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I'll probably just end up leaving a crumpled wad of 20s on the nightstand.
March 29, 2011 12:51 PM   Subscribe

After being nickel-and-dimed to death throughout the process of buying a home in NYC, I have learned from our real estate lawyer that we will be expected-but-not-required to tip the Title Closer about $150 at the closing. Really? I mean... really? Homebuyers, what is your experience with this?

I've talked to a number of people about this, and half say "Oh, yeah, you should be prepared for that" while the other half say "What? That's absurd! When I bought my house, nobody mentioned anything like that! Someone's taking you for a ride!". Googling reveals a similar split.

Yes, a couple hundred bucks is a drop in the bucket when compared to what gets thrown around in a home purchase, but a c-note is a c-note. And the feeling I'm being taken advantage of makes me feel dirty.

Anonymous 'cause my username's googlable... and at one person involved in this process has proven to be extremely sensitive to anything he might perceive as a complaint.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (49 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I'm in Illinois, we bought our place two years ago, and I've never heard of anything like that.
posted by Oktober at 12:53 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Title Closers who "expect" a $150 gratuity should get used to disappointment.
posted by The World Famous at 12:54 PM on March 29, 2011 [36 favorites]


That sounds more like a bribe to me. Don't do it.
posted by amicamentis at 12:55 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is the drawback to not doing this? If you can't think of one (other than "the closer will be disappointed") then don't do it.
posted by hermitosis at 12:55 PM on March 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


For what additional service? I bought a house 4 years ago, used a title company, did not even imagine tipping.
posted by theora55 at 12:55 PM on March 29, 2011


Never heard of it. I call shenanigans.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:59 PM on March 29, 2011


I gave an extra tip to my *buyers agent* when we bought a house here in Houston, but like hell I was going to tip someone who did nothing but put papers in front of me to sign for half an hour.
posted by mrbill at 1:00 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never heard of that and I know lots of people who buy and sell residential real estate in NYC.
posted by dfriedman at 1:03 PM on March 29, 2011


I've bought three houses in PA and have never done this or heard of it.
posted by octothorpe at 1:05 PM on March 29, 2011


"I've got a tip for you. Get your hand out of my pocket."
posted by Work to Live at 1:07 PM on March 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Hell no. They already get a salary to sit there and do that.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:09 PM on March 29, 2011


Hells to the no. And if he puts a hand out looking for something, slap him five and say "have a bitchin' summer, broseph."
posted by jerseygirl at 1:12 PM on March 29, 2011 [35 favorites]


Ridiculous.

Also, "expected-but-not-required to tip" is what a tip is.

If it's required it's a fee.
posted by rokusan at 1:13 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


This may have been going on for a while in New York - in L.J. Davis' '71 novel A Meaningful Life (excerpt), the protagonist is made to pay the tip - then $5 - to close on a dilapidated Brooklyn mansion.

The missing pages in the Google Books preview can be read via Amazon.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:13 PM on March 29, 2011


Yes, a couple hundred bucks is a drop in the bucket when compared to what gets thrown around in a home purchase, but a c-note is a c-note.

Agreed. There seems to be an attitude, in real estate, that "hey this person is spending a bunch of money, maybe we can get them to throw a little more at us just 'because.'"
posted by jayder at 1:13 PM on March 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


I've never heard of this, and I've bought three buildings in NYC.
posted by torticat at 1:17 PM on March 29, 2011


Is it too late to switch title companies?
posted by mattbucher at 1:20 PM on March 29, 2011


lol - no way.
posted by zeoslap at 1:22 PM on March 29, 2011


Our title closer was amazing. She, along with our agent, explained every document presented before us and didn't pressure us to sign and get out. She was thorough, patient, and very understanding. I would recommend her to anyone looking to buy a home in the area and we'd definitely use her again when we need another house.

I would never in my life consider tipping her for the amazing job she did.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:25 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yep, that's not a thing. At least not here in Portland. Don't do it.
posted by pdb at 1:25 PM on March 29, 2011


I worked as a title assistant for a title company in Arizona for a few years. Don't do this - Tips to title officers are illegal, at least in AZ, because title companies fall under the state banking laws, and tips can be construed as bribery. Title is *supposed* to be a neutral third party in the transaction. And while your title officer is doing somewhat (actually, a lot) more than "put[ting] papers in front of [you] to sign for half an hour," he/she does not need a tip for doing his/her normal job.
posted by LyndsayMW at 1:35 PM on March 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


hermitosis: "What is the drawback to not doing this? If you can't think of one (other than "the closer will be disappointed") then don't do it."

Seriously, are they going to take your title back to the kitchen and spit on it or something?
posted by mkultra at 1:44 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sounds like this real estate lawyer and Title Closer are very good friends.

Don't do it. Complete the process. Then report the incident to your local real estate governing body.
posted by smithsmith at 1:45 PM on March 29, 2011 [22 favorites]


Title search in PA cost us close to a thousand dollars. No tip is required.
posted by fixedgear at 2:08 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have bought and sold real estate in FLA and NYC for 20 years. Never heard of any such thing.

I would almost suggest getting a different lawyer. Your lawyer is not working in your interest if he is suggesting a kick-back for the title closer. (and he can call it a tip, but it is a kick-back).
posted by Flood at 2:14 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


In NJ, never heard of this, haven't done it. Neither has my mom in MD.
posted by exhilaration at 2:18 PM on March 29, 2011


Um, WTF?
I work in mortgage and I have never heard of anyone at the closing table expecting a "tip" much less for something that is PART OF THEIR JOB.

Don't give anyone a tip.
The fees to complete the transaction (especially in table closings like yours) are explicitly stated before the loan file is even processed. If I was your processor or underwriter and I found out the title officer expected at TIP for doing their job, I wouldn't hesitate to contact the title company they worked for AND the state DRE to report them.

/Rant.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 2:19 PM on March 29, 2011


If your lawyer recommended this title closer, your lawyer is steering you towards a kick-back. Finish the deal if you must, but afterwards, report your lawyer to your local bar association.
posted by juniperesque at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


This appears to be a New York thing. Or rather, in most other states it's either illegal or just plain unheard of, but in New York it's not uncommon (which is not to say that everyone does it).

See this for example. Googling "tipping title closer new york" brings up some other examples.

Personally, I think it's insane.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:30 PM on March 29, 2011


Your lawyer is full of crap. They should be reported to the bar association.

Do be prepared, though, to be shaken down by the Department of Homeland Security to the tune of around $350.00. Seriously; this fee was sprung on us at our closing about three years ago.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 3:14 PM on March 29, 2011


Have bought two homes in NYC area and sold one; in all three trades, no tips to anyone were suggested nor (at least it seemed to me) were expected by anyone in the closing room.
posted by MattD at 3:20 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The book cited by It's Never Lurgi makes me think there may be some legitimacy, rapidly fading, to this practice of tipping the title closer. The book is published by the American Law Institute-American Bar Association, which generally publishes books with decent information.

So it sounds like it's not necessarily unethical, just rather archaic (and in this day where transparency is expected, maybe even offensive).
posted by jayder at 3:37 PM on March 29, 2011


Call the local Board of Realtors and ask them. But here in NC none of us have heard of this nonsense. (Hubby is in the business.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:00 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The title closer in NY is also, generally, the person who actually files the title of your house with the county and state.

I was quite surprised, four months after I bought my house (in Westchester, not NYC) and applied for a HELOC, that I, you know, didn't actually own my house, officially speaking. A few very angry phone calls later, they "found" my title, and a few more angry phone calls later, they actually filed the damn thing.

It's straight up baksheesh, but, well there's the above. If you don't slip 'em the C+, then you should follow up with the county/borough and make sure, about a month later, that the title's been filed. Actually, you should probably do that anyway.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:00 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


F that. I am all for tipping, but that person is white collar, and earning a lot of money for doing very, very little. Keep the money in your pocket.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:47 PM on March 29, 2011


Sounds like someone is being cheap about their kickbacks and trying to pass it on to you. I would fire them all immediately.
posted by gjc at 4:56 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do be prepared, though, to be shaken down by the Department of Homeland Security to the tune of around $350.00.

Wait, what? Can you please explain this?
posted by ook at 5:12 PM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Five real estate transactions in MD (3 buys, 2 sells), NEVER heard of this.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:23 PM on March 29, 2011


Bought in Manhattan, never heard of this.
posted by Maias at 5:50 PM on March 29, 2011


I smell an attempted RESPA violation here.
posted by wierdo at 6:48 PM on March 29, 2011


Do be prepared, though, to be shaken down by the Department of Homeland Security to the tune of around $350.00.

Wait, what? Can you please explain this?


Sure. At our closing, our mortgage lender required us to reimburse them for a background check performed on I and my SO to comply with the Patriot Act. It was $350.00. We didn't know about it until the closing. We were not happy with our lawyer as a result.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 7:35 PM on March 29, 2011


Never heard of it in Los Angeles. That's disgusting.
posted by Kloryne at 7:42 PM on March 29, 2011


Closings in VA, MO, AK, NV & OR - never heard of such a thing, nor a background check fee. Suggest your attorney provide you the citation for such trash.
posted by KneeDeep at 8:17 PM on March 29, 2011


Never heard of it. Based on the information thus far though, don't tell your lawyer if you don't plan to tip. I would be suspicious that your lawyer and title closer have some weird agreement, so better to keep quiet and play dumb. Don't give them a heads up.
posted by Joh at 9:23 PM on March 29, 2011


NYC has some wacky stuff, but I know several people who have bought without paying "tips." WTF. It's not done in Philly, either.
posted by desuetude at 10:48 PM on March 29, 2011


WTF, no. This is complete bullsh.
posted by violetk at 1:59 AM on March 30, 2011


At our closing, our mortgage lender required us to reimburse them for a background check performed on I and my SO to comply with the Patriot Act.

Um, not to derail, but do you have proof that this $350 background check actually occurred? This strikes me as something that might be a more sophisticated version of the OP's experience.
posted by rokusan at 9:13 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


shaken down by the Department of Homeland Security to the tune of around $350.00.

Again, W.T.F.?? Do not pay the $350.00!

This is called an OFAC check and when I do them in the normal processing of a file they're FREE.
So FREE in fact that NOWHERE does it show up on the Good Faith Estimate presented as part of your initial fees disclosure.
Please become familiar with this document and the fees disclosed on it. Only the fees on that disclosure are the ones you are responsible for and nowadays with RESPA 2010 you can actually shop for a majority of them instead of having to just accept whatever they think you should pay.

Damn, it's not as if the mortgage industry doesn't already have a serious image crisis! Sheesh!
/Rant.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 10:29 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is insane. We've bought real estate in NYC and New Jersey, and never heard of any such thing. I would seriously consider getting another lawyer.
posted by Lizzle at 3:48 PM on March 30, 2011


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