By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Keisha Credit, 29, knows the importance of legacy and owning property. The successful entrepreneur, who left a job at Microsoft just two years after graduating from the University of Washington, bought her first home at the age of 21. However, when Credit’s grandfather became ill she sold the property and moved into her family home to take care of him.
“I bought a home when I was 21,” says Credit. “It was a birthday gift to myself when I turned 21, but when my grandpa got sick I put my house on the market, sold it in 30 hours and moved in with him.”
After the death of her grandfather earlier this year, Credit inherited the property and continued to build generational wealth through land ownership. Her plan – to keep the property for as long as she can. Credit, who grew up in the house, says that it was her grandfather’s wish for his home to never leave the family.
“My mom grew up in that house, I grew up in that house so now I get to be responsible and pass the torch,” says Credit. “Which is a very heavy responsibility at the age of 29, but I am the one in charge of the family legacy.”
Inheriting a home is not an easy endeavor. Most families when allotted such a gift find the process overwhelming and end up selling. The upkeep, particularly in older homes, can become a financial burden and some families either do not want that burden or are not financially prepared to handle such responsibility.
“To inherit a piece of land is not easy to do,” says Credit. “And being in this situation now, I completely understand how people come to a point where they are like I am just going to sell it.”
Many homes in the Central Area of Seattle were built the 1940s and as far back as the turn of the 20th century, so upkeep and renovations become a major part of homeownership in these properties. Developers in particular find value in low-balling owners and then invest in renovations to sell the property for huge profits. Credit witnessed the aggressive and sometimes insensitive tactics of developers first hand as they came knocking on her door, eager to get their hands on the highly coveted property with a view of Lake Washington.
Credit remembers receiving mail from potential developers and real estate agents at her first home and would ask herself the question of “how do they know my information?” And since moving into her grandfathers’ home the propositions have continued.
“People would call, come by, people walk up, they come by and take photos, send emails,” says Credit.
“Even when I lived in my previous home, I would get calls and letters from people,” continued Credit. “When they called, I would ask “how do you even know that I am even connected to this property to send this mail to my house? So, it was this kind of stuff where I was like this is terrible.”
Linda Taylor, housing director for the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, has seen this scenario play out time and time again, especially among African American with family homes in the Central area.
“Because there is very little inventory in the real estate market right now so agents have gone after and have always gone after the hot market and the Central Area has always been a hot market,” says Taylor. “Unfortunately, we have been targeted for years with redlining and weren’t able to keep our properties.”
Over the last 20 years, developers and realtors have been putting pressure on Black families to abandon their legacies by selling their family homes and either buy or rent a newer home in the suburbs. The impact of this practice has devastated a once thriving Black community in the heart of the city.
“My grandfather did not want a new home, he wanted to stay in the home that he felt comfortable in,” says Credit. “In your old age you just want to be comfortable, you don’t want to have to readjust and live in a new space.”
The Central District in Seattle has always been a hot bed for the real estate industry. Realtors and developers have been clamoring to get the best deals in this prime area, to the point of even harassing some homeowners to sell and Credit has found herself in the midst of this rush of interests.
According to Taylor, redlining and predatory practices to gain property in the Central District has been an ongoing battle for African Americans to own and maintain property throughout their experience in the Central District. Despite conversations among family members regarding legacies and keeping property willed to them, the African American community has struggled to succeed in such endeavors.
“Because of redlining and not being able to keep our properties up to par we move on,” says Taylor. “We quickly sell and move into something that is already new and fixed up.”
In the past few years, the Central Area has been aggressively under attack by opportunistic developers, flippers and, in some cases, overly aggressive real estate agents targeting, in particular, the elderly still living in homes that they have been in for decades. The Predatory practices have taken the notice of community leaders as they have worked to inform and protect Black property owners in the hopes of turning the tide of redlining.
Community leaders like Chukundi Salisbury, who recently launched a campaign to combat predatory practices called My House Is Not For Sale, understands the importance that homeownership plays in family legacies and is proud that Credit is able to adamantly say that her family home is not for sale.
“First of all, I am very happy that Keisha Credit seems to be in a situation where she can in fact say “no” to these high-pressure tactics that folks are using,” says Salisbury. “They come at African Americans believing that African Americans usually find themselves in financial trouble and are forced to sell and I have a problem with that.”
Credit doesn’t necessarily place her attention on the aggressive nature in the efforts to acquire her property as much as she focused on creating legacies for Black families in the Central Area.
“My focus is that I am not giving in to the pressure, and on creating a legacy for Black families in the CD,” explains Credit. “This is not about being upset about these people hounding me because that is not how I feel. It is frustrating, it is annoying, I hate it, yes but there is a silver lining in the fact that I am not giving in.”
Credit has maintained her stance amidst the pressures from the real estate industry. She has educated herself on does and don’t of real estates to ensure her success. For those still fighting to maintain the CD’s historically Black legacy there are solutions to the ongoing problem of predatory practices by the industry.
One such solution that both Credit and Taylor want to impress upon homeowners and future homeowners is to study, learn and master your credit history. The stronger your credit the better your position if and when the industry comes knocking at your door.
“The investment made here was very important,” says Credit “If I was not prepared and understood what that meant, inheriting a home is not easy and very burdensome.”
Taylor agrees and says education is the key.
“Get yourself educated,” Taylor impresses upon homeowners. “Check your credit, check your credit scores. You can never learn enough.”