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8 bad Notary Signing Agent habits to avoid

New-Signing-Pic-resized.jpgUpdated 8-4-21. As an experienced instructor for Notary Signing Agents, I can tell you that it is just as important for new Notary Signing Agents to avoid bad habits as it is to cultivate good ones. Over the years, I’ve seen NSAs do many things that they shouldn’t. Sometimes they skip steps. Sometimes they take shortcuts.

Here are 8 common bad habits every Signing Agent should avoid.

1. Asking to follow other Notary Signing Agents on assignment

One of the biggest no-nos is asking to accompany other Notary Signing Agents on their assignments. This is fairly common among new NSAs trying to get practical help learning the ropes. But newbies shouldn’t ask, and experienced NSAs should not agree.

All Signing Agents need to be aware of the importance of protecting consumer privacy in our profession. Taking strangers with you to signings where they can see a borrower’s address, contact information and financial documents is NOT a good idea, even if you ask the signer’s for permission. Having a stranger at the signing table allows the stranger access to the borrower’s personal and financial information and is a serious breach of privacy — and would not go over well with the signing services and titles companies that hire NSAs. 

2. Neglecting to administer required oaths or affirmations

Even some experienced and seasoned Signing Agents fail to administer required oaths or affirmations to signers during assignments, and this is a HUGE mistake. If you are ever called into court to testify when someone has been accused of fraud (for example, for allegedly making a false affidavit), the judge may ask if you correctly administered an oath or affirmation. To make sure that you always fulfill your duty as the Notary, always administer an oath or affirmation when required AND note it in your journal — that way, you always have a record of your actions.

3. Completing Notary certificates outside the signer’s presence 

One of the questions students often ask me is, “Why do you insist that we only sign and stamp our certificates in front of the signers?” They tell me about other Notaries who improperly complete certificates before appointments to make the process go faster.  My answer to them is that in most, if not all states, it is a requirement to complete the certificate at the time the notarization takes place. This proves that the document was both executed and notarized at the same time and in the presence of the signers.

4. Failing to keep a Notary journal

Not every state requires Notaries to keep a journal of their acts. However, no matter what state you are commissioned in, it is always helpful to maintain a journal. Your journal provides detailed information about the notarizations you have completed. If you are ever asked to testify in court about a notarization you performed, the journal is your evidence that you carried out your duties the right way. Imagine a judge asking you about a notarization you completed months or years ago. Do you think you could remember all the details about that act without your journal?

I also use my journal to help remember vital details I may need later, such as the fact that I issued a required Oath or Affirmation, or any observations I had about the willingness or awareness of an individual signing important documents. Your journal can be your best friend if you need proof to show you performed a notarization correctly and professionally!

5. Failing to carefully verify identification

One of the things that I have found over the years is a lot of Notaries simply note in their journal the information printed on the identification, such as the issue date, expiration date, etc. However, it is just as important that Notaries compare the photograph, the description, and signature on the identification to the person signing the documents before them. It is imperative to take extra precautions when verifying the identity of a signer.

6. Being late to a signing

Going through the process of purchasing a home or refinancing a property is very stressful and time-consuming. A typical borrower is anxious to have this process come to an end, and therefore, they are very anxious for the Notary Public to come to their home to complete this process. Notaries need to understand how important it is that you be on time for your appointment. If your appointment is at 6:00 PM, I guarantee you that the borrowers are going to be watching and waiting for you. If you are late, even as little as five or 10 minutes, they become very anxious and worried that you are not going to come at all. So, if you are going to be late it is imperative that you call the borrowers and let them know your situation and your anticipated arrival time. They will very much appreciate your concern and your professionalism.

7. Leaving your tools unattended if you need to step away from a signing

Over my 14 years as a Notary Signing Agent, I tried to not use bathroom facilities in any of the homes I visited for signing appointments. However, there were times when I had back-to-back appointments with no opportunities to stop and use restrooms along the way. When this happens, you must do one thing besides politely asking to use the restroom. You must not leave your journal or your stamp unattended while in the restroom. You must always protect those most important tools by taking them with you and making sure they are secure if you have to step away from the signing table.

8. Drama or negative behavior during a signing

I have heard of NSAs who may be going through some difficult times and express their unhappiness and their difficulties to borrowers while at the signing . This is unacceptable no matter what you are going through in your personal life.

One of the things I enjoyed so much was my interaction with the people that I would spend that hour or two with. Oftentimes it would become almost a social event, getting to know people, sharing experiences, and just spending some quality time with people. Doing this is fine, and it makes this job enjoyable. But never bring negativity or drama to the signing table.

Carol Ray.jfif

Carol Ray was the owner of Notary2Pro, a training service for Notaries and Signing Agents in operation since 2009.


Add your comment

Kamilla Lucero

05 Oct 2019

Just to clarify. When you work for an attorney (ie Trust Signings) and they preprint the appropriate information on a Notorial Certificate this is against policy?

National Notary Association

08 Oct 2019

Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.

Rhonda Walker

05 Oct 2019

Thank you, Carol! Printed off and placed in my "Review frequently" folder..

Hugo Borja

07 Oct 2019

I have a comment. I practice the rule of entering every single acknowledgement in my journal for a loaning signing. This is a common practice with NSA? or do they use just one journal entry for the entire loan package?


07 Oct 2019

Filling in the text portion of the certificate before signing is appropriate, but the notary must always sign and apply seal at the time of acknowledgment or oath

Lisa D. Joseph

07 Oct 2019

This is great information, it is great to know for up coming signings to avoid pitfalls.

Nancy Gould

07 Oct 2019

Very helpful, thank you...

Lisa M Gulley

07 Oct 2019

A question that comes to mind after reading this is; how do you get practical signing agent experience? I've read that you should shadow when getting into this business.

National Notary Association

08 Oct 2019

Hello. Please see this article for more information:

Andy Bergman

08 Oct 2019

I would add 2 more bad habits to the list that need to be addressed - dressing appropriately for the appointment. I know several in my state who regularly wear open toed sandals, shorts, sleeveless shirts, jeans, and yes even one notary who I often see with a baseball hat on while working. The other issue that needs to be addressed is performing ALL of the notarial documents in the presence of the client - again I know several notaries who tell me "I do all my notarial documents and stamps after I have gone back to my home/ office because I don't want to waste the clients time. While I can appreciate not wanting to make the client sit at the table any longer than necessary by law all stamping and notarizing of documents MUST be done in the presence of the clients.


11 Oct 2019

Thanks for all the info, to read. Great reminders for everyone.

katherine Tanksley

19 Dec 2019

this info was very hepful

Cheryl Kaster

11 Mar 2020

One thing not mentioned about failing (how in the world does a notary public "FORGET" to give an oath when it is called for in the certificate wording?) to give an oath results in the completion of a false notarial certificate. In Hawaii that is a violation of Hawaii Notary Law. In other instances, if the signer has lied then they may be guilty of perjury because they never swore they were telling the truth or whatever else it was the wording of the certificate required. THAT IS A HUGELY important point.

Cheryl Kaster

11 Mar 2020

Here again, viewing these comments is why I cringe knowing that so many signing agents do not know the deceptively complex process of notarization. If they don't know that, how in the world are they going to complete a signing correctly? I once was mentoring a signing agent and we met at a restaurant and she was working to complete her journal from pictures on her phone. And they boast about the $1,000's they make a month?

Gayle Couch

17 Dec 2020

In my lifetime, I've never personally had to deal with signing a mortgage, a loan agreement, refi, etc. So I have no clue what all these documents even look like. I'm petrified of screwing up someone's important transaction. I understand the importance of keeping an individual's personal information confidential, but why can't another signing agent come along? They would be obligated, just as I am, to not share what they see. It could have very well been that agent that got the job. One would hope they have good integrity. Why do the rules make it so difficult for a newbie to get started? (And why is it so difficult to find brick & mortar classes for this type of thing. Online classes do me no good.)

Toni Brown

03 Jan 2021

I would love to assist you in the understanding of the importance of not having someone follow you on an assignment. I would love to also you the information and confidence you need to be a successful Loan Signing Agent. What city and state are you located in?

Sherryl R. Cousins

06 Jan 2021

I'm a new NSA in Atlanta, GA (formally a Florida agent) and interested in becoming a signing agent for mortgage companies. How do I find companies that service this industry?

National Notary Association

08 Jan 2021

Hello. Please be aware that 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]).

robin s sweet

14 Aug 2021

i really wish there was some place near me where you could go and do mock signing agents in person. Even the mock signings on you tube don't get you the kind of experience you need. Or some type of class I already have my license. i live in the Bakersfield ca area.


18 Aug 2021

Thank you very helpful

Princess Davis

13 Apr 2022

You mentioned in #1-Taking strangers with you to signings where they can see a borrower’s address, contact information and financial documents is NOT a good idea, even if you ask the signer’s for permission. What about the Title companies that are asking NSA's to bring a witness with them and they will pay extra for providing one. Is this not the same thing?

National Notary Association

02 Jun 2022

Hello. No, it is not. This is because a witness is not an observer. The witness has a specific role in the document signing.

C D Walker

25 Jan 2023

‘Almost becomes a social event, sharing experiences…etc’ No. You can be pleasant but it is business. You’re not there to get to know someone and have a social event. That is unprofessional.

Patricia G

08 Nov 2023

As a new notary wanting to start business this is very much a reminder from exam. I appreciate the excellent information and will refer to this article. Ty PG

Sunjiiv Kapur

03 May 2024

Stamp and sign takes few seconds always do it in presence of the client be punctual my rule is arrive 15 minutes prior to closing if i reach on time then I am late

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