Open Letter To Signing Agencies

Hey Ya’ll,
Wondering if we as a group start communicating an organized message to our clients if we couldn’t gain some traction in terms of receiving far compensation. Below is a letter I sent to one company, I have an appointment with management on Monday to discuss the contents of my email. Hopefully, they acknowledge the issue.

Good Afternoon,
I really hope this email doesn’t fall on deaf ears as this is very important. I understand that ### has now automated their notary selection process, and in doing so is offering a set fee for closings with no room for negotiations. I want to make sure you know what happens when we receive an order from a title company or signing agency, we take these with almost no details and have to hope for the best. We get to know where the signing is taking place, we get to know who the client Is, and a type of closing. We know nothing about how many signers, we know nothing about how many pages, we know nothing about scan back requirements or any other very pertinent information. We use this information to determine if what we are doing is profitable, just as I am sure ### does when taking on a new client.

I will give you an example of a recent offer that came over a few days back order #####, the order came over at $100 and I want to take a second to explain why that fee is a huge slap in the face. We are the only professionals involved who will meet with the borrowers face to face at their dining table putting us at risk of infection. Even if everyone else has done their job with 100% accuracy if we make even 1 mistake the file doesn’t close as expected, we are required to perform our duties with 100% accuracy and in a professional manner as set for by our training and the laws we are required to follow. We are usually the only self-employed party involved in a closing and with that we have to calculate our overhead expenses to maintain profitability.

Here is what happens to that $100

First, we print docs, an average package from ### is 150+pgs, printing 2 copies is 300pgs @.08 cents per page (this is the average cost of printing with a laser printer according to industry standards) That is $24 in out of pocket expenses. (This process take about 30 minutes to complete)

Second, we travel to the location The order above is a 48 minutes drive and 35 miles roundtrip, @.55 per mile another $19.25 out-of-pocket expense.

Third, we sign docs, not knowing at all if the person is going to want to read every page or call their lender or their cousin, attorney, realtor etc… for advice. We have to sit within a few feet to manage documents and make sure everything is done perfectly (ask yourself how many strangers have you spent an hour with in the last year, I am just over 700). This process usually takes 1 hour to complete (but can easily take 1.5hrs if there are issues which is about 50% of the time)

Fourth, we travel back to our offices to scan and invoice, then again to drop at UPS. This is another 30+ Minutes

We are responsible for our entire overhead here is a list of a few items: Cell phone, Internet, Office Space and Utilities, Pens, E&O Insurance, Auto Insurance, Health Insurance, Licenses, Commissions, Training, Background checks, accounting software, PDF Software, Computers, Printers, Scanners, Stamps, Journals etc.

So you start with $100 and subtract the easy to calculate expenses Print ($24) Auto (19.25) that leaves the notary with ~ $56.75
Now subtract taxes @30% = $17
Now subtract the orange items above (harder to calculate per signing) but after 14 years of doing this it is roughly $10 per signing

That leaves the notary with $29.75 for 168 Minutes of work that is $10.62 per hour after expenses to provide a professional in-home service in an 11 Trillion Dollar Industry. The minimum wage in Oregon is currently 11.50-13.25 meaning the average offer that ### sends out doesn’t even qualify as minimum wage.

I ask that you use the above information to reformulate your offers and make sure that one of the most important partners in the process is respected and compensated for their time and their skills. I have seen so many new notaries come and go over the years, mostly due to finally realizing they are not making any profits and are being taken advantage of. When this happens it leaves the rest of us professionals to pick up the slack, in 2013 I was running a dozen appts a day and we were delaying closings because of a lack of local notaries. When I started in 2007 the base fee was $125-150 the only thing that has happened since then is the cost of providing my services has increased substantially. Imagine if you can going back to your 2007 pricing and trying to survive within today’s economy.

Please let me know if I can help you in this process, together we can achieve great things.

55 Likes

Agree. You started in 2007, when most offers were coming in at $125. Below is the inflation calculation from 2007 to 2021:
Inflation Calculator
If in 2007, I purchased an item for $125, then in 2021 that same item would cost $158.56
Cumulative rate of inflation: 26.9%

I started in 1993 and the going rate back then was still $125…and this is how bad it really is:
Inflation Calculator
If in 1993, I purchased an item for $125, then in 2021 that same item would cost $227.52
Cumulative rate of inflation: 82.0%

If you want to calculate your own rate of inflation, here’s the link:
[Inflation Calculator | Find US Dollar’s Value from 1913-2021 (usinflationcalculator.com)]
https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

19 Likes

It would be nice if Notary Cafe would give this letter its OWN column! heading titled “Cost of doing business as a mobile signing agent.” There are soooo many newbs that accept these LOW ball amounts …NOT knowing their actual COST of doing business as most of them came from a salaried
position. The seasoned agents …have to beg the same pay as they earned more than 10 years ago. I know of NO other business that has been put in this position.

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Its too bad that the lenders don’t REQUIRE that the SS’s use seasoned agents, but they only care about the cost and the SS’s guarantee the signing. Oh boy. Please give us the feedback you receive from the owner.

AS a side note we just had an attorney, owner of a local Title Company choose US to do the closing on his own homesteaded property. Hmmmm

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A lot of what is true but for the last what about the new people ? We’re you not new your self ? I am frustrated about newbies taking jobs so cheep . I have been ready to go for 3 weeks and have done 2 refi’s I will not go as low as some I used to own my own company . So how do I get business I have signed up with problem 50 services and this is all I will have a printer and a scanner for sale if it doesn’t oick up any advice someone could give me please

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Thank you for the wonderful email, Dcaldwell!
I truly hope you get an answer and share that as well. I appreciate this post!

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Yes! Yes! Well said​:clap:t4::clap:t4:

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Yes, we were all new once. However, the situation as it stands now seems to be simply there are way more signing agents than signings available…a situation that only seems destined to get worse as more people climb on board the mythical 6-figure income train at the same time that it looks like interest rates will be increasing (leading to less people wanting to refi). Signings agents were once a fairly rare breed and there wasn’t a lot of demand. 20 years ago, interest rates started dropping, creating a big demand–and many newbs started. Rates continued to drop and those past-newbs are mostly still here–while still more newbs are joining. An ever-increasing number of people competing for a slice of an ever-shrinking refi market The train left the station a while ago.

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Well, that response. Makes me think start looking for something else to do .I have signed up with 35 closing service I read one post that said we need to sign up with 100 signing services.I have a lot of decision-making to do.

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Thanks for the detailed breakdown, I’ve been meaning to do just that.
Props for what I assume was color coding… in orange. Shows how detail oriented you are.
Is this about Timios?
Good luck tomorrow!

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How can i sign unto this letter ?
I support it.

Robert Malek

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Hi dcaldwell and others,./

Our industry has the purchaser and seller of our service backwards.

In life, when you (purchaser) need tires you call the tire dealer (seller) and tell them what you will pay. NOT!

In life, when you (purchaser) want a meal you call the restaurant (seller) and tell them what you will pay. NOT!

In life when you need anything you (purchaser) tell the seller what you will pay. NOT!

Now, in our industry who is the purchaser? Yes, it is the person that is paying for the service. It is the Signing Service, and/or Title Company. The person who pays is the customer.

Who is the seller; YOU are the seller. So please put yourself in a different industry like the tire store and restaurant mentioned above.

Now picture the owner of the Signing Service or employee of the Title Company coming to your tire
store and saying ‘I’ll pay you $100 for 4 tires’. Would you say 'I have to accept that because that is what the buyer said he/she will pay? NO, NO, NO!!! If you are not shouting NO then please tell me where your tire store is located! Tell all of us your location and we will start lining up at your business today.

Respectfully,
Guy

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Hi dcaldwell,

I like what you are saying. I call this training-the-customer.

In various professions, I’ve had to fire customers. Yes, you can fire customers. If the customer demands to much and/or pays to little, FIRE them.

Then what? I’ve found that once you train-the-customer, on the benefits you provide, and tell them what you have is available for $xxx, they frequently become a great customer!

If a Signing Agent accepts the concept that he/she can only sell his/her service based on price, why not set your price at $10? Heck, why not PAY the Signing Service or Title Company $10 just so you can get the job? Yes, I know this is absurd. Using absurdity often brings clarity.

Respectfully,
Guy

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DCaldwell
Thank you for this open letter. I have been telling companies this for months, falls on deaf ears. I totally agree with your breakdown. The problem is- if every single expense and the time is taken into consideration for every job offer- we wouldn’t be working at all b/c it breaks down to a pathetically low hourly rate, even at $150/closing.
There is no way we are going to get a reasonable fee for our time and expenses, unfortunately.
The way I figure is if I get a job for $150 (Haven’t had an offer for that fee for a long time)- refi/2 closers/ drive time ~40 minutes each way plus say a 48 miles round trip includes dropping docs:, no scanbacks-between phone calls(20 min)/ print-prep (30 min)/appt time (1 hr)/drive time including dropping docs (2hrs)/ journaling time (30 min) = ~ >4hrs
NET: $44.60
Without taking into consideration the expenses: $37.50/hr (150/4)
WITH expenses that you noted: $11.15/hr
I guess I should rethink this job!!!

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Guy,

I agree with where you’re coming from. Unfortunately, too many NSAs lack the business skills to calculate their cost of doing business. dcaldwell did a good job breaking things down for us.

One factor we’re dealing with are the NSA trainers pitching 6 figure salaries for doing next to nothing. Many of these trainers are providing a good product, despite the oversell. As long as the economy is a bit soft, the 6 figure income pitch becomes attractive, just like the wonky multi-level marketing schemes. This results in market saturation and declining prices. I’ve seen many notaries in the past 2 years accepting ‘low ball’ engagements only to discover later they’re loosing money. They drop out only to be replaced with the next graduate of “6 figure training school”. You and I can’t control how other business owners manage their pricing. From this aspect we’re stuck with what the broad market is willing to accept.

As a side note, I’m certain there are NSAs earning a 6 figure income. My money is they’re on the outer edge of the bell curve. I recently heard a trainer state one of their graduates pulled in $300k last year. What was not disclosed is this individual had several other business, including a Tax Preparation service.

I agree that educating our customers is important. Like you, I’ve had to disengage when a client wasn’t will to accept what I was offering, and in some cases asking me to help them commit fraud.

I’ve found the signing services and Title Co. aren’t interested in being educated. First, they know everything (lol) and second there’s an NSA willing to accept the low offer. As long as the market is saturated we’re going to have to take a look at how we do business, hold out long enough until the market is less saturated, or do something different, or in addition to, loan signings.

Wish you the best and thank you for your insights.

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Well done! Thank you for putting this together. I’m a newb and refuse to do work for less than $115, generally. I am working all across SW Washington so cover a lot of territory. If hiring co doesn’t want to pay for my time, effort, energy, skill, and availability, they can drive out to the country corners themselves.
Please share with us how you fare with this letter. We’d all love to hear how it goes.
I’d also like to see more people write this kind of letter, too.

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What a GREAT post and a great letter!! Please add me to the letter or conference me in on the phone call (a phone call, what a novel idea & a much safer option than texting and driving). You can email me directly at kdudaccr@gmail.com if you care to take me up on the conference call. I have time to write today and can assist tomorrow due to severe thunderstorms here for the next day or three.

I agree with signwithmichelle in that I seldom - very rare exception - see $150 fees, and I’ve been working full time as a notary for 10 years now (20 years as a self-employed court reporter until back surgeries ended that career). AND, notary and court reporter are probably 2 of the most difficult certifications to attain in the state of Louisiana. The passage rate for notaries going back to 2008 in Louisiana range from 2% - 22% percent with one exception which had a 24% passage rate (passage rate on 2/27/2021 was 19%). Point is, it’s damn hard to become a notary in the state of Louisiana!!

I turn down 10 closings a day because companies are not willing to pay $100 yet they will pay a witness $25 - $40 to drive 5 mins and sign their name 1 time, and Louisiana requires 2 witnesses, meaning they will spend $80 on witnesses and $85 on the notary who has to do everything pointed out above. And not to toot my own horn, but like most of you, my score or rating with all companies I work with who keep track is an A or 100%. I know (all by myself) how to dress and conduct myself as a professional! And all jobs are, at the very least, clipped at the top with my business card attached (I buy both of those, too). The main reason I even take closings at all anymore is because it gives me an opportunity to meet new people in the area I moved to 6 years ago next month where I knew 1 (one) person. As of today, thank God, I have built a business that barely allows time for 1, maybe 2, closings a week. Point is, I am very good at what I do, but that means absolutely NOTHING to the closing companies/title companies that we are all dealing with, NOTHING!! So please count me in!!

One aside worth mentioning: Single Source is the exception to everything I’ve said above. They call me daily with job offers, even though I have only accepted 5 closings & completed 4 closings for them to date. (It took me a month to find time to return their notary package, literally!) After presenting and me accepting a job, they have always then asked, “What is your fee?”, and they seem happy to pay a very fair base pay which includes a fee for scan/faxbacks (ugh! but they pay you to do it) and have no problem paying extra for last-min appts, very-last-min appts, travel, a print fee for the 1 appt that cancelled, etc. They even CALL YOU to schedule appts & are very nice even if you decline and/or seldom answer your phone! And finally, I received my first payment in less than 30 days. They are such the exception, not to mention a pleasure, that I would be remiss had I not taken a min to exclude them from the above rant.

Thank you for your time and effort, dcaldwell!! Nice “y’all,” too!

Kathy

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Not only that, these companies continue to lowball and call it “Remaining Competitive” and “Standard Pricing”. I’ve signed out in the cold, in a garage in and on top of a car in 30-40 degree weather. Would it be asking to much to ask for hazard pay?

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:100:% agree with this letter you spent time putting together!! WoW!!! It’s perfectly written- well done. I hope companies see this but not sure they’ll quite get what you stated accurately.

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Banning together needs to start at the local level. We are fairly well organized here in my area but as is everywhere newbies come in and we have to train them that we all make more money if we stick to our guns on our fees. Start local, fix our own neighborhoods and it will fall into place nationally as a whole.

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