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June 6, 2013

Industry Standards in the Notary Business

Many notaries claim to understand the loan signing business well. But, there are many things that even experienced notaries don’t know. Here are some industry standards to think about.

(1) Cross outs
Some lenders allow them while others don’t. As a best practice, avoid crossing anything out unless you have gone through all other recourses without any luck. You should ask your contact person if they think it is okay to cross out before doing so. If you can’t reach your contact person, see if that company allows cross outs. Remember, even if a company allows cross outs, it can compromise an entire loan and cause a redraw. So, don’t be “Cross-out-happy”.

(2) Initialing
This topic is not well taught, but really matters. I have received instructions that are identical from two unrelated parties. One was a processor, and the other was the owner of a signing company. Both instructed me that if a surname is spelled incorrectly in the signature section of a document, the initial goes UNDER the name. The processor noted that it should ideally go under the last several letters of the surname. Why? The processor or quality control people involved in the loan need to type in the corrected version of the name, and if you put initials where they are going to type, they will run out of space. This is a practical consideration and not a legal one. Initials go UNDER, so that retyped names can go to the RIGHT. This is a test question by the way.

(3) Order of documents
Most companies like documents returned in the same order they were submitted. Some are more flexible than others about this, but it is easier and more organized for them. That way they will know right away if they are missing something. Checks or notes should go on the TOP of the package and ideally attached to an 8.5 x 11 document so they don’t float away if unattended. Gusts of wind and careless coworkers walk by, bumping into things, and sending loose documents flying. I remember a client who lost a $20,000 check that I specifically remember putting in the package. Hmmm. Be careful — I am!

(4) Unsigned documents
If a borrower won’t sign a document, it should be returned at the TOP of the package. You don’t know who will open the package. Often it is a secretary, assistant, co-worker, or someone other than the contact person. If they don’t realize immediately that there is a problem, then there will be a delay fixing the problem. Remember — these folks are multitasking, and your loan is not the only one. Although you told them in a phone message that there is a problem, they still need the problem to be in their face.

(5) Hustling the borrowers
If a borrower doesn’t want to sign a document, don’t start off by pulling a “used car salesman” tactic. Call the contact person you have, i.e. Title, signing company, lender, etc. Leave a message, and allow 20 minutes for them to call you back. Call them once more if you don’t hear from them and wait another five minutes. If you still don’t hear from them, then you can tell the borrower about their three day right to cancel, and how if they don’t sign the document they might be facing a redraw. Remember, don’t start off by twisting the borrower’s arm — that is a last resort and is very rude and unprofessional to start off that way.

(6) Fedexing back the documents
If there is a problem communicating with the lender or other contact person, don’t delay Fedexing documents back unless instructed to. Many signers feel that it is “professional” to hold on to the documents until the next day until right before the Fedex deadline. Guess what, you might hear from the lender with instructions or you might not. But, what if you get busy and FORGET to dump the Fedex? What if you or a family member has a health emergency and you can’t drop the Fedex? Do you think of these things? Get rid fo the Fedex THAT NIGHT into the drop box at a staffed Fedex station if possible even if the staff are no longer there. It will get picked up. Remote drop boxes are sometimes risky, but boxes at Fedex stations are very safe. Think when handling time sensitive documents.

(7) Emailing documents back
If you get e-documents and have a question, don’t scan and email a document back. That is NOT secure. A hacker could do identity theft. Lenders are very uncomfortable with the idea that a notary would compromise their information. Use a phone or a fax, but not email for sharing information about the borrower. Remember, that when you received the documents, the portal was PASSWORD protected.

(8) Instructions
Many lenders have a letter of instructions when they assign a loan. The industry standard here is that there is no standard. Some lenders give written instructions while others don’t. Each one wants something different. Follow instructions to a tee, and you will be first on their list.

(9) Explaning things to the borrowers
If you are NOT in an attorney state, you can explain generic information about documents to the borrowers. But, do not give specific information about their loan, specific answers to questions about their loan, or commentary particular to their loan. Not allowed. Don’t even tell them their Rate. Just point and say, “Is this what you asked about?”. That way you are carefully refraining from telling them anything which they could accuse you of misstating after the fact.

(10) Confirm the signing with a tracking #
When you are done with a signing, leave a message with the Fedex tracking number.

(11) Title & Escrow prefer blue ink
I always used black unless specifically asked to use blue. But, many lenders nationwide prefer blue ink so that they can identify an original from a B&W copy immediately.

(12) Take the Fedex to a HUB.
Remote drop boxes are a recipe for disaster. Title will be all over you if the documents don’t get back on time. Find out where all of your local Fedex stations are. You could lose your best client if the documents don’t get back on time. Get a receipt too and save yourself a lot of problem. Not an industry standard, but it SHOULD BE.

(13) 40% of signing companies say: Don’t call the borrowers.
If you don’t call the borrowers, they won’t know that you are coming. Half the time, they won’t be ready for you either. So, unless you are absolutely sure that the company will pay you if the borrowers don’t sign, then think twice.

(14) Sign exactly as the name is printed
What if the ID doesn’t have the same name variation? Your Secretary of State might not take kindly to the fact that you notarized them under a name that is substantially different from what their ID reads. Proceed with caution and use a Signature Affidavit if necessary. Make sure that middle initials are clearly signed too so that the lender can sell the loan. If any part of the signature looks like it is omitted, reselling the loan will be a problem.

You might also like:

Learn about initialing in the March Phoninar

Fraud and forgery related to the notary profession



  1. Remember, don’t start off by twisting the borrower’s arm — that is a last resort and is very rude and unprofessional to start off that way.

    It’s not a last resort, it’s not any resort – A notary should NEVER exert any form of pressure to have a document signed. Such actions are beyond unprofessional, they might land you in court, or jail. I know, you did not mean that literally; but ANY form of pressure is just wrong wrong wrong. You are there to give the borrower the OPPORTUNITY to sign if they want to – not to get the signature by any means, physical or psychological.

    Comment by Kenneth A Edelstein — June 6, 2013 @ 2:21 am

  2. I get this all the time, I tell the borrowers to sign exactly as their name is printed, Then, they use a “stylized” signature that no one can read, let alone tell if they used their middle initial.When I ask “did you use your middle initial as it’s printed?”, “I sure did” they say. Always a touchy subject, I’m attempting to do as instructed and follow protocol, but who am I to tell someone what their signature should look like. If they sign where it’s legible, it’s really NOT the signature that is associated with that individual. Tough call. I usually have to let it go at that, and so far, no issues, but I always wonder about it.

    Comment by Dave Love — February 12, 2015 @ 5:15 am

  3. Ive been doing this entirely too long. I would have to say I almost disagree with everything in every topic mentioned in each area. And for good reason. Some of tge things you say actually violate state law. Jeremy, you really need to stop giving people advise. And don’t test anyone either, you need to be tested —

    Comment by Anthony — February 14, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

  4. Except for no. 6. Good job.

    Comment by Anthony — February 14, 2015 @ 1:41 pm

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