I am an attorney admitted to the NYS Bar since 1978 and have actively managed two different title insurance abstract companies for over a combined 25 years.
My letter is intended to advise your readers (one of whom I hope is our Governor) of the imminent implementation of two (2) new regulations prepared by the DFS; an administrative arm of the State government that is mandated to champion our citizen’s rights and to protect consumers from unscrupulous practices by entities operating within our borders.
These specific “protections” are intended to rein in the Title Insurance Underwriters licensed by NYS Insurance Department and their many Agents (of which I am one). They reduce the rates to be charged for title insurance policies; they eliminate the entertaining of business clients by underwriters and agents; they limit fees to be charged for mandated services provided; and they eliminate the acceptance of gratuities that have historically been given at closings to the title company representatives (title closers) by satisfied consumers.
At first blush, this is a noble exercise—and to be commended. After all, title closings are VERY expensive, touch so many of our citizens (and VOTERS), and impact directly on the basic American dream of acquiring a home.
What’s my gripe? Is it just sour grapes? Am I merely a greedy businessman preying on overburdened home buyers?
Let’s consider a few things about closings. First, there’s the mortgage tax. 1% of the amount you’re borrowing goes to NYS (in NYC, over 2%) for the privilege of going into debt. I’m unaware of any other state in our country that assesses any mortgage tax at all.
Then there’s the 1% “Mansion Tax” that applies to all home purchases of over $1 million dollars (a tax we all have paid since Governor Cuomo’s father, Mario, first dreamt it up in 1989).
Lastly, there are the recording fees charged by the various county clerks. These fees have literally doubled (and in some cases, tripled) within the last year. Why, you ask? So-called document verification surcharges of $300 per document can add an additional $900 (or more) to a typical home re-finance bill. The consumer is paying double (or more) to ensure the bank documents recorded are affecting the correct property. Isn’t that what the original recording fee is for?
By the way, Nassau County has advised their fees will increase AGAIN come January 2018. Can Suffolk be far behind?
I guess my point is that the consumer (and voter) needs to have a more objective view of why closing expenses are so high. Is it because of the title insurance companies gouging their customers for services needed and provided? Or, is it because of a plethora of NYS taxes and excessive fees that add thousands of dollars to each real estate transaction?
Maybe the DFS should inspect its own house before laying the blame on the title industry—again.
Steven Bodziner Vice President & Manager, Bridgehampton National Bank