“We are waiting for approval of the HUD before we can send you the docs”. I’m sure you have heard that frequently. Arguably the single most informative document in the package. The HUD, along with the Note, Mortgage and TIL (you better know what the letters stand for) comprise the heart of the deal. Although the HUD is usually not notarized, you DO have to take a look at it.
Probably the most important things for you to check are lines 303 and 603 on the first page. But first take a look at items D and E on the top. D & E name the borrower and seller. Generally you will meet either the borrower or the seller; occasionally both. Now you know if you are meeting with the borrower or the seller, and a quick check of 303 and 603 will let you know if there is “Cash (x) From” due. You are expected to notice cash from and to pick up the payment.
Generally the check is made payable to the Settlement Agent. The agent is named in box H at the top of the form. The check(s) are usually made out to the name in box H. On page 2 in the 1100 series of entries there is often a notary fee listed. Sorry, but that is not the amount that you will receive; it’s the amount payable to the Signing Service. If it says $350 and you took the job for $75; you can be sure the Signing Service considers you a hero. As you recall they said they are only getting $125, you might have a slightly different opinion of them.
There is generally a separate signature page. Oddly, the signature page is often not numbered and really has no “tie” to the HUD itself. Take care here; often the signature page requires two signatures. It’s an easy mistake to just obtain the first required signature but not the second. It’s also easy to become a favorite with the settlement company. They need several copies of the HUD and often make them and stamp them with “Certified True Copy” – they are always delighted when the notary prints a few originals, five is a nice quantity; and has original signatures on each.
Sometimes you will receive the entire package minus the HUD; which you are told will follow as soon as it’s approved. Wanna take a chance? If so, go ahead and print the two copies of the docs that you currently have in your inbox. Don’t be too surprised if you are told to shred what you printed. Numbers on the can HUD relate directly to other numbers in the package. If at all possible wait for word that the HUD is “final” prior to printing the package.
As the HUD is the key “money expenses” page; it’s common for the borrower to receive email with “preliminary” numbers. Obsolete HUDs (that are not the “final”) look very similar to the “final” that you brought to the table. Take care that an earlier HUD, printed by the borrower is not mixed in with the documents that you printed. Borrowers will frequently want to compare the one they printed (left hand) to the one you brought (right hand). Be absolutely sure that you return the one sent to you and not the one sent to the borrower.
There is a silver lining to the gray cloud of HUDs. It’s a federal form and almost always the HUD is basically identical and it’s easy to find information. However, I have seen “HUD clones” that do not follow the standardized format. Take care to look closely to determine how these are signed (perhaps also initialed?). Rarely notarized, it’s an easy form to process. Return a few copies of what was sent to you, signed in all the right places.
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In this tough economy, many notaries have simply dropped out. The remaining notaries, as tough or as proud as they portrayed themselves to be have simply had to compromise their standards for what they charge. Many signing agents with ten or more years of experience told Carmen (in confidence) that they were forced to accept $60 signings just to stay afloat. So, we won’t mention any names, but you know who you are. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Americans complain about what Indians would regard as a luxury!
Notaries complain endlessly about how unfair it is that they only get $75 for so much work with such high expenses. My take on the situation is quite different because I travel. A policeman in India makes $50 per month (not including bribes.) Can you imagine living on $50 per month? How would you rent a place to live? You would be living on top of each other twenty to a room and eating dahl and rice in small quantities once or twice per day if you were lucky. Can you imagine this type of poverty that hard working Indians endure as a matter of standard procedure? And what about the folks in the countryside who work for 20 rupees per day which is about 40 cents. That is about $12 per month. When you get these $75 assignments, just say to yourself, “I made four months of a Bihari farmworker’s salary in two hours! Yippee!”
If you are doing worse than last year, do you get upset?
It is a human tendency to be sad when you are not getting what you want, or what you used to easily get. But, this human tendency needs to be changed. We live in a changing world where what was impossible yesterday might be easy tomorrow, and vice versa. You need to just do the best you can do and not base your life today on whether it is better or worse than last year. Notaries base their fees on 123notary on what they paid last year. If I charge $150 this year, but only $120 last year, they are upset that they are paying more this year than last year. What really matters is not what happened last year, but if your investment is getting you a sufficient return.
Let’s do the math
If you get $75 for a loan signing, how much work and expense is really involved. You might spend 20 minutes on the phone on average including follow up calls, scheduling and making sure the documents arrive through whatever medium is used. You might need to drive thirty to forty-five minutes both ways to the signing. You might go through 350 pages of paper, and some toner or ink printing the documents which is not for free unless you have a gift certificate to office-max.
Your real expenses might be $4 of car expenses including gas, oil changes, and other wear and tear.
If you can purchase paper for a bulk price you might use up $3 in paper, and $2 in ink or toner (just guessing)
You might use up two hours of your time including everything: 1 hour driving; 30 minutes signing; 20 minutes on the phone; 10 minutes doing fax backs. (best case scenario)
After expenses, you get $66 profit and you can deduct your miles at the Federal mileage rate as well!
If you spent two hours total, you got $33 per hour.
On the other hand, if you spent an hour each direction, had to wait four hours for documents, and the signers read every letter of every page and asked a million questions, plus spent an hour on the phone with Fred the lender, then you might have invested seven hours which would leave you with $9 per hour which is still above minimum wage in most states.
$20/hour is not bad for someone who can just walk in off the street.
I would say in all honesty, that the average signing agent probably makes about $20 per hour for their assignments. More seasoned signing agents who command higher rates like $125 or more per signing might make $45 per hour on average. Being a relatively inexperienced signing agent is not a high skilled job like being a nuclear physicist. You do not merit $50 or more per hour unless you are the best 1% of notaries in the business or are an Attorney. All you need to be a notary signing agent is to be a resident of a state (not even a citizen in many states,) fill out an application (most states don’t even have a notary exam,) get bonded, and take a quick class in loan signing; $20 per hour is not bad for someone who can just walk in off the street and start doing loan signings. For a notary with three years of experience, they should be making more like $25-$30 per hour. That is what I made when I was doing signings with that level of experience!
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