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May 1, 2013

We should be setting the fees, not the other way around!

Filed under: Carmen Towles,Popular Overall — Tags: , — admin @ 9:00 am

I was reading on linked-in a thread that was started about a notary wanting to increase her signing agent fees based on gas prices. It was nothing outrageous just a simple $10.00 increase due to the rising fuel costs. This is not unreasonable, or is it?

Unfortunately today, in addition to fuel it seems everything that we use in our profession is rising, from paper, ink, etc., but the signing fees from many signing services are getting lower and lower. And I couldn’t help wonder how this increase or any increase for that matter is going to play out for those of you that choose to raise prices out of shear necessity. I remember back in our heyday when loan signing requests were at there all time high that I personally went to two of my major signing companies and requested ever so humbly that I needed a small fee increase. The response was that although they loved me and my work it was impossible for them to do this. My response was (in a nice but firm tone) that I felt that this was not an unreasonable request and I believed that they could very well increase the travel portion of my notary fee but just did not want to due to to the fact they didn’t want to share the fees any more than they have to. And although I didn’t say it I was thinking that it is was nothing but GREED that was the deciding factor and motivation for them to deny my request. It was at that time I stopped working for signing services at all. And I have never looked back.

So, now unbelievably so, it is 2012 and nothing has changed. From what all of you tell me (and from what I see with my own eyes) things are worse than ever in the fee department. Not to mention they have tacked on more duties that are now required of us, more pages to print, etc. For me it is just so outrageous that we are still allowing these companies to dictate what they will pay us. In my opinion, it should be the other way around. I don’t go in to my doctors office and tell him what I am going to pay for his services. He would definitely think I was nuts and most likely kick my you know what right out of his office. But what is even clearer is that I CAN’T go into anybody’s office requesting services and tell them what I am going to pay them. This is ludicrious. The signing services should take a percentage (lets say 30%) and that it is. After all we DO the bulk of the work. But sadly when working for most signing services we make the least amount of money. How did this come to be and how did it become acceptable to all of us?? When did it become okay for them to set our fees for us? Hell, did anybody ask you if this was ok?… I am positive nobody asked me!

I mean I have never heard of any industry that if independent allows OTHERS to dictate the fee for someones else service. If I have several notaries when calling around marketing or when they get a call requesting service, asking “How much do you pay?? Are you serious? This is UNACCEPTABLE to me! Why are WE asking how much THEY pay!?! We should be getting the details of what will be required and then offering up a price that is inline with the service that we are going to provide. Certainly not the other way around! This needs to stop! And it can stop with each of us doing our part. Stop asking and start telling!

Now, occasionally I read the boards and there will be a thread about price fixing… this is NOT what I am talking about. I mean are the apprisers, plumbers, doctors, private attorneys, etc price fixing when they keep their prices within a ball park of each other?? Certainly, not. It is about getting what you are worth! PERIOD. Until we start sticking together soon and I mean very soon; you WILL be working for free! (we damn near are now) And now, before anybody says it, I realize that they are more often than not the liaison between us and the title/escrow companies but if we all stick together and refuse these low ball fees, our fees WILL come up. And on a side note, if you ask me, it seems that the signing companies are the ones that are guilty of pricefixing!!

I’d love to hear some of your feedback on this issue!

Until next time! Be Safe!

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14 Comments »

  1. Carmen, as usual your entry is well written an makes many good points. However, as long as there are “signing nitwits” who accept 65$ edoc jobs (an hour drive, with faxbacks, from non-paying crooks) nothing will change. They may or may not be doing an acceptable job – that is not the point. The real issue is that the current situation is the “dark side” of a free market economy. Many individuals, fearing no income settle for little or more accurately phrased “negative income” – hoping the hiring party will be more generous “next time”. It’s a “buyers market” with many “sellers”. Nothing will ever change that. The wiser among us have diversified and have income streams from other than signings. Perhaps 123 will publish my blog article asking the wisdom of “sitting on a one legged stool” – which discusses the diversification concept in more detail. Without additional income streams the unwashed masses will continue to suffer with little or never arriving paychecks. The “signing situation” is way too broke to ever be fixed. Those who stick with (only) signings will perish.

    Comment by Kenneth A Edelstein — May 2, 2013 @ 3:14 am

  2. I agree with both Ken and Carmen’s points. It’s absolutely ridiculous and insulting for a signing company to call me and ask me to use my vehicle, my gas, my costs of insurance and wear and tear on the vehicle, print 300 pages, spend an hour driving to/from a signing, spend another hour or more with the borrower, plus spend more time to notarize, package and drop the package to a Fed Ex or UPS drop for $60??? I have a minimum fee of $125 and don’t drop below that, and yes, I’ll lose a lot of opportunities to work, but I won’t work for nothing. Those that do work for this won’t stay in the business long, and those of us that won’t work for little or nothing won’t be able to stick around to do this work either. The loan companies will have to find out the hard way that when there isn’t a notary available last minute to complete their paperwork signing and they have to spend more time re-drawing documents, they will need to start paying a decent fee to encourage notaries to be available. The bottom line truly is that we notaries have to maintain a decent minimum fee, or we will all suffer. I hope those notaries working for small fees take note.

    Comment by CarlaFerrell — May 3, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

  3. The low ball signing companies only think about their own profit and not the danger and added riks they put the lender and borrower at by selecting signing agents that work of a small fee.

    I recently heard of criminals becoming signing agents, then market themseleves for a low fee only to gain access to the private info on the borrowers. They then sell this info on the black market.

    The lender need to be weary of low ball signing companies and realize the Notary is their main line of defense when protecting their borrowers vital information. I would pay more to know the signing agent is looking out for all concerned.

    I have told the low ballers to remove me off their list. These low ballers tend to be the slowest to pay, if they pay at all.

    Wea are professionals and need to be respected and paid a resonable fee to conducting what is the most improtant tranaction most people will ever make.

    Comment by Tim — May 3, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

  4. It is funny this posted today, I received an email today from a company explaining how they are going to have more lenders and wanting to reduce our fees to $80 per closing. So I politely wrote them an email back explaining that the costs have been rising on fuel, paper, toner, etc and that my time as a retired escrow office/closing agent for 40+ years was very valuable and felt insulted when they know my experience since the information is required per their agreement. And also I was thinking of raising my fees to $125 to cover these costs as well as my time and experience.

    Comment by Elizabeth Gruning — May 3, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

  5. I have to admit that I am one of the people who take the lowball offers. I am new in the business so if I dont take the low ball offers, I don’t get called at all. But now that I have done over 150 loan packages (with NO mistakes), I feel that should be making more money. Unfortunately, I am still to new to sign up with most title companies and I am forced to use signing companies. I am wondering if they are offering bonuses or commission to the people who call us on the phone in order to encourage them to give as little as possible. I feel like I have dug myself into a hole though because I can’t get them to increase their prices like I assumed they would do after I had ‘proven’ myself. All I really did was prove myself to be a sucker. I have even had to turn down several assignments from good paying companies because I had already promised to take one from a low paying company..only to have that signing go sideways because the APR was wrong. Any ideas on how to get myself out of this mess I’m in?

    Comment by Tari — May 3, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

  6. Too many of us are like a heard of blind cattle, standing around, hoping to be fed and waiting to be whipped again! Let’s remember what we are doing when we bow to the “signing companies” They have made contact with the title companies and have agreed to take fees, many times, over $200.00. They contact us simpletons and put the signing up for bid. Our first mistake is offering a bid…what happens next in this case? they take the lowest offer that one of us fools will do the deal for!! What happens next? We meekly ask when we can expect our check and get told “we always pay with in 30 or 45 days” Then we wait often 2 or 3 months and many calls or emails until they let loose of our money that they have been living off of ever since the deal recorded.

    Some ideas: 1. Go after the real source of our business: The title companies. Market to those in your area and in the States from which most of the signing companies are getting business. In other words: ELIMINATE THE DO NOTHING MIDDLEMAN!! 2. When you agree to take an assignment Say in writing or berbally: “we expect our fee from you when you receive yours” If they don’t agree, tell um to eat grits and mark them off your list. 3. Expect and demand the same fee from a signing company that you would receive if dealing with a local title company customer.Example: In AZ if I go to a title company office near me to do a signing in their office I charge $75.00. If within say, 45 minutes $125.00 IF more than an hour away $150.00 and up. We once did a signing in a remote area of AZ, N. of the Grand Canyon that required a 15 hour round trip from Phoenix area, through Las Vegas, and back into AZ, and the Title company gladly paid us $400.00. IF the signing companies won’t pay us what we are worth, once the docs record, then why do business with them/ They need us far more than we need them under those circumstance. Rodrigo Jones, AZ

    Comment by Rodrigo Jones, AZ — May 3, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

  7. Bravo! thanks for the feedback! All of you make some very valuable points. Ken, when I mentor to folks,the first thing I usually tell them is this gig ain’t what it use to be. And you better not focus on just signings. General notary work will be your lifesaver. Without it many will be doomed. Rodrigo, The problem is that notaries are like you say bidding or asking what do you pay? Why?????? Do you hear the dentist asking you what you’ll pay for that root canal or a plumber asking what you’ll pay for him unclogging your drain. This is crazy to me. And we accept this crap…..

    Comment by Carmen — May 4, 2013 @ 8:24 am

  8. I agree, we must stand our ground, we are professionals with multiple years of experience. Just today I phoned a signing company for the fouth time for payment only to be told “we don’t pay until 30 -45 days from signing date,” after leaving several messages with the supposed “Accounting Department,” who is always out of the office and never returned my calls. If need be I will file complaints with the Better Business Bureau, for unprofessional and unethical practices of unpaid services.
    I agree with Rodrigo, when the signing company gets paid we should get paid, anything else should be unacceptable, period…
    As a signing professional we are handling a very important and lenghty transaction and should be paid when the deal closes just as everyone else involved, ie., Realtor, loan broker, escrow, etc. We are doing all the work and should eliminate the signing companies that want to pay “Peanut pennies” and go directly to the source, Title and Escrow companies.
    Thanks to all of you as of today, Iam changing the way I do business… We must stand united….
    Linda Bradshaw, CA – May 4, 2013 @ 4:57am

    Comment by Linda Bradshaw — May 4, 2013 @ 11:58 am

  9. One thing I have noticed is in some cases, the Title Company is hiring the notary directly through the listing services, and eliminating the middle man (signing company) completely from the equation! Everyone is looking to save money and keep a bigger slice of the pie. I enjoyed this article. It nicely balanced out the one a few weeks ago that said to accept all the low-ball offers you can to get established in the industry. Reality is, if your regional market is saturated with hungry NSAs, you have no means to negotiate. It’s only when the Signing Company is desperate that they will willingly part with a higher fee.

    Comment by Helen Wardale — May 5, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

  10. My husband and are both mobile notaries with separate listings. We are professionals and our work reflects this. We have noticed lately that more and more of our calls are for signings that have unusual circumstances or they want to know what we will charge to say travel 90 plus miles to do a signing at say 8:00 that night. When we tell them our price, they say they need to get it approved and will call back. They are not seeking to get the price approved at all. In fact, they are calling other notaries. Usually when one of us gets this type of call and are waiting for price approval, the other one gets a phone call, asking the same question. The next time this happens to me, I plan to ask the signing company to remove me from their list. Last week a representative of one of the companies needed someone to do a closing with faxbacks in the next 45 minutes. I said it would be pushing me, but I would try and the fee would be $125.00. She said she would need to get approval and call me back. She then called my husband who told her $150. Again, she needed to get approval and called him back and agreed to $150 rather than calling me back for $125. Crazy! If the money hadn’t stayed in the family, I would really have been mad!!

    Comment by Victoria Neace — May 6, 2013 @ 12:45 am

  11. I too am tired of being low-balled. I think what is happening in my small town is that the other notaries are either employed full time and do this for extra income or they just don’t undertand their worth. We are not getting rich doing this. We do it because it allows us to be independent and we like what we do and of course to make a living. I too do not understand why some signing companies find it necessary to pay us $75 for a signing. I agree with all of the previous comments. Our gas, paper, toner and time cost a lot. Not to mention that every so often one has to buy a new printer or new computer, get auto repairs, all sorts of things that only we know about. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome signing companies out there who are happy to pay my fee because they know they will get their docs back correctly but there are some that just don’t care how the work is completed so long as they only have t pay $65. I believe my experience and knoowledge is worth a lot more than that. Never was a “union person” but this is why unions were started and I understand why!

    Comment by Faye — May 6, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

  12. Thank you Carmen, that needed to be said. I love your comment regarding our fees “Stop asking and start telling!” As business owners we need to conduct ourselves as such. I’ve hand several companies, blow me off when I quote them my fee. However, I look at it as a blessing, because if they can’t handle HEARING what my fee is, what makes me think they will PAY it when I perform my service?

    Comment by TexasRose — May 10, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

  13. I agree with all of you. I find it very annoying to wait thirty days to receive a 200.00 check, when I have work hard all month completing closings. I did a closing on the 11th and for the same company on the 15th, thirthy days from the 11th I received a check for just that closing and still had to wait another thirty days for the one I did on the 15th. I called the company, and was told they pay on a thirty day cycle, that would be okay if they paidfor every closing performed in that month. Signing companies are getting a head since title pay for all closing performed in the month by the 5th of the following month, then why are we subject to this thirty day cycle from each closing? It is necessary to have a full time job and do this as a parttime gig.

    Comment by Carol — May 15, 2013 @ 12:42 am

  14. I have enjoyed working the last 8 plus years doing signings. However I am tired of having to go back and check to see who hasn’t paid. The signing companies claim they have \contracts\ with title companies and get paid once a month. No as soon as loan closes title has to disburse all closing costs and you can bet they get their money right away. I am in the process of compiling a black list. I told one company see ya the other day and I plan to do more in the near future. And I’m telling them they are on my list. When they call for you to drop everything and take care of all the work, and you do, then they should in turn take care of you. Be assertive and strong. Get rid of those companies that continually low ball and stick with the ones that respect you. We need to assist in cleaning up some bad companies.

    Comment by Sharon Blakemore — March 24, 2014 @ 3:37 am

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