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Notary Bulletin

The Cost Of Becoming A Notary Signing Agent

business-growing-resized.jpgUpdated 6-10-21. Becoming a Notary Signing Agent comes with a lot of perks, and it can be a life changing path for those who take it seriously enough to invest time, energy and resources into it. Fortunately, the start-up costs are among the lowest for small businesses, and you can begin with necessities and gradually scale up as you start earning revenue.

The NSA business offers flexibility, as well as the opportunity to succeed either as a part-time side hustle or a full-time occupation. However, it’s important to look at the real-world investment to get started and evaluate what kind of return you can expect as an NSA.

The cost to start a Signing Agent business can be broken down into 4 broad categories as follows:

  • Your Notary commission, background screening and NSA certification
  • Errors and omissions (E&O) insurance
  • Equipment, technology and supplies
  • Marketing materials 

Commissioning, background screening and NSA certification

Keep in mind that you must be a commissioned Notary Public in your state to work as a Notary Signing Agent. If you’re already a Notary, then this cost does not apply. If you are not a Notary, the cost of getting a commission can range from less than $100 to more than $500, depending on state requirements and the vendor you choose.

The next step is to get certified as a Notary Signing Agent. Keep in mind that certification is not required by law. However, many lenders and title companies require certification for the NSAs they use to show that the Signing Agent has additional training and qualifications to perform loan document signings.

Certification can include a training course and test, and there are several options. 3 popular training courses right now are:

The cost of these training programs ranges from as low as $70 to nearly $500.

Apart from certification, many companies require Signing Agents to undergo annual background screenings. The NNA’s certification includes a background screening and is accepted by nearly every hiring company in the United States. If you opt not to get the NNA certification, there are many independent background screening companies available, and it could cost somewhere between $30-$60. (Make sure the background screening company you select is accepted by companies that you want to work with).

Some states have additional licensing requirements for Notaries to work as Signing Agents. For example, Maryland and Indiana require title insurance licenses for all closings, while Minnesota requires you to have a closing agent license. NNA Surety Bonds can assist you with surety bond needs.

Errors and omissions insurance for Notary Signing Agents

As with certification and background screenings, NSAs generally are not required by law to carry errors and omissions (E&O) insurance. Most states require Notaries to obtain a surety bond, but this is different from an E&O policy.

Notary E&O insurance is required by many companies that give you loan signing assignments. The minimum policy amount recommended by the Signing Professionals Workgroup is $25,000. Some companies want Signing Agents to carry larger policies.

A $25,000 policy could cost $20 to $40 a year; a $100,000 policy could cost $100 to $175 a year. Costs vary depending on the state and insurance carrier.

NSA equipment, technology and supplies

There are several items essential to your work as an NSA. They include the following:

  • Smartphone
  • Computer or laptop
  • Dual-tray printer and related supplies
  • Scanner
  • Secure email
  • Carry bag

Smartphone. Most of us already have a smartphone, but they are indispensable to NSAs. Having a quality smartphone, with higher storage capacity, will serve you well. Many of the companies uses app technology, text messages, emails and phone calls to give out signing assignments.

If you do not already have one, an unlimited cellphone plan is best because it gives you the freedom to use your cellphone without worrying about running out of minutes or the number of texts you can send. Phone plans vary by carrier and can range from $50 to $100 a month.

Computer or laptop. Some experienced NSA’s can run their business almost entirely from their smartphone. In the beginning, that may not be feasible for you. You will want a quality computer or laptop for business management and printing documents. Because loan signing agents need to be mobile, you may consider a laptop computer, as it will be the most versatile in your new business.

I’ve found that “chromebooks” do not provide the full functionality you may need, so a full laptop computer is the best option. These can often be found on sale for between $300-$500.

Dual-tray printer. A dual-tray printer is crucial because loan packages contain both letter- and legal-size paper. Most major brands have quality products, so brand is not that important.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to get the best printer that fits your budget and needs:

  • You’ll only need to print black and white, so monochromatic is okay.
  • You only print single-sided, so you don’t need the duplex functionality.
  • Loan packages typically have 100-300 pages (and you print two of them), so print speed is a consideration. Aim for 30-50 sheets per minute or faster.
  • I recommend a laser printer over an inkjet for cost efficiency and industry preference.

Printers can vary in price, but there you can buy a good model for less than $400. The Brother HL6200 Dual Tray, for examples, lists at $320. All-in-one printers do not have the best reputation among NSAs because they seem to fail more often.

Don’t forget that your new printer will need supplies. You’ll likely want to get a case of both letter size and legal-size paper. Be sure to have extra toner on hand too, because there is nothing worse than running out of ink in the middle of printing a loan package.

Cases of paper can run between $15-60, depending on where you get them, and toner can run $60-$120. Some printer brands work fine with generic toner cartridges, but you’ll want to spring for the name brand toner for the model you are purchasing. These products are designed to function well together.

Scanner. Many companies now require what are known as “scanbacks” or “faxbacks.” This means you may need to scan documents after they have been signed by your customer/signer.  Scanners run the full gamut of function and pricing, so here are a couple options you can use to fit your current budget:

  • Small mobile scanners (Like the Fujitsu ScanSnap) cost around $70-$120. These are easy to use on the fly. They can scan 15-20 pages at a time, so it may take some time to scan an entire loan package.
  • Large scanners that are still mobile capable (like Epson 500 series or Brother ADS2700 series) cost $400-$650. They are fast, and you can usually scan 50-75 pages at one time.

Many new NSAs opt for the less expensive alternative and then scale up as their revenue increases.

Secure email. Protecting consumer personal and financial information has become a major priority for lenders and title companies because loan document packages contain just about every piece of information an identity thief would want. Anytime you transmit data you will want to use encrypted email services or even secure portals. Secure email accounts can cost anywhere from $60-$150 per year.

Carry bag/briefcase. Having everything you need in one place will make your life much easier. Consider investing in a shoulder bag, briefcase or rolling office. A good bag will last you years in this business and should cost between $50-$150. You may need to carry several loan packages at one time (including letter- and legal-size pages), so take that into consideration as you choose size and style.

Marketing costs

One of the expenses new NSAs can easily overlook is marketing. But marketing yourself is absolutely vital for launching a successful business of any sort. For NSAs, start-up marketing costs should include such things as:

  • Business cards
  • A website
  • Notary directories

Business Cards. These don’t have to be fancy, and you can have these printed locally or through major online brands for anywhere from $10-$30 per 100 cards. Often the more you buy, the less you have to pay per card.

Website. Having a website greatly enhances your visibility (especially if you do Notary work outside of loan signings). You will only need a basic website to get started. There are some trade-offs for having a free website, so do your research before you make a final decision. Do-it-yourself website builders, like GoDaddy, can run anywhere from $5-$30 per month — or $60 to $180 for the first year. If you hire a web developer, that can run anywhere from $300-$2,000.

If you’re really on a tight budget, consider utilizing the free resources available from Google My Business (GMB). GMB has lots of tools to help customers find your business online, including very basic web pages, search engine optimization tips, maps, etc.

Notary Directories. There are a number of online Notary directories NSAs use. While every directory has its pros and cons, in my experience there are 5 directories that consistently connect NSAs with potential clients:

  • SigningAgent.com (You get this listing automatically once certified through the NNA)
  • NotaryCafe.com
  • NotaryRotary.com
  • NotaryStars.com
  • 123Notary.com

Some of these directories have a choice between a “free” profile listing and a paid premium option. At the very least, set up the free option and you can gradually upgrade as you grow your business and start earning revenue. 

Total Investment

Overall, the estimated startup costs for a Signing Agent business venture can range anywhere from around $1,200 to $3,800 or more. If you’re not yet a Notary, don’t forget to include commissioning costs in your budget.

As you get started, you’ll need to plan for additional costs of operating and growing your business. These can vary greatly, depending on many factors. A good example is vehicle expenses such as gas, maintenance, tires and additional auto insurance.

Remember, you’ll need to continually invest in education and innovation to make your business more efficient and enjoyable, both for you and your clients. But this business can be very lucrative for those on a “shoestring budget”

Bill Soroka is the author of the Amazon Best Selling Book, “Sign & Thrive: How to Make Six Figures as a Mobile Notary and Loan Signing Agent” and host of The SideHustle Lounge Podcast.

 

 

 

39 Comments

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Kelli Anderson

08 May 2017

Great informative article!

Cheryl Cronau

08 May 2017

What is the typical charge for a notarization for personal documents in the State of Indiana?

National Notary Association

09 May 2017

Hello. The maximum fee permitted in Indiana is $2 per notarial act. (IC 33-42-8-1)

Pat

10 May 2017

Can you bypass all the testing/classes to qualify as a signing agent? I've been in the mortgage industry 29+ yrs currently conventional underwater. I know what all the docs are and what each means. I've also been an escrow officer. And in house closer.

National Notary Association

11 May 2017

Hello. Most major companies that offer assignments will require some form of background screening and proof of certification from Signing Agents they work with in order to meet industry consumer protection standards.

Janelle LaBorde

11 Oct 2017

Is there a study guide I can purchase on line or in store so that I can take the exam ? Are there any test centers in New York City where you can just walk in and pay to take the exam ?

National Notary Association

13 Oct 2017

Hello. Information about NNA courses and resources can be found here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/new-york/signing-agent. Please be aware that certain companies providing assignments to signing professionals in New York may choose to only utilize licensed attorneys.

Darcel Torrencr

16 Jan 2019

where can i take the training course to become a signing agent in Richmond Virginia

National Notary Association

16 Jan 2019

Hello. You can find more information on NNA Signing Agent training at https://www.nationalnotary.org/virginia/signing-agent. Please be aware that under Virginia’s Real Estate Settlement Agents Act, any person conducting a settlement in a real property transaction, including Notary Signing Agents, must be a licensed title insurance agent for the Commonwealth. According to the Virginia Bureau of Insurance, the handling of settlement funds, including the passing of a check for settlement costs from a borrower to a Notary Signing Agent, requires a title insurance license and an appointment from a title insurance company. Since the Virginia Bar Association has expressed no formal opposition to “witness closings,” some Notary Signing Agents do manage to operate in the Commonwealth without a title insurance license, but only in transactions that do not require them to handle settlement checks. You must be a Notary before starting the NSA certification process. Prospective Signing Agents in Virginia are responsible to ensure that they meet all qualifications to provide signing services in their state. NNA Signing Agent Certification does not guarantee these qualifications have been met. Please consult an attorney for inquiries relating to legal matters.

Cheryl Hicks

28 Apr 2019

Can I just work PT in the home with having to work for a agent ?

yolanda Martinez

07 May 2019

intrested

National Notary Association

07 May 2019

Hello, Yolanda. More information about becoming a Signing Agent can be found here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/signing-agent/nsa

Sonia Jomenez

12 May 2019

It is expensive to be in this business. And loan and bank companies should have some consideration and pay more to the signing agent that has to also print the documents for those signings

Robert Sikes

15 Jul 2019

Toner cartridges are available from Amazon and E Bay at 1/4 the cost of Staples or Office Depot

Bryson Henry

21 Aug 2019

How to become a NSA in the state of Alabama?

National Notary Association

22 Aug 2019

Hello. Please see this page for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/alabama/signing-agent

John Angleman

14 Sep 2019

Help with becoming licensed loan officer In Texas

Ac

03 May 2020

Is it required to be certified to be notary signing agent in North Carolina

National Notary Association

04 May 2020

Hello. North Carolina Notaries are not allowed to charge any ancillary fees for additional services. They may only charge fees as listed in the statutory Notary fee schedule. Please see here for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/support/signing-agents/state-restrictions

BH

23 Jun 2020

I am a current notary in NJ what do i need to so to become a signing agent

National Notary Association

26 Jun 2020

Hello. You can find more information here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/new-jersey/signing-agent

yalita.mccoy@uhhospitals.org

23 Jun 2020

I was an Ohio notary my commission expired 5/2019 I sent the information to my local office to pay for renewal and I recently received the items back advising the office was no longer there in Cuyahoga county. So I want to renew my notary, but I am trying to figure if I am also interested in becoming a signing agent so should I renew my notary and also sign up for signing agent or if I am a signing agent can I still process my notary duties

National Notary Association

26 Jun 2020

Hello. Working as a Notary Signing Agent requires a current Notary commission. There is nothing preventing a Signing Agent from performing authorized notarizations apart from notarizations related to loan transactions.

David

17 Aug 2020

Does the complete package include the test to be certified?

National Notary Association

17 Aug 2020

Hello. You can compare included features of each NNA NSA package here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/signing-agent/become-a-signing-agent

Ana St. Ann

26 Sep 2020

How do I become a notary signing agent in Louisiana

National Notary Association

02 Oct 2020

Hello. You can find more information here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/louisiana/signing-agent

Dominique

09 Oct 2020

How do I become a notary loan signing agent in Mississippi?

National Notary Association

12 Oct 2020

Hello. You can find more information here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/mississippi/signing-agent

Vickie

03 Nov 2020

Do I have to take the NSA test each year?

National Notary Association

10 Nov 2020

Hello. The NNA’s Notary Signing Agent Certification is effective for one year. Lenders and title companies typically require background screenings be performed annually. They want screenings no more than one year old at the time of loan signings. Your Certification date is the date your background screening was completed. Renewing NSAs should know the screening takes 5-15 days, and they should begin the renewal prior to the one-year term to avoid a gap in Certification.

Suzanne

09 Dec 2020

Is this a profitable venture for GEORGIA? What is required?

National Notary Association

10 Dec 2020

Hello. Effective July 1, 2012, Georgia Senate Bill 365 was signed into law as Act No. 744 to clarify that only a lender or a licensed Georgia attorney may conduct settlements and disburse closing funds in the state; and the law further prohibits anyone other than the settlement agent for the entire transaction from overseeing the closing session (OCGA 44-14-13[10]).

Melissa storer

02 Mar 2021

I'm looking into this for a career, how long does it take to be fully certified in Colorado before I can start making sufficient money to pay bills reliably?

Katrina Cotton

30 Mar 2021

What do most people purchase when determining a package to be a NSA?

Jackie

13 Apr 2021

Are Notary Signing Agents able to work in any county in Alabama?

National Notary Association

26 Apr 2021

Hello. Currently, there are no statutes, regulations or rules expressly governing, prohibiting or restricting the operation of Notary Signing Agents within the state of Alabama.

Michael Team

20 Sep 2021

Question: in your experience/opinion, would it be feasible to do this sort of thing on just weekends? Given bank hours, I assume not, but I'm no expert on the topic. Thank you!

National Notary Association

20 Sep 2021

Hello. Many Signing Agents work part-time. This article includes survey data on how much mobile Notaries and Signing Agents report earning: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2021/06/how-much-can-i-earn-as-mobile-notary-or-signing-agent

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