By David Thun
For Danielle Finger of San Francisco, California, life is a juggling act. In addition to working as a full-time paralegal, she has maintained a career as a Notary Public, taking on loan signing assignments since 2003.
In that time, she has witnessed the highs and lows of the mortgage industry, but still finds being a signing agent very rewarding. “I enjoy knowing I’m helping someone who’s making a big life decision,” she said. “I enjoy being part of that process and bringing confidence to signers at the table.”
While Finger says her payments for signings have actually become more reliable, the fees have dropped significantly in the past few years. “I used to get $175, now at most it’s around $75,” she said. “And if there’s one thing I’d like to change, it’s having a few more hours between notice of a job and the time I’m supposed to be there, so I have more time to print and review documents.”
She’s been in business long enough that she doesn’t need to do a lot of advertising. She’s listed through online Notary Public directories and says she gets requests for signings on a regular basis.
“I do get contacts almost daily, usually by email or text,” she said, adding that most of the calls she gets are from companies based on the East Coast. The challenge for her is scheduling assignments around her regular work schedule.
Finger approaches her assignments very methodically. “The first thing I do after receiving the loan package is look over the instructions from the vendor,” said Finger. “Instructions are the most important because every vendor is different.”
Then she contacts the signer and explains her role as the Signing Agent assigned to the loan, including identifying the signer, ensuring that signatures and dates are in appropriate places, performing all the necessary notarizations and returning the completed loan package to the lender or title company.
Once she arrives at the signing, it can take anywhere between 45 minutes to four hours to complete. “Some want to get through it quickly and are confident, some like to read every page,” she said. “I reiterate to them that I can’t answer questions or give legal advice.” If the signer has questions about the loan, Finger refers their questions to an appropriate loan officer.
Once the signing is completed, Finger looks over the documents in the signer’s presence to make sure everything is in place, then reviews the documents at home one more time before sending them back to the vendor.
One thing that’s made signings more difficult in recent years is more companies asking for her to print out large electronic loan packages, instead of overnighting the physical documents.
Finger says she’s finding more errors on loan documents that are emailed to her, such as mixed-up signer names or incorrect addresses. As a result she has to spend more time checking the printouts before assignments, and often there’s very little time to spare between when the documents are emailed to her and when she needs to be at the appointment.
“I think signing agents today have to do more work to ensure their integrity,” she said.
David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.
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