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Lessons from my first loan signing


Susan Littlefield

(Originally published in the December 2017 issue of The National Notary magazine.)

When I attended a Notary class in May 2017 my intent was to start a side business. During the class, the instructor talked about the Notary’s role as a loan Signing Agent and said that it was interesting and often paid well. Since I had planned on resigning from my full-time job as a paralegal in the fall and moving out of the area, I was intrigued with the prospect of becoming a Signing Agent. 

About three weeks after receiving my commission, I registered for a Notary Signing Agent course in my area from the Notary Learning Center. The week prior to taking the class, I was laid off from my full-time job. Even though I had never been unemployed and was not sure of my next move, this was the push I needed to start my own business.

The day of the class, I was informed that it had been canceled due to an unavoidable incident. I was disappointed and asked if I could do the independent home study course in lieu of signing up for another class, which was about a month out. The next day I started the home study course with the intent of taking the Notary world by storm.

When I decided to become a NSA, a colleague suggested that I sign up with a popular loan closing company for lenders and title companies. I contacted the company and provided all the relevant information, even though I was not yet confident that I could competently do the work. I communicated my concerns with one of the company’s employees, who encouraged me on my journey. Watching work orders come through via text message gave me hope that I was on the right path.

My first Notary Signing Agent assignment

While I was still working on the home study course, I was watching the plethora of signing assignments come through via text message. Since I was beginning to grasp the class material and had handled homeowner documents as a paralegal, I thought a loan signing would be easy. I pushed the accept button on the application.

Moments later, a representative called and said the assignment was mine if I wanted it, but I began to have second thoughts. I told the representative that I was not yet certified and had never handled a signing. He said he always liked to give new agents a chance, and I accepted the assignment.

This loan package was a refinance of 250-plus pages with two borrowers signing. I carefully read all instructions and followed them to a tee. I printed one copy for signature and the other for the borrowers. I scrupulously prepared the signer’s copy so that all signature lines were tagged. I was ready to go! While at the signing, I faced some challenges. I did not feel confident so I over-explained each document. I also did not understand that certain crucial documents needed to be presented first, that it was not necessary to explain every single document, and that my main job was to verify identities and ensure that all signatures and notarizations were correct. Because of my inexperience and lack of education, this signing took almost three hours to complete! Before leaving the borrowers’ home, I double-checked my work and found that all signatures had been obtained and all notarizations completed. A few hours later, I proudly faxed the required documents pursuant to instruction and dropped the package at a manned FedEx office.

Learning from my mistakes with the loan package

The next day my world crumbled when the vendor called and asked where the escrow instructions were. At first, my ego took over and I was sure I had not missed a thing, then further investigation revealed that I had inadvertently missed printing out this document.

I called the signing company and apologized profusely, but they sent another Notary to redo the job. When I shared my dilemma in Notary forums, I received support as well as appropriate reprimanding for taking a signing without knowing what I was doing. I promised not to do any more assignments until I had completed my education and certification.

I contacted the Notary Learning Center and told them that I needed hands-on training, and they registered me for one of their classes for free. I traveled almost two hours to the class, which is the best decision I could have made. My biggest mistake was jumping into a signing before I knew what I was doing. My 13-year construction defect paralegal career in no way prepared me to close a loan. Even though loans, deeds, and escrow documents are common in construction defect litigation, by the time I saw those documents they were always outdated. Once I completed my hands-on training, I also earned my certification from the National Notary Association. Only then did I get back into the game.

I now understand loan documents and how to properly present them to the signers. I can articulate the essential, permissible information, and know that it’s not necessary to explain every single document. When I print the package, I double-check to make sure I have not missed anything. I never leave an assignment without double-checking all pages for signatures and notarizations.

What I learned is that education is the power I need to do my job to the best of my ability. I signed up with Notary2Pro, which includes the Signing Agent class, an advanced course and instruction on reverse mortgages. I am proud to say that I have since earned my Notary2pro certification as a Signing Agent and am now working on the advanced course. Continuing education and staying current on your state’s Notary laws is essential in this business. Since mid-August I have accomplished seven signings for two loan closing companies. My confidence is getting stronger and my skill is improving with each assignment. My goal is to build my business into a full-time venture because I love working with people and helping them during the important times in their lives.

Susan Littlefield is a Notary Signing Agent in northern California. She is also a freelance writer, and has published articles in newsletters for paralegals and a journal for attorneys. Her Notary website is

Related Articles:

Signing Agent Tip: 5 common loan-signing mistakes

Signing Agent Tip: 5 steps to a mistake-free loan signing


Add your comment

Dawne Hollis

08 Jan 2018

My very first signing 8 months ago was with Mortgage.Docs -- everything was done perfectly. I have been a paralegal in CA for over 30 years so I know the docs and the process. I was out $35 for printing the doc package. After numerous attempts to get paid I was NEVER PAID the $115 stated. I have contacted the title company and lenders for the job but have received NO REPLY. How do I avoid not getting paid?

National Notary Association

09 Jan 2018

Hello. Please see this article for some suggestions:


08 Jan 2018

Great article...I have stopped doing title signings because I got tired of being a collection agency...they don't pay timely or well, and fyi...I am also a retired paralegal...but this work can be fun if u enjoy meeting people...but please don't make the assumption that you are going to make a lot of money.

Michelle Riley

08 Jan 2018

Susan, thank you for your sharing your story. It was so refreshing to hear an honest account of getting started in this business. Kudos to you for learning from your mistakes and for not giving up. If you make it to the 2018 NNA Conference, I'd love to meet you in person. I found your experience to be inspiring.

Susan Littlefield

13 Jan 2018

Thank you for posting my article here as well, what a wonderful compliment! This article was written and submitted back in August/September of 2017 but was first published in the magazine in December 2017. Since then, I have completed 51 loan signings and 17 general notary work assignments, and have at least three companies I work for on a regular basis. I love this work and would not be here had I not ran with my dream.

Shirra Hunter

16 Jan 2018

This is a very good article especially for someone like myself who is preparing to register for the NNA online course.

Michael Scott

25 Jan 2018

Excellent article for a newbie like myself. I did a refinance of my own mortgage when my health brought me to an earlier than planned retirement. The signing agent was very professional and answered a million questions. He has offered to show me the ropes to get started. Your article is very encouraging! Thank you.

13 Feb 2018

Thank you for sharing your story. I experienced something like that as well. I took my training but the class truly did not cover all the important details that you need to know when you are doing the signing. I ended up doing a more extensive training which was very helpful to feel confident when you're with the borrower. Now its a matter of having companies / agents use you when you are new to the organization.

Fawzia Begum

17 Apr 2018

Hello Susan, I've enjoyed reading your article and the fact that you've finally made it. I was surprised to find that you got your first signing so easily. I've been sitting home for a while after signing up with several companies. I haven't taken the certification exam yet, still studying. But several years ago when I lived in Monterey County, California and after that briefly in Las Vegas, I did loan signings without any issues and without a certifications. As you mentioned how you were getting a lot of requests on the phone, I used to get daily signings in both places. So now that I wanted to do it fulltime due to long unemployment, I haven't gotten a single one to make me believe that there are signings to be done in Orange County, California. I began to wonder if there are way too many NSAs in my area. Any tips would be highly appreciated. I've visited your website and loved the way you've it setup. Congrats to your success in being in a new business. All the best. Regards, Fawzia

Gwendolyn McLeod

31 Aug 2019

Are there any classes in Florida for hands on training?

National Notary Association

10 Sep 2019

Hello. The NNA provides online training for Florida Notaries. Information can be found here:

Leonard Gibson

31 Aug 2019

This article was great. I am very interested in becoming a Notary Signing Agent.

Cathy Crayton

23 Sep 2019

Thank you very much for sharing your journey. It's inspiring and a motivator. I am currently waiting on my commission and studying for the signing agent via books. I am researching courses at this juncture. You have provided great feedback and it's greatly appreciated. Wish you much success in all your endeavors.


30 Sep 2019

I am a signing agent newbie. I'd like to work with a mentor but I don't know how to go about it. I would also like to know if there are hands, not online, on classes in or near Chicago Illinois. I dios get my certification as a signing agent this month, signed up on snap docs, NBA. No calls yet. I do not feel prepared. Read over my books.

National Notary Association

02 Oct 2019

Hello. Due to privacy restrictions, Signing Agents cannot normally bring trainees along with them on assignments. However, please see this article for alternative mentoring and education suggestions:

Latecia Cox

09 Nov 2019

Thank you so much for this! I am a new Notary in Virginia and look forward to becoming a signing agent. I will only do so, once I understand fully what being an NSA entails. Thanks again!


01 Sep 2020

Thank you for sharing this! I'm getting ready to get my Signing Agent Certification, have mortgage experience and looking forward to building my business! Blessings to you!

12 Jan 2021

My very first signing was a nightmare. The company who I agreed to work with refuses to pay me the agreed upon fee. $100.00. The company? First American Signature Services or First American Mortgage Solutions. I have finished the signing and sent in the paperwork by way of Fed/Ex all before the deadline which December 31, 2020. On December 27, 2020 When I called for my payment, I was told my papers were not signed properly. So I resent them again, then I was told the voided check was missing, Ii resent it again, then I was told the numbers on the EFT form does not match!( which the banking info checking#savings# and voided check with routing & account #) then I was told that I didn't sign the W-9 with my apartment #, so I resent it with the apartment # on it. Then I was told I didn't sign the W-9. So I finally went away feeling like they weren't going to pay me. I was feeling very frustrated with this repeated process with the paperwork. All integrity has been lost at this point. So at last I gave up on them. Issued a e-mail to them informing them to never contact me again for any future signings. Due to their lack of payment for services rendered!

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