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How to Become a Notary Signing Agent

Notary Signing Agents (NSAs) facilitate loan closings for the mortgage finance industry. Before starting the NSA certification process, you must be commissioned as a Notary Public. Please be aware that opportunities to conduct loan signings may be limited or restricted in some states.

Signing Agent Certification Process

Many state laws do not address additional qualifications or requirements for Notaries who work as Notary Signing Agents. However, companies in the mortgage finance industry do have laws and regulations they must meet in order to do business.

Because lenders, title companies and signing services are held to certain regulatory standards, they set the bar for the Notaries they hire. While every company's guidelines may vary, the industry strongly recommends taking all of the following steps to increase your chances of getting hired by the widest range of companies.

  1. Be commissioned as a Notary Public in your state (required).
  2. Take a loan signing training course.
  3. Pass an exam and background screening that are SPW compliant.
  4. Buy your Signing Agent supplies.
  5. Purchase a minimum $25,000 E&O insurance policy.
  6. Start working as a Notary Signing Agent.
  7. Promote your business online by joining Notary Signing Agent directories.

Become a Notary Signing Agent

In This Guide: NSA Training & Guidelines | Insurance & Legal Risk | General NSA Information

NSA Training & Guidelines

The details below will help you understand the recommended guidelines for Notary Signing Agent certification.

What does a Notary Signing Agent do?

A Notary Signing Agent is a Notary who is specially trained to handle and notarize loan documents. For lenders, Notary Signing Agents are the critical final link to complete the loan. A Notary Signing Agent is hired as an independent contractor to ensure that real estate loan documents are executed by the borrower, notarized and returned for processing on time. Completing this critical part of the loan process enables the loan to be funded.

Who can become a Notary Signing Agent?

Anyone who meets the requirements to be a Notary Public in their state can go on to become a Signing Agent. However, it is important to note that some states have restrictions that apply to NSAs.

Is certification required?

Certification is not required by law to become a Signing Agent. However, many companies that contract Signing Agents for mortgage closings ask these professionals to be certified and background screened in order to meet Consumer Financial Protection Bureau compliance requirements for third-party service providers hired by financial institutions.

Several private organizations offer training, certification and background screening for Signing Agents that meet the standards of lenders, title companies and signing services. The NNA is an SPW-compliant vendor, so you may choose to get certified and background screened by the NNA.

Do I need to take a Notary Signing Agent exam or training course?

No exam or training is required for NSAs. Although neither one is required, a training course and passing score on an exam are smart ways to prove you've been formally educated in the complex process of mortgage closings.

A training course covers everything you need to know to be familiar with the loan closing process and the types of documents involved. It will provide the knowledge you need to walk a buyer through the mortgage closing process clearly and efficiently. A Signing Agent training course will also prepare you to pass the SPW-compliant exam.

There are many vendors, including the National Notary Association, offering Signing Agent training courses and exams online.

Why am I being asked to do a background check?

In order to guard borrowers' private financial information, the mortgage industry requests all persons involved in the lending process to undergo background screenings. Lenders in turn instruct title services companies to ensure that everyone with access to mortgage documents has been screened. This applies to everyone handling loan documents including Notaries who act as Signing Agents.

Are there any special requirements or restrictions in my state?

It depends on the state. A Signing Agent must be a commissioned Notary Public. Some states limit or restrict Notaries from working as Signing Agents or include additional licensing requirements. For more information, see our list of Signing Agent State Restrictions.

What supplies should NSAs have?

In addition to your Notary seal and journal, Signing Agents should have reliable transportation to get to assignments, a mobile phone and email for communication with signers and companies that hire them, and a printer and fax machine to print loan documents and fax completed loan documents if required. Many new NSAs also find it helpful to use a few industry tools and guidebooks when starting out.

How long does it take to become a Signing Agent?

NSAs who follow the recommended industry certification process listed above can expect one to two weeks to become a certified Signing Agent. A majority of this time will be spent waiting for your background screening results to return. Other factors will be your availability and how long it takes you to become comfortable with all procedures and requirements for notarizing loan closings.

How much does it cost to become a Signing Agent?

The cost of becoming a certified Signing Agent typically ranges from $75 to a few hundred dollars, but this can vary depending on a few different factors:

    • Whether or not you have an active Notary commission in your state
    • Whether or not you already have a $25,000 errors and omissions (E&O) insurance policy
    • Which training/exam vendor you choose
    • What vendor conducts your background screening
    • Where you purchase your NSA supplies
    • Licensing fees (required for certain states)

Insurance & Legal Risk

Because certified Signing Agents play a critical role in completing real estate loans, it's important for all NSAs to understand their responsibilities and the legal risks they face if proper procedures are not followed.

Do I need any additional Notary insurance?

Though not required by law, it's strongly recommended to purchase a Notary errors and omissions (E&O) insurance policy to cover you against damages resulting from unintentional mistakes. The Signing Professionals Workgroup (SPW), an industry standards organization, recommends Signing Agents carry a minimum Notary E&O policy of $25,000 following a study that found most claims against Notary Signing Agents average around $14,000. However, some individual companies may ask Signing Agents they work with to carry a larger policy.

How much legal risk might I face as an NSA?

Loan document signings are important transactions involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's essential that Notary Signing Agents follow their state's Notary laws as well as federal mortgage regulations like protecting the privacy of a signer's information. A Notary Signing Agent must diligently follow proper procedure. In addition to damaging the Signing Agent's chances of finding work in the future, carelessness, negligence or improper conduct can result in severe criminal penalties or financial liability for a Signing Agent.

General NSA Information

Need more information about working as a Signing Agent? Get answers to commonly-asked questions below.

What are the benefits of becoming a Signing Agent?

For lenders, Notary Signing Agents are the critical final link to complete the loan. Signing Agents not only earn income for notarizing signatures on loan documents but are also paid to perform courier services and ensure that completed loan packages are returned to the lender in a timely fashion. Many Notaries choose to work as Signing Agents as a part-time or full-time source of income.

How is a Notary Signing Agent different from a traditional Notary?

Although traditional Notaries and Notary Signing Agents both perform notarizations for their clients and must have an active commission, Signing Agents are specially trained to handle and notarize loan documents. In most cases, they meet additional qualifications such as background checks, extra training and/or special licensing (depending on state regulations).

How much can I charge for a loan signing?

There is no set fee schedule for Notary Signing Agents who perform loan document signing assignments. Each Signing Agent must negotiate their own fees based on their business expenses, the companies they work with, travel and time required for assignments, and the demand for services in their area.

Be aware that the federal government strictly prohibits collaboration to set fixed fees for loan document signings, including price-fixing agreements, boycotts or attempting to persuade other Signing Agents to agree to charge an established minimum fee.

How often must I renew as an NSA?

The government does not define a renewal time frame for Signing Agents within any state or federal law. However, the industry standard set by SPW recommends that Signing Agents renew their exam and background check every year. Industry certification standards developed by SPW are designed to meet important CFPB requirements.

Where do I find loan signing work?

There are several online Notary Signing Agent directories where you can make your contact information available to lenders, financial institutions and signing services offering assignments. Some directories offer free listings while others offer more prominent listings for a fee — you should compare directory services and see which best suit your needs.

In addition to signing up with several directories, you can also promote your services by networking within your local community. You can accomplish this by attending business and trade events, connecting with UPS and FedEx store managers, and building relationships with other Notaries in your area.

What is a signing service?

Signing services are private companies that act as middlemen, locating and contracting Signing Agents on behalf of lenders and title companies for assignments. Though assignments through signing services generally do not pay as well as working directly for lenders or title companies, they usually have more assignments available for Signing Agents who are starting their new business.

Who can answer questions about loan signing assignments?

Any questions regarding loan terms or the content of loan documents during a signing should be directed to a qualified loan officer. Signing Agents are not loan officers and should never try to explain loan documents or answer questions from a signer regarding the terms of a loan.

If you have other questions about working as a Signing Agent or industry issues, professional Notary associations like the NNA and other private organizations that offer Signing Agent training and certification can often address your concerns. Most state Notary-regulating agencies cannot answer questions related to Signing Agent assignments, because many of a Signing Agent's duties aren't addressed by state Notary laws.

There are also dedicated social media groups for Notary Signing Agents on LinkedIn, Twitter and private websites where Signing Agents can go to ask questions and discuss issues affecting their work.

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