Signing Agent Fee is Just Not a Notary Fee

Market is slowing down, right now WE newbies jumping in lowballs? THE SEASONED Notaries ARE !

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I say it all the time, people are quick to blame newbies for taking low baller fees. Seasoned NSAs are taking those fees. Newbies can hardly get a signing job because it is given to a seasoned NSA. It is a hustle out there for the people who do this full time for a living. Retired people receiving SS and pensions can afford to say counter offer and get nothing, but not everyone can do that. I totally get it. I cannot support myself as a signing agent. I love signing, I would not stop doing it, but it will always be a side hustle for me and so I counter offer. You pay me what I am asking or find someone else, simple. I am not going to beat any one down for doing what works for them.

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Im new and I was wondering why this agency send docs a hour before signing and expect you to make a appointment within a hour. What’s the reason they don’t send docs days before? I had one no dica and canceled it 1 hour before signing :woman_facepalming:t5:

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Everything has become last minute and urgent in this industry. I have friends who are Escrow Officers and their complaint is that the loan brokers and loan officers are pressuring them to do everything last minute. It wasn’t always like this. Again having 24 years in this business I remember when it wasn’t like this and we got our packages overnighted to us and advance notice (days in advance) of signing appointments. My Escrow friends said they have seen rushes placed on loan that didn’t have to close for weeks but the loan rep wanted their clients signed today (even though documents are not even ready yet) :grimacing:

That’s very interesting I’m just wondering what was it like back then compared to today’s society?

I’ve read a lot of responses to my original post. I found some post around this topic say that this is just the business it’s better to take something versus nothing. So I wanted to break it down into $. We are a business too and we must break down what it truly costs to run our business and how much are we really making of the signing fee paid. When you get a big deposit or a bunch of checks in feels good and looks good and we can easily forget or not realize what it costs us.

Disclaimer: These examples are strictly based on my costs in the Bay Area (California) and could be higher or lower in a different part of the U.S. Also I am going to use an “average” in the examples so again this can differ, plug your true numbers in and you can figure out your own personal scenario.

Ok for a seasoned already in business Signing Agent (meaning no start up costs to factor in, just on going costs)

Average Refinance

  • 150 pages (300 when having to print 2 copies)
  • 35 miles average miles to signing/from signing/to FedEx drop
  • Print cost average .15 per page (Laser printer, standard paper. Note this is also the cost at Staples, FedEx Office in the area BUT I have actually calculated my real costs by dividing the number of pages I get from a toner kit, my drum kit, cost of paper etc. but I use this average of .15 because there are Notaries around who actually use outside printing)
  • IRS mileage .56 per mile (you can use actual costs of gas, insurance, plus maintenance costs. I will use the IRS rate because it’s a good average and I also have Tolls I have to pay which I will not add in this example. Also later I kind of use this amount as a “catch all” for other expenses. Again, I have determined my “actual” costs and the averages I use are pretty spot on.)
  • 2.25 hours an average total time spent which includes, confirming appt & reviewing instructions, printing/prepping docs, travel time to/from/to FedEx, signing/notarizing docs, scan back
  • Costs that people usually do not take into consideration because it’s part of their household BUT they are costs of running a business (home office expenses - internet, electric, computer, phone, supplies, etc.) Remember every business has similar expenses

So here we go…let’s look at average total for this signing:
$45 print costs
$19.60 mileage rate (So this number is based on IRS mileage rate. I use this number as a catch all to give me an estimate of my actual costs (gas, toll, %of annual maintenance, %of insurance and a % of home office costs, %of supplies, etc. Since I know my % for every business expenses, I already know this number is pretty close to my actual costs. For example my actual costs for this signing would be around $21)

It will cost me $64.60 for a 150 page refinance order. With no issues, no traffic, no reprints, no problems

If I took a $75 signing fee I would net $10.40
I would net roughly $4.62 per hour for a signing that took up 2.25 hours of my time.

$95 I would net $30.40 or $13.51 per hour
$125 I would net $60.40 or $26.84 per hour
$150 I would net $85.40 or $37.96 per hour

So when I advocate for SAs and fees I am not just coming up with number off the top of my head. I have done the math for myself personally. When I started in the business in 1997 the signing fee started at $50 if I took an assignment from a Signing Company but there was no printing and prepping and we were provided with the return package and all we had to do was sign and drop off. No scanning back, no reprints, no waiting last minute for docs, etc. The signing company confirmed everything. Signings directly for an escrow company and lenders of course paid more because the signing company was not the middle man. My issue is that as responsibilities have increased the fee should more accurately reflect this. I am not bashing newbies, I only want them to be aware that they need to do the math. They are trying to recoup their expenses and eat and like some newbies have indicated, if there are seasoned signing agents taking low ball orders just to make something then we all need to do the math.

Look this is great business, I just think that because we as a group have not had an organization to support Signing Agents we have kind of been left to battle among ourselves. We are not employees but are supposed to be Independent Contractors yet tell me one Signing Agent contract have any of you negotiated. I have worked as a Contractor in other industries and the contract is mutual. I tell them the services I provide and my rate, there may be some negotiation but in the end the contract is a mutual agreement not a template. Appraiser pretty much have a standard fee so I see nothing wrong with Signing Agents have a starting rate of $150 for loan docs, $125 start for seller docs, Single docs start rate, etc. and a per page print costs. Most will give $15-25 for printing which usually doesn’t even cover our actual costs. This may sound very harsh, but I feel it is an insult to offer a Signing Agent professional $75 for a refinance and a further insult that an environment has been created where SAs squabble about taking it to get recognized. Just think about it. If everyone committed to at least countering for a higher rate, then at least we can get the ball moving towards a better fee goal.

Lastly, I want Signing Companies to not be viewed as the enemy. Yes they work to provide us work BUT if they want to be the middle man, then charge the fee necessary to give SAs a higher fee. My Escrow Officer friends tell me that the average fee they are charged by a signing Company is between $175-250. We have to remember, the Signing Company is not paying our fee the Borrower, Seller, Lender or Agent is. People are paying Doordash, Instacart, Uber, etc. premium rates to have someone show up at their door so the service (especially during this health crisis) we provide is worth the money.

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I would love to see an employee or a business owner go up to a customer/client/boss etc and show them a list of all the expenses and travel and everything it would be hilarious just to see their reaction. As a business owner you should already know all this and you should be finding ways to make it a lot better for yourself, it’s common knowledge that it takes money to make money.

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The difference here is that many people are not calculating their business costs because when the “become a signing agent and make tons of money” class is given, this is not discussed. Additionally, it’s not about breaking down our expenses to a client, it’s about knowing them and more importantly NOT letting someone dictate them. Again, we shouldn’t have to negotiate a rate or counter for every single order. An employee and business owner is not telling a customer/clients their costs, they are charging and GETTING PAID what is needed to cover costs and make a profit. The customer/client is not setting the price. So thanks we need to set our own fees, not the Signing Agent Client…my point, just trying to give SAs info on how to set that fee. A cliché “It takes money to make money” easily said but not a real solution to a real issue that many SAs have. I’m doing well and pretty much make my minimum fees but have made a lot more money in my past years because I hustled and know what can be done. No matter how successful I may be or have been, I will not disregard my fellow SAs who are not and refuse to cliché them. I did not start out this way and had to understand the business not throw money at it. So I take a more practical and supportive approach because I’d love to see us all achieve our financial goals.

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I think that you make very valid points and I do think people should listen to what you have to say.

I never had a mentor I literally had to learn everything a business does by scratch and I did I learned everything but a lot of help from previous jobs I harnessed how they do things and I applied it to my business because that was the least they could do.

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This is a beautiful illustration of actual job costs. I’ve only been in this business for 7 months now and I saw this problem very early on regarding fees. I also noticed the argument of “per hour income” versus “per assignment income”. To that, one of the three NSA classes I took teaches the “per assignment income” model and it’s broken down almost exactly as you’ve shown it here. Except, it breaks the costs down into two catagories “fixed” and “variable”. The fixed costs touches equipment needed, but also deals with yearly costs such as insurances, CPA costs, yearly background checks, NNA membership costs and yearly conference costs. The variable touches the printing costs, mileage, gas costs, etc… Once these costs are calculated together, they become your “per assignment overhead”, which is what you were showing here.

That said, one of the classes shows you how to build your business taking $75 per assignment orders from SS. Another one teaches $90-110 from an SS. While the other didn’t get into fees at all. For clarification, the one teaching $75 SS assignments stressed that $75 is the absolute lowest fee you should ever accept and then you should only do it sparingly. In any case they teach that the goal is to look at whatever you charge in percentages. To illustrate, a $75 fee with a $50 per assignment overhead would yield a $25 profit. In terms of percentages, that would be about a 33% profit. From a purely business sense, a 33% profit margin is great for any business. However, being realistic about earning enough money to pay the bills; $25 per assignment just isn’t enough. On that note, a person who does 4 signings per day, 5 days a week will have earned only $500 to pay for their mortgage/rent, food, medical insurance etc…

Moreover, when you factor in the time it takes using your average of 2.25 hours per assignment for 4 assignments per day, that person will have worked 9 hours per day (probably without a lunch break), or 45 hours per week to yield them $500 before personal taxes. Not sure, but I think McDonald’s pays more than that per week for the same amount of hours, and you don’t need a college degree(s), special training, experience, and various licenses to get a job there. LOL

I’m retired from my 30 year career in law enforcement so my home bills are paid from my retirement. Therefore, I don’t have to put my home bills into my “fixed costs” category and can just leave it with business costs. However, I would think that if someone did want to do this full-time as their primary means of income, they would have to make their home costs as well as their business costs part of their “fixed costs” per assignment. If they thought of it that way, they would see that it would take at least $150 per assignment to make a living. In my previous illustration, this would yield a person $1K per week (before personal taxes) to pay their household bills and still pay the business overhead.

In closing, I spoke of my personal situation as my reasoning for why I was one of the newbies taking lower fees. However, after hearing from Arichter, LindaH and others on this platform, I realized that I am/was part of the problem. So after I returned from my summer vacation, I became and now am committed to countering for a higher rate on most if not all offers. While this has decreased my monthly number of assignments, I do believe that it is the best way to start reversing the trend. So thank you for your post and reading my long winded post. LOL, I agree totally with you but specifically, $150 being a standard fee, and two that countering can be the catalyst for changing the trend.

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I understand we as notaries shouldn’t price fix, but I also want to believe we as notaries can set a minimum considering the expenses and requirements necessary to be a mobile notary. This make sense to me and good business sense. We should be able to set a minimum at least and that should be a threshold for all notaries.

Many companies want employees to believe they can’t discuss their salaries but honestly you really can discuss salaries. They don’t like for you to discuss because it hold the company accountable for discrimination and inconsistencies. So this is making me wonder why we all can’t set a minimum to be a successful business.

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It’s tough you need at least to make $70k a month to have a livable wage in california and even that is pretty low in california.

$70k a year excuse me, anything less then that annually and it’s best to move to a different state hahaha

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Thank you! LOL! YOu had me scratching my head at $70k/month… :slight_smile:

Great share. I’m long winded so I appreciate you in depth post!

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Well you may not have been off LOL. I was thinking 70k per month that’s about right :joy:

Great points. I remember employers making it as though employees couldn’t discuss salaries. Same here. I agree that sharing our businesses practices including what fees we charge is one of the purposes of all being part of a forum.

True…but think of it this way too - there are many who read here but don’t post

Do you want to tip your hand to your competition so you can be undercut and have business taken away? Although, for this site, my fees are right in my profile…not sure if the rest of you do that.

I know on this post, I’m late to the party, but recently had an experience. I always print the email order as it has address, phone and instructions. It also has the offered fee. Even if you have negotiated more. Signer needed some paper and couldn’t find any. I did not carry blank paper. Gave her my email print out to use the back page. She looked at the amount and said:“IS THIS ALL YOU ARE GETTING PAID?” oops.

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