Signing Agent Fee is Just Not a Notary Fee

I know a lot of seasoned Signing Agents like myself are insulted by the some of the fees offered by Signing Companies and sometimes must make a firm stand not to take a signing only to know that a newbie. I ran across this old article (2014) from the NNA as to why they do no advocate for us regarding fees and what is more interesting, it is their legal opinion that it is illegal for us to discuss and agree among ourselves to set a standard fee for services. Although I understand some of this, I also feel like the NNA could do more which is not illegal. I will post a link to article at the end of this post. I had a rough day today and maybe I’m a little tired but when I am doing more and more of the Escrow Officer’s work, I get resentful that I have to fight for a fee or feel like sometimes I cannot ask for what I really think a job is worth because I know if I go too high a Signing Company will just call a newbie. When working directly with a Title/Escrow company I find it is lot easier to get a better fee BECAUSE THEY ALREADY PAY THIS FEE TO THE SIGNING COMPANIES. I have a friend who is an Escrow Officer in the San Diego area. She also is a Signing Agent on the side. She had an emergency signing and uses a certain signing company. She doesn’t personally do signings for Signing Companies so she had no idea how little they pay. She gave the Signing Company a $350 fee for her urgent signing and her naïve self was not aware that the Signing Company will keep as much of that fee as they possibly can. Say they find a Signing Agent who will do the signing for $75 or $95… they are not going to tell her “hey we didn’t need all this money.” No they are going to pocket $250/275. She was very upset when I told her the average fee that the Signing Company she uses pays its Notaries. I will not give up on this topic. When I started 24 year ago, we received a FedEx/UPS/DHL Package on our front porch with 2 copies of document and a completed return label already on the envelope. No printing, no scan backs, no prepping packages and ensuring the package is complete…we just did the signing and dropped the packed. Now if I receive an package to print and print it and there is a redraw, no one offers to pay for my print costs for the first package. I don’t think it understood that we pay for ALL of our expenses. We are not sitting an escrow/title office and paper and ink is on the company. I’m very confused as to how it became the Signing Agent’s responsibility to make sure a package received for Escrow is complete. Hey I print what you send, get is signed and notarized and I send it back. I had someone mad at me because they didn’t designate a not typical document to be notarized. Meaning no Jurat no Acknowledgment…so I was suppose to know. Hey the law in California is that the Notary cannot determine the notary act and is supposed to be provided this information. Ok enough with what is turning into a long complaint post…so back on topic. I will not give up on finding a way to get a standard “range” of fees. This article claims setting a fee is illegal, please anyone with some legal insight, insight, an opinion about this discussion in this article please share. We need to find a way. Gas is up $4.50+ around here. All of our expenses go up…why not our fees? Here’s the link to the article: The Truth About Notary Signing Agent Fee Discussions | NNA

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I agree with you that it would be nice if signing services offered a higher payment. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one one tv, so nothing I say is legal advice; it’s just my humble opinion. It was good that your friend saw first hand how the money was dispersed.

I’ve read a lot of posts on this site, many in which fees were discussed. Again, my opinion, but just because a person says they charge $150 and someone else says they don’t accept anything less than $100, that doesn’t seem like it would be considered setting a standard fee. To me, it just seems like folks telling the fees they accept. They are not telling everyone they need to charge the same fee.

I have been a real estate agent. Since commission is always negotiable, at least in Texas since that’s all I know, one girl that taught some CE classes wouldn’t even use a number percentage when teaching a class. Instead, she would say something like, “Agent number one may have a minimum charge of 2 apples, and agent number two may charge 3 oranges.” Her point was that she was showing how different agents/ companies could negotiate their commission, and it’s not a fixed amount across the industry. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thank you for sharing your “non-legal” opinion.:blush: I agree when a Signging Agent discloses what their minimum is…I don’t feel this is illegal.

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Thank you for your insight and great (unfortunate for you) example of liability having you go to a hazardous location.
You definitely hit the point I really believe about it being a RESPA violation. I have been saying this for years.

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I have no problem with telling a borrower that the ‘notary fee’ shown is variously split by hiring parties, but never get into specifics. I’m rarely asked anyway. If you are regularly asked, it’s time to alter your presentation.

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I personally do not get the question often but I think the point she was making is the consumers are misled to believe that the person sitting at the table is getting the entire fee (if the signing went through a Signing Company) and it has always been my understanding that if a borrower has a question about fees, our job is to refer them to Escrow or their Loan Rep. So the few times people have asked me I found it to be quite uncomfortable. The question I have received has always been direct and more out of curiosity about how much a Signing Agent makes. The question to has been while Borrower or Seller is reviewing line items in their settlement statement… “and this is your” fee?" My truthful answer has been “no” if I’m not named on the settlement statement. I will not lie but I also am aware that I am not supposed to discuss any fee listed. So if they see $300 and I’m getting half of that it is not my place to go into that someone is getting the other $150 and why.

I go back to the original concern I have is how little, many times, signing agents are getting paid less than the Signing Company. We have not been able to organize and establish an industry standard like other professionals and according to the article I posted the NNA’s opinion is that it is illegal. Someone mentioned to me that being a part of union and setting minimums is not illegal. Also part of being an Independent Contractor is that we should be able to set our own fees and just turning down a low fee is not the same thing. Yes some fees are negotiable but I have heard time and time again when I say my minimum fee is $150 for a refi…is oh well we only pay X… Well their “X” is based upon how much they want to make off the fee they are charging to refer the signing to us. That “X” fee was never calculated by surveying Signing Agents. I could go on about this topic…

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mid or post or at sometime during this pandemic, restaurants couldn’t 't find workers. What did they do? Raised wages, that’s what. There’s a lesson in here if we’re paying attention.

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Here’s my take as a small business owner. (Which we all (most likely) are.) I’ve owned my photo studio for… 10+ years and watched it crumble during the pandemic under the orders of government orders. But, before that, I would see the same problems. There’s always someone willing to do it cheaper. What I’ve learned from others and from experience… they don’t last.

The point here… if you don’t understand your cost of doing business (i.e., print cost, mileage cost, etc), it’s easy to say, sure, I can make $75 an hour by doing that lowball Coast2Coast signing. Oh, free scanbacks… sure. And then… you get the 195 page file… needing 2 copies. And, since it’s a crap signing service, you’ll get that 1.5 hours before your appointment, so you have to drive back to your home office and print it… using more gas and time. Before you know it, you’re 4-5 hours invested in a $75 job, not including actual expenses, you’ve cut your rate to $15/hour. And… you still have to pay your self employment taxes. So… half of that is what you get.

The newbies don’t get this and they’ll drive themselves into bankruptcy, unfortunately. Know your costs, find the agencies that value the experience, that get you documents the day before, that don’t need every %^*% file scanned back, etc.

Naturally, I think I’m preaching to the choir. But, maybe, just maybe, someone needs to see this. :man_shrugging:t2:

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Oh I actually laughed while reading your post…because you are spot on!!! Thank you for sharing in very specific detail. Hopefully the someone who does need to see your post does…and we have more people saying “Not for $75!”

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Notaries are free to discuss fees among each other. When Notaries agree collectively to set pricing it can cross over into matters regarding Anti-Trust and price fixing.

This is not a legal opinion.

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I agree with you but good luck getting your old fees back! The industry is changing rapidly and the goal is to eliminate the human notary PERIOD. AI is taking over and that’s why we’re seeing a race to the bottom for fees to the NSA. Notaries are doing $5 signings online now. If you want to make more money you MUST get hired directly from the EO’s and fewer of them are hiring direct because it’s more convenient for them to hire through a signing service. It sucks, but it’s what’s happening.

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Fortunately we don’t have online Notary in California (yet) and at least our minimum per signature is $15. If I had to only do online Notary here and got paid the $15 per signature, I would be making more money than doing a entire print the docs, travel and scanback signing. The docs to be notarized in an average refi package with 2 signers could easily be $150. I’m putting it out here now for California Notaries…if we ever get to online notarization we really must stay firm on getting the State notary fee for “each” signature notarized. I really can’t ever seeing $5 working for newbies here especially when minimum wage is $15+

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Ai will replace the human notary. AI can already identify people in numerous ways, it’s just a matter of the law catching up and it will. Be looking to switch professions in the near future even the $5 notarizations aren’t going to last very long!

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Preach! We have to band together!

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The discussion regarding fees has been talked about for years. There’s a common theme “low ball fees”. The reality of this industry falls into how we get business. There’s the direct source for getting business, which allows the negotiation and leads to the highest potential for fees. Next way, the signing service that acts as a source of getting signing orders or general notary work. The signing services has build a large data based of Notary Publics, performed the marketing, advertising, and negotiated a service contract with corporations to handled theirs’s needs for notary services. The benefits of using a signing service, we do not have to incur the marketing cost or time required to find business. When we use a signing service, we agree to their terms and fees. Each Notary Public or Loan Signing Agent must determine, which route for getting business works best. Direct or using a signing services. A signing service incur various expenses for marketing, sales, operations, and administration to provide signing orders to Notary Publics or Loan Signing Agents. Those signing services are in the business to make a profit too. If an Notary Public/Loan Signing Agent wants a greater percentage of the fee, eliminate the usage of the middlemen go direct. If you choose a signing service, understand their terms and room for fee negotiations and go for the “law of large numbers”. I understand, we sometimes need a way to vent, about our business. Over the years, I have observed the range of declining fees, due to the large numbers of competition coming into the industry. Frankly speaking, that’s business and economics. I found ways to protect my business and profits by diversification. The definition of insanity, " Albert Einstein’s famous line: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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I can attest to being a victim of newbie’s I took a buyers package with scan backs of almost 300 pages with three signers and I waited for 4 hours for the docs to arrived then I went and got the signings done but I had to scan back I need to make sure all was sent back so I miss fedex, all that plus today some initials were needed and I have to get that done and rescan and all I made on this job was $100 which was originally $85. I feel like I was robbed but grateful for the experiences. I will keep in mind to ask for more on my next signings.

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I’ve been in this business over 30 yrs now. Why blame the Signing Service companies for offering low ball offers? We should blame the notaries for accepting them; but as long as we have newbies that will jump on them, thinking they’ve made a fortune in one signing, we will have that problem. Just counter the offer, if they want perfect work void of mistakes, they’ll pay.

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I am a newbie now battling experienced notaries for low ball signings!

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That is the point not many want to understand. If Signing Agents, don’t accept a low fee, they have to raise the fee. The issue is, there’s always someone who accept those. That is the sad side of this topic

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The exception to that ‘insanity’ rule seems to be platforms. Can’t count the number of times that I’ve seen the same offer sent multiple times nor the number of times that I have repeated the same higher counter before it finally gets approved/accepted.

It’s quite annoying & I’ve recently begun adding a comment (to a few select ‘repeat offenders’) words to the effect to accept my fee or move on as my fee will increase by $5 with each subsequent lowball offer due to add’l clerical work. Sometimes this works. Guess my point is we’ve got to work smarter not harder and, in an over-saturated market, perhaps the smartest thing to do is find another job & stop being used and abused.

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