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January 24, 2013

12 tips for notaries: How do you get the job done?

Most every notary says he or she explains the documents clearly, but some seem to go beyond the call of duty. We have rarely heard of a notary being called into question for doing the right thing…but that idea of “right” varies from notary to notary. Here are a few thoughts on what is and isn’t appropriate, particularly at loan signings. Please write and tell us what you do that people respond to or find useful at an in-home signing.

One successful Washington notary says, “I am known for being responsive and reliable. People depend on me. I work only for title companies and escrow companies. I am very detailed.

My goal is not to make a mistake. This includes being careful what I say, and I learned the hard way when I was starting out.

Tip: Don’t say too much! When I was just starting out, a borrower asked me about PMI’s. This means private mortgage insurance, a necessity for the lender if the borrower has put down less than 20%. Someone (the loan officer? Who?) had told the borrower that this extra amount would come off the loan in a year…but I could see right in front of me it wasn’t true! Anyway, PMI’s do not come off at least until you have reached 20% equity, and that is a long time,” explains this Washington notary. “Anyway, that one time I must have said something, because I got a call from the lender the next day about the PMI’s! Today, I would just ask the borrower to seek legal advice….but I might be bold enough to call the lender myself, or to put a note in with the package that someone had told the borrower such-and-such. About the lender, I’m not saying they’re lying, but when I say ‘You should get the advice of an attorney,’ I am telling the borrower important information. If they don’t want to take my advice, they do not have to. I see it that way today,” concludes our Washington notary.

Michigan notaries seem down to earth and have some good suggestions. One Michigan notary says, “I grew up in the hotel industry, and I know you have to go above and beyond to make people happy. I’ve had several signings where the borrower was unhappy about how long it took them to get the loan…and I am the only person they have seen during the whole process, so they want to talk. Sometimes there are errors, and people know it…they want to sign, but they want to talk it out. I make up for what was done wrong by just letting them talk. Tip: Nine out of ten people sign documents if you just let them talk it out. Take the time; it is worth it in the long run. Very, very few take the three-day right of rescission on a loan, for instance, because they need the money. They just need to talk to a live person.

Another Michigan notary points out, “Many people are sure the mortgage company is out to screw them. I explain every bit of the mortgage document. I am a contract closer.

Tip: The companies want someone to explain the contract and make someone feel good. You have to bring out the heart of the document. If they are satisfied, they will sign. If you feel they are really being taken advantage of, tell them to call an attorney,” says this Michigan notary, “but be sure the people know why they are calling. Mark the page for them with those little plastic sticky-note markers. Then, help them make notes.” Everyone is suspicious, and the notary has the opportunity to make the situation better.

Regarding explanations, one Virginia notary says, “It’s natural, but new notaries are not so good at explanations of documents and procedures. The NNA is the guilty party, telling notaries ‘It’s not your job to explain things,’ and they also encourage notaries to work for less. Sometimes, you really owe it to the borrower or signer to indicate what he or she is getting into. Tip: Here is how to give advice without giving advice: ‘If your neighbor walked in and saw this [document], he might have this comment _______________________.’ Then you can see how the person reacts. Another thing you can do is say ‘Read page____again.’ Then, explain any language without adding your own ideas or judgments.

By all means, encourage the person to call an attorney if you are concerned.

Once a borrower was telling me he had a fixed loan; I saw it was fixed only for two years. Then there were adjustments…but I can’t correct the loan officer.”

Tip: “If a borrower keeps telling you what he was told, that is the moment to encourage that person to call the loan officer,” says this Virginia notary, “and record it in your notary journal. Say why the closing got delayed–if that is the way it goes. ” Another Virginia notary says, “I’m good at getting people to relax. People are all stressed out.

Tip: Try to say something nice about the house or the pictures. If you talk about something you genuinely find interesting or positive, it will break the ice and create trust. One woman had all kinds of quilts on the wall. At first, she was very rude, but we kept talking about quilts and soon she was talking about the King George Quilting Society, which I knew well. These turned out to be people I would have liked as neighbors or friends,” says our Virginia notary. “By the way, then people will write you a great review. Ask.”

Tip: “Have a written business plan,” insists one North Carolina notary. “Do you think things will always go on and on the way they are now? When business is good is the time to figure out where you want to be in a year or five years. Plan for it. Make as many contacts as you can, get more certifications, and get good reviews from people who write well and like your work. ” Every North Carolina notary is painfully aware of hard times and unemployment right now, and this advice reminds us to take an hour every week to plan for the future and be proactive. Another North Carolina notary says, “Sometimes a title company will ask me to drive a long way for $50.” Tip: “Ask the people if they will meet you part-way. Sometimes it works out that they want to do some shopping or there is a place they will visit that is closer to you. It never hurts to ask.” Also, another successful notary gives this Tip: “People will be patient if it’s about money. If you can link back your explanation to a fee or a benefit, these people will listen. But you have to give them the time to read the documents.” Another notary has this Tip: “I tell them, ‘I get paid anyway whether you sign or not, so you don’t have to sign if you don’t want to!’ This lets them know that it is their decision. I am not putting words in their mouth or giving advice.”

Finally, one Florida notary offers this Tip: “When I send my invoices, I ask for reviews. I have no shame about asking. I get lots of positive comments and the snowball effect of having many good reviews continues to ensure work for me in the future. I take every step I can to benefit my reputation and skills as a Florida notary.” This Miami notary has 15 reviews, all very impressive. Who will people look at first in the list? The person who has all these great kudos. It is hard to argue with the energy and enthusiasm of so many diverse clients who have used this Florida notary’s services. Tip: We asked the notaries who get reviews how long it takes to get, say, five reviews. “About a day,” says a New York notary. “Of course, you have to get up on a weekend morning or spend an evening emailing and calling people… but it takes no time at all. And it feels great to see in writing all the services I’ve helped provide.” Our hard-working notaries in Hawaii, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, and every other state concur.

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