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Someone once asked me, 'What exactly is a notary signing agent, and what do they do?'
The simple answer is that, notary signing agents are notaries who are specially trained to conduct mortgage loan closings. Notary signing agents make it possible for someone to do the closing of their mortgage loan, whenever and wherever it is most convenient for them. Many of us work 24/7, which means that there is virtually no limit to when and where the closing can take place.
How does all of this happen?
For example, someone in Colorado can go online and borrow from a lender in California. Is it necessary for that borrower to board a plane and fly to California for the signing of their loan documents, some of which also need to be notarized? Or to make a trip to a title company? No. Instead, a notary signing agent will bring the loan documents to the borrower to be signed and notarized.
What usually happens is that I will get a call from a title company to do a closing. They email a confirmation sheet with the borrower's name, address, and phone number, along with other information about the closing. The loan documents are sent to me, most of the time in an email attachment. Or they will provide a link to where I can download the documents from a secure website. I make a confirmation call to the borrower, print the loan documents, then go to the borrower to have the documents signed and notarized. This can be at their home, their place of work, or wherever it's most convenient for them -- any time of day or night. Afterwards I deliver the documents back to the title company, usually by overnight courier. If it's a local title company here in Colorado Springs, I will personally deliver them.
The whole idea is to make it more convenient for the borrower to conduct real estate transactions. It's a convenience for the lender as well. Closings have even been done while borrowers were traveling on vacation in their recreational vehicle.
What are the limitations of notary signing agents?
As I'm going over the documents with the borrower during the closing, if the borrower has a specific question about the terms of their loan, I remind them that they will have to ask their loan officer, and that I work for neither the lender nor the title company.
"Well then, who DO YOU work for?"
Notary signing agents are independent contractors. We work for many different companies. It's not uncommon that I will close loans for 3 different lenders, from 3 different parts of the country, on the same day. Yet I represent all of them as if I did work for them.
Is the borrower's sensitive information safe?
Absolutely. Notary signing agents go to great lengths to secure the borrower's sensitive information.
How much money do notary signing agents make, and what kind of hours do they work?
One of the biggest myths surrounding this profession is that, becoming a notary signing agent is a 'get-rich-quick' way of making money. That is far from the truth. Many prospective signing agents come into this profession disillusioned, thinking that they can quit their job and immediately earn a six-figure salary. The job of a notary signing agent is not easy. And it can be very frustrating at times. Notary signing agents work very hard, and it can take a long time to get established to the point where one can make a living at this. And those who are able to make a living usually work long hours. On several occasions I have left the office to do a closing at 8:00 a.m., and didn't finish the day until close to midnight. Very many of us make ourselves available 24/7, because we have to be available whenever it is convenient for the borrower. Sometimes I'll get a call to do a closing at 7 a.m. because the borrower wants to sign the papers before they go to work, or because that is the only time they are available.
This is an area in which notary signing agents can play a significant role. The people who are least able to leave their homes and travel great distances are the elderly. Many of us are trained to do Reverse Mortgage closings and have a lot of experience working with senior citizens. We take a lot of pride in serving these clients.
Speaking of training, what type of training is required to become a Notary Signing Agent?
Some of the types of training include seminars, training manuals, and online courses. Most of the knowledge that we gain is through self-study. The training is a never-ending process.
Is there a professional organization for Notary Signing Agents?
Yes. There are many organizations that signing agents can join. The largest organization is the National Notary Association (NNA).
Are there professional designations?
Yes. The most widely recognized is the designation Certified Notary Signing Agent (CNSA) from the National Notary Association. In order to earn this designation the signing agent must pass a 3-part examination and undergo a background screening.
How does a company go about finding a notary signing agent? Are you listed in the Yellow Pages?
The most effective way to advertise is by becoming a member of the National Notary Association and becoming a member of the Notary Signing Agent section, registering with the major notary signing agent sites, signing up with signing companies, and having a website. The main thing is to never stop marketing.
The following is the Notary Signing Agent Pledge of Ethical Practice. It was prepared by the National Notary Association, and intended to be presented to the borrower at the beginning of each closing so that they understand the role of the notary signing agent:
"I am not an attorney and therefore, by law, I cannot explain or interpret the contents of any documents for you, instruct you on how to complete a document or direct you on the advisability of signing a particular document. By doing so I would be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and could face legal penalties that include the possibility of incarceration. Any important questions about your document should be addressed to the lender, title company or an attorney."
I have tried to give as broad a picture as possible. But I'm sure that I haven't completely answered the question: 'What is a Notary Signing Agent?'. It is such a multi-faceted profession.
There are many difficulties and challenges to this job. But for the most part it is a very rewarding profession, and I derive a great amount of satisfaction from what I do.
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You have probably seen many ads that entice one to become a notary public, or loan signing agent. These ads proclaim the field to be be lucrative, work when you want, choose your jobs, have time for the kids, etc. While initially these may sound enticing, currently there are many considerations one should ponder before making the jump.
While at one time, being a mobile notary signing agent was a great idea, times have changed drastically. This is mostly caused by our failing housing market and economy. The housing industry is in dyer trouble. Many of the businesses that build, sell, service, and offer mortgages for the housing industry are facing closure. If you know any mortgage brokers, just think for a moment - "Are they working and doing fine?". " Have they moved on to a different profession?". If you know any such folks, you will likely answer "Yes". What does that indicate?
Well the same problems facing these folks are also facing mobile notary signing agents. Since the housing market dry up, there are few folks buying property, and almost no one is refinancing. As a result, mobile notary signing agents are suffering as there are no loans to sign. The mobile notaries that are around are reducing their fees to encourage business during a time when gas prices are at their all time high. Spending more to make less.
Loan signings have become quite scarce. The pay for the available signings is quite low, many offering $50 a signing. When you consider the time it takes to download and print the documents, two copies of the loan package, make the appointment, sign the documents with the borrower, prepare and drop of the documents at a courier service, invoice the escrow company, and then wait for the payment which typically takes a month - to many, it's no longer worth the effort.
Another consideration in becoming a notary is the yearly cost. If you decide to promote your own website consider domain charge, yearly hosting fee (about $100), cell phone usage, yearly errors and omissions insurance ($150 or more), and then there is advertising that must be ongoing. Because business is slow for most, many notaries fall prey to the "notary directory" company. These companies promise more exposure and therefore more business for notaries public when they sign on to their directory. Costs associated with listing in a directory can be as little as $19.95 for the year upwards to $100 a month. And it does not stop there, as listing in one directory never seems to be enough. There is a notary public near us that is listed in nearly every directory on the internet. This author is just amazed at the amount of money this gal must be spending each month! Certainly at a minimum $300. This author did utilize advertising on a prominent notary directory site for one year as an experiment. The cost of advertising on that directory in the top position was $600. They promised much increased business calls. It never happened and the $600 was spent. Yes there are many companies that will take your money for the promise of increased business.
One particularly irritating directory site, has the client sign post there offering price for a specific notary job. That creates a blanket email to all notaries in the area so that they can bid on the job. What this requires is that you are at your computer and waiting, and then using your cell phone to call the prospective client only to hear that your price did not beat the previous notary caller's price. How irritating for the client, not to mention the waste of time and money for the unsuccessful notary. There is another site where the client can press a button that will automatically call your listing on that notary directory site. If you do not answer the phone immediately, you might be actually with a paying client, that potential customer is still at the site and can go down the list to the next notary to find someone that will answer immediately. Yikes! How nerve racking for the notary and the client.
Another false assumption associated with notary public work is that you can pick your hours or jobs. Well....that is not exactly true. If you want to work as a mobile notary public, you must actually do the assignments when the client needs you. This means 9:00 am, when the kids are at school OR 9:00 pm at night when you normally put the kids to bed. If there is a time when you are not available for that client and they have to call someone else, guess who they will call the next time they need a mobile notary? Your right.... the notary public that they can count on being available when they needed them.
Now this author does not mean to be all negative about the mobile notary public signing business, it's just that it is sad to see folks get so excited about the possibility of entering into a new career with sky high hopes only to be sorely disappointed by the actualities that the vast businesses promoting the promise of lucrative notary work don't tell you.
If this is your heart's desire and what you aspire to be, then do your leg work and determine the costs, the amount of time, and what other notaries have to about business in your area. Be realistic. If you do not intend to spend a daily hour on your notary website, or you don't know how to design and search engine optimize a website, don't expect a website to bring you business. If you expect notary directories to solely bring you business, then you are in for grave disappointment. It may be the only folks making money in this industry these days are the folks running the notary directories
In general, notaries that do not daily work their websites and marketing, and do not take any call that come no matter the time or day, are not working these days. If this remains your heart's desire, proceed with caution, eyes wide open, and the best of luck to you.
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