estimates on home-buying apps like RedFin or Zillow, or compare comps in your neighborhood.