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September 16, 2019

Travel fees vs. Notary fees in your journal

Filed under: Journals — admin @ 11:10 pm

For those of you who keep a Notary journal, you need to record the Notary fee as one of the fields. But, what if you get paid $65 for a signing with a travel fee and two signatures? How do you differentiate between the travel fee and the signature fees?

You can either arbitrarily decide how much is a travel fee and how much is a signature fee if the job is a flat fee. Or you can base the fees on the fees you quoted the client.

When you fill in your journal, the main thing is to put a Notary fee that does not exceed the fees allowed by your particular state, otherwise you could be accused of charging excessive fees which is illegal. If California allows $15 per notarized signature on an Acknowledgment or Jurat, then you cannot inscribe more than $15 per journal entry for each Notary act.

For those of you who use the “cram it in” style of journal entries, you cannot put a notary fee for five documents on the same line. It just doesn’t make sense. This is yet another potent reason why you should not use a style of journal entry that inputs more than one document per line. It is impossible to prove in court that the signer consented to all of the documents being notarized since he is not signing for a particular one. It is also not possible to know what the fees involved are either which means you are not doing proper bookkeeping.

As far as the travel fee, you could input the travel fee for a particular appointment in the additional notes section of the journal entry and indicate that is is a travel fee. The travel fee I would indicate once on the first journal entry for a particular appointment. Correct and prudent journal entry procedure requires separate entries for each person and document. So, once again, three people each signing four notarized documents would result in twelve journal entries with the travel fee indicated in the top entry.

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August 31, 2019

Travel fees if nothing gets signed

Filed under: Notary Fees & Pricing — admin @ 10:55 pm

It is common for Notaries to go to a job where the signer refuses to sign, or the job gets cancelled. What can the Notary charge for a travel fee since he/she/they didn’t “do” anything? The answer is that the most important aspect of this issue is not what you charge but what you explain over the phone. The client/signer needs to be painfully (the more pain the better) aware that the notary’s schedule is not for free and that they have to pay x amount of dollars even if nothing gets done as well as waiting time.

It is a generally prudent policy to get travel fees in cash at the door upon arrival before seeing the signer. This is because you need to be able to be impartial and have no beneficial or financial interest in a document being signed. If your $50 travel fees is contingent on Sammy signing the Affidavit, you will be tempted to notarize it even if the ID doesn’t match completely. As a Notary, you need to not be tempted to wiggle on state notary rules, and having your travel fee in your pocket puts the power and integrity back in your pocket. It’s hard to be integrous when money is at stake.

If someone gives you $40 travel fee which includes the first 20 minutes waiting time, and then keeps you waiting more than that, since you have the $40 in your pocket, you can demand cash for the next twenty minutes or threaten to walk. People will string you along in this line of work so it is important to keep the upper hand, or as Mrs. Meao likes to say — the upper paw!

The bottom line is that communication of signing fees over the phone before the signing is the most important solution to the travel fee issue. Fail to communicate — you might not get paid at all. So, communicate not only what the client will have to pay, but terms and conditions for what gets paid when and how much. Also, be careful with checks. Signers who cancel jobs sometimes bounce checks or stop payment. It happened to me after a very time consuming jail job. I bet Mrs. Meao would have something to say about that!

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November 16, 2015

Should travel fees be flat?

Should anything be flat in the world of pricing?

Any notary who has a flat travel fee doesn’t understand that their time is not for free. Sure it is easier to have a flat notary travel fee, but what if a job is scheduled during rush hour, or is far away? You’ll spend all day long for a small travel fee. Keep in mind that most notaries on 123notary are loan signing agents and don’t do non-loan mobile notary work. However, if you want to do regular mobile notary work, there is cash to be made. No waiting for companies to send you checks, no invoicing, no fax backs, and no excuses!

It is easier when you have a flat travel fee for the first 20 miles, or some type of a radius. You could shorten the distance during rush hour to be more fair to yourself if you like. Or just keep it simple. I used to charge $35 travel fee and people would pay it. I learned that others would charge $50 and get it. Customers were desperate and would pay anything if you would just get there and do the job right away.

But, for longer commutes, many notaries don’t have a formula. Some have a mileage rate they stick to. Others just don’t have a plan. Mileage rates are good for highway driving, but not for in-town jobs. 30 miles in an urban area can easily take over an hour and wear down your brakes, while 50 miles on the highway can go by quickly.

In my opinion it’s easier to charge based on estimated time. Your formula will be complicated if you have separate rates based on how many miles, and then compensate if they are in a metro or on the highway, and then another adjustment if it is during rush hour. It is easier to say that the driving will take 75 minutes total for the round trip and that you will charge $50 for that. Your rates are up to you, but this is my suggestion.

Charge a fixed fee for the first 45 minutes of travel for your round trip.
Then charge extra for every additional estimated minute.
If you estimate wrong, then as my mechanic friends say, “eat it” meaning take the loss gracefully.

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November 14, 2019

Permission to travel for minors

Filed under: Technical & Legal — admin @ 5:46 am

I once created my own permission to travel for minors. The reason is that I wanted places for thumbprints of the various parties involved. I got feedback from repeat clients that the officials in Mexico liked my form because it was thorough and included lots of good forensic information. Here is what I put on my form.

1. Name of the authorizing party.
2. Name of who (name of child) they were authorizing to travel
3. Dates they authorized the child to be gone.
4. Name of the accompanying adult and their relationship to the child or family if any.
5. Places where the party would be traveling to.
6. Thumbprints of the authorizing party and optional prints of the child, and accompanying parties.

I (name of authorizing party) authorize (name of child) to travel to (name of place) accompanied by (name of guardian adult). They will leave (name of city leaving from) on (date) and return on (date). They will be traveling to (name of cities and country).

I do not remember the exact verbiage, but this covers the bases and all pertinent information if I am not mistaken. Traveling overseas as a child is a big deal. You want to make sure nobody is getting kidnapped and make sure nobody is suspicious of kidnapping.

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October 9, 2019

Maximum Notary fee $5, but the signing pays $200?

Filed under: Notary Fees & Pricing — admin @ 11:23 pm

Each state has a maximum notary fee per notary act or procedure. Some charge by the signature, Florida charges by the stamp if I’m not incorrect (better look that one up.)

But, if you are allowed $5 per signature, the signing has four signatures, but pays $200, then what? Are you breaking the law? Or are you being paid for mobile fees and supervising fees? The truth is that you are being paid for a bunch of responsibilities within your service:

Printing documents
Confirming an appointment
Supervising the signature and initialing of documents
Answering simple questions (perhaps)
Not answering questions you are not supposed to (unless you are a know-it-all who is looking for trouble)
Notarizing
Waiting while people read or have long conversations by phone with the Lender.
Getting the documents safely back where they belong
Availability for after service.

All of those combined definitely merit at least $125, don’t you think?

So, how do you document this in your journal? $5 per notary act. Two people x two notary acts per person is four lines in your journal each stating $5 for the notary fee. And then in the additional info section for the first notary act of the set, put down you got $180 travel / supervising fee for a loan signing. Then it is all documented just in case the IRS has any questions. Notary fees are not subject to self-employment tax but travel and supervising fees are. Look it up in the SE instructions.

But, what if you live in California and the Notary fee is $15, you have ten signatures, but the job only pays $100. You could charge $150 plus travel for that signing, but your Lender or signing company isn’t paying that. Just put whatever you want for the notary fee between zero and $15 per notarized signature in your journal. And do a reasonable estimate for what the travel and supervising fees should be — just estimate and try to be proportionate.

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July 12, 2019

Why are the fees offered to us so low you ask?

Filed under: Carmen Towles — admin @ 3:15 am

Why are the fees offered to us so low?
….because many of you keep taking them. Some folks are new to the profession and don’t know any better. They want to get experience at any cost. Others know better but take them because they are desperate and can’t seem to find better paying work. Whatever camp you fall in you should not be taking low fees. Why? Because it hurts all of us!

Let me give you some history on our profession. Years ago, it use to matter to signing services/companies who they used. There use to be oral and/or written tests given before they would hire you. And with the exception of a few they paid better and more timely. But those days are behind us. Most of them don’t seem really to care. They are looking for the most green, inexperienced notary so they can maximize THEIR profits. Most title and escrow pay anywhere from 150 to 300 per signing and the signing services know this even if you don’t. The money is allocated from borrowers closing fees and the (title/escrow) typically aren’t paying it out of their title/escrow fees, they are charging it the borrowers. So signings don’t cost them anything for the most part. (there are exceptions to this but no need to get into that now, that’s for another blog). 🙂

Many of you ask me why they use signing services in the first place. Bottom line is they use them for convenience. It is easier to just give the service the assignment and let them find a notary. It frees them up and saves them an enormous amount of time to follow lender instructions and make sure all conditions are met so they can close. But over the years as things have slowed up and due to many notary errors many have abandoned signing services altogether. So contrary to what many folks think many of them do still use notaries directly. But the notary signing professions is still over run with companies that are just out to maximize their profits. And this is our fault.

I had a notary just call in the other day and told me that she was offered a sellers package from a signing service for 20.00. (you know they were receiving WAY more than that) 20.00 dollars people! Unbelievable. Just take a moment and let that sink in. That paltry fee is not even worth starting your car up for. Here in Callie we get 15.00 per signature and then if you have to print (god only knows how many pages) and then take them to FedEx or UPS to ship them back, it is just not worth the time, energy or paper.

Now the saddest and worst part about this situation is probably not the ridiculously low fee of 20.00 being offered, it is the fact that although the notary speaking with me refused, we know somebody will/or did accept it. For those of you that have followed my blogs and or spoken with me, I predicted long ago that as long as there are notaries that take low fees, they would persist and they would eventually get lower and lower. That day has come. I too was just recently offered 65.00 to go to a place that is about 40 minutes from me. There were 2 copies needed to be printed, signed and dropped all at FedEx or UPS all for for 65.00. I would never accept such an assignment, even if I were desperate.

I know that a lot of folks don’t really understand this business and the learning curve is quite high. I also know that other notaries once they start to figure things out they don’t share information on pricing/fees. But we need to work together. We need to educate each other that fees need to be fair and reasonable. We are all in this to make a profit. And you can’t make a profit if others are making/taking the majority of the money (signing services) and you are undercutting one another just to say you had some work.

Remember, the goal is to work direct! Marketing and advertising is key to your success in reaching those title and escrow that have had it with signing services. It is time to works smart not hard. Know your worth.

Just some food for thought…

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January 23, 2019

What are Mobile Notary Fees?

The states decide what a Notary can charge for Notary services, but few states have rules for what a Mobile Notary or Traveling Notary can charge for mobile services and waiting time.

Notaries in most states (NV & MD have restrictions I’ve heard) can charge whatever they want for Mobile Notary Fees. There are many factors that determine a Notary’s fees. I will list these factors below. Rates generally range from $20 to $50 for mobile fees plus notary fees which differ by the state.

Experience
Notaries with experience typically set their rates higher. The fee depends on how desperate or arrogant they are. Rates can really vary, so shop around. But, realize that getting the best rate is not always the best idea because knowledge and experience count. Also note, that years of experience rarely translate into knowledge. Most Notaries are show offs and typically brag about how many years they have been doing this job. But, when you drill them on knowledge, you might find out they have about the same knowledge as someone doing this for two years who reads Notary tutorials and handbooks regularly. A word to the wise!

Distance
Notaries charge for distance. Some calculate distance based on miles, while others focus more on how long it will take. Others charge by what county you are in or what particular area you are in. It will save you money if you find someone close.

Time of Day
If you hire a Notary during the day, there are more Notaries operating, and the price is lower. If you want a Notary to go to a hospital at 3am, you might be looking at paying double or triple the normal fee. Sometimes the Notaries who offer 24 hour service will yell at you and ask, “Why are you calling me so late? Do you have any idea what time it is?”

Type of Job
If the job is a document signing or loan signing the price will be more of a standard price. Most Notaries do loan signings for $70 to $110 unless they consider themselves to be fancy in which case the price would be $125 to $175. Hospital and Jail jobs cost more because there is more involved, more legal risk, more waiting time, and the clients are normally more difficult. Additionally, since fewer Notaries will do hospital and jail signings, the price by default goes up.

Printing
If the Notary needs to print or fax anything the price goes up.

Waiting Time
If you keep an experienced Notary waiting, they will normally want to get some sort of compensation for their time. Some have a set rate while others have a very foggy idea of what to do if you keep them waiting. Try to be prepared so you don’t keep anyone waiting.

Legal Advice
Please do not ask a Notary for legal advice. They are not authorized to give any, and you will not get good information from a notary about legal matters anyway unless they are an Attorney Notary. Ask an Attorney who is competent and specializes in whatever your question is.

Document Drafting
Ask an Attorney where to get your document drafted and what terms to put in it. Notaries should not help in drafting documents unless they are legally authorized to do so which is rare.

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November 3, 2015

When to ask for ID over the phone & fees at the door

Many Notaries just don’t learn to be business-like. You have to get burned a dozen or more times to snap out of it. If you do notarizations at a hospital or for the elderly, they rarely have a current ID. If they do, then they can’t find it. In general, when you do notarizations, you need to verify that the signer has ID. Unfortunately, if you do hospital jobs, the daughter will insist that mom has her ID. When you ask for them to read the ID number to you over the phone they quickly discover that they have no IDea where the ID is. Hmmm. Have them call you back with the serial number and most important — the expiration date. If the expiration date is from 1964 you will not be able to notarize — sorry!

Then, there are the hospital visits that end prematurely because the signer was just drugged by the nurse. It is not legal to notarize someone who doesn’t know which end is up. So, if you notarize for folks in hospitals, tell them that you will cancel the notarization if the signer is drugged or not able to communicate in an intelligent way (or hold a pen.) However, the party involved might not want to pay you after your 45 minute drive since you “didn’t do anything!” But, I drove here you exclaim!

Get your travel fees at the door. Explain when you book the appointment for a hospital, office or jail that you need your travel fee at the door and waiting time. People in Law Offices are never ready on time. They will hold you hostage for two hours without a second thought. They value their own time and not anyone else’s. In fact , their entire business model is based on making everyone else wait for them. So, make them pay for your time.

$40 to $80 travel fee at the door in cash. Sorry, but nine states have restrictions on travel fees which is not constitutional.
Jail and hospital jobs take longer by definition and should have a higher travel fee. Office and home visits are normally fast unless you are dealing with Attorneys who make you wait.
$20 waiting time the minute twenty minutes elapse, and every twenty minutes after before the signatures and ID’s are ready.
$? per signature depending on what your state allows.

So, you walk in the door. Before you see the signer, or any hospital rooms or jail cells you get your $40. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, rather, collect your $40 before you even go in the building. Then, you proceed to wherever you are lead. In a jail, you might have to fill out forms and wait in the waiting room. In a hospital you go up to the room and then there will be a twenty minute conversation about, “How are you feeling, and do you think you are up to sitting up?” The conversation always lasts for at least ten minutes before the topic of the Notary being there and please sit up and sign something starts. The Notary’s time is taken for granted at 90% of hospital Notary jobs which is why you charge a waiting fee. At $1 per minute people will either not hire you, or treat your time (and possibly you) with respect.

In the event that your prison inmate has been transferred, escaped, or is in lock down, you will be happy you got your $40 travel fee. For jails, I recommend charging $80 to $120 travel fee. You might get stood up, and there is a lot that can go wrong. Please read our blog’s other articles on jail signings to be a pro at dealing with cons!

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February 2, 2015

Trip + Notary fee = Payment

Filed under: Ken Edelstein,NSA Pricing, Fees & Income — Tags: , , — admin @ 3:05 am

I have never, repeat never; had a dispute over my notary fees. The key is to make sure in each assignment that the notary fee is fully disclosed when agreeing to perform the service. I write this looking at a check, handed to me for not doing any notarizations. But, that is near the end of my story. Time to back up and present what happened in chronological order.

The caller is an admin assist for a company in midtown needing a notary. Caller does not know the details of what is required, just that a notary is needed. They might need one notarization or several hundred. I quote a fee of $xx for “the trip”, plus the NY State fee of $2 per signature notarized. If five people sign, and there is one notary statement naming them all; to my way of thinking I have done five notarizations with my single signature. I do have to ID check and oath all five of them. For that reason I always use the term “per signature notarized” in any fee agreement. We agree, I leave for the assignment.

Arriving ten minutes early, the receptionist tells me that the work has been already done. They had apparently scheduled a few of us; and to them “the notary race” was on! The ever-present smile behind the counter says “sorry to have troubled you”, “we have no need for your services”. I explained that the issue is not having troubled me, but that I require my fee. The office manager is called. In a calm, polite voice and manner I explain how I perceive the situation. Your admin assist made a verbal contract with me. I was required to arrive prior to a specific time, which I did; for a specific fee of $xx. It was further agreed that I would receive $2 per signature notarized. There was a clear distinction between the trip and notary fees. To earn the trip fee I had to be on time. I was on time.

The office manager initially leaned towards a “you did nothing” rejection. I noticed some signs on the wall. It was time to fire some “big guns”. I repeated there was a fee due, and if not paid I would complain to the Division of Licensing Service, and the Consumer Protection Bureau of NYC. I could tell the office manager did not want that. Two straws broke the last vestiges of resistance. I noticed you have an A+ Better Business Bureau certification. It is my intent to send a very detailed complaint to the BBB as well. Lastly, I intend to file a lawsuit against the President of your firm in Small Claims court. It will include my fee, court costs, and other expenses. We are both aware you will require an attorney to represent your corporation; I on the other hand am retired and have lots of free time to spend in a courtroom.

“Mr. Edelstein, please have a seat, it will only take five minutes to cut you a check”. The check was for the $xx trip fee and in the memo section said “transportation reimbursement”. Did I over react? I don’t think so. We had a very clearly defined two part verbal contract. The fact that, for whatever reason, they had no work for me; ONLY negates paying me the $2 per. Filing complaints and initiating lawsuits might seem extreme, but not to me. It took me a full hour in dense NYC midtown traffic to get to their office. Write it off for “good will” and hope they call me next time? Not realistic considering their tactic of playing “multiple notary race”. Actually, I would have also posted the exact truth on social media, Yelp, etc. If in your heart you feel they don’t have a “shred of a valid point” on their side; do what it takes to receive your rightful pay.

Tweets:
“But, you did nothing” the client replied after the notary wanted a travel fee for a cancelled job.

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August 2, 2014

Signing Services take a portion of the notary fee

It is a well known fact that signing services take a portion of the notary fee. Some take most of it, while others only take a fraction. It is very bizarre how so many companies work on such different margins. I remember when I was in the game back in 2004. One company charged $250 and paid $75. Another company did business based on volume and charged $90, but paid only $50. This was in the days before e-documents were popular. Once in a while you can read the HUD and find that a company is charging a whopping $400 for signing fees. They might claim that part of that is for Attorney or processing fees, but I don’t buy that.

One borrower saw some outrageous notary fee on the HUD, and asked the notary how much he got from it. The notary replied that he got enough to get something on the value menu at McDonalds. The borrower didn’t like that crack much.

Notaries feel that it is not fair that they get such a small percentage of the fee. In business, there is no “fair.” You take it or leave it. If you are taking it, then that is your non-verbal way of saying that is the best you can do, and it is therefor fair. Take it or leave it. To be able to leave it, you need to have a steady stream of better offers.

Notaries always complain about bad offers. But, it is like a girl at a dance hall. If she gets 19 bad offers, but 1 good one, the good one is all she needs. On the other hand, if another girl got three bad offers and complains about them, the problem is not the bad offers, but the lack of good offers.

If you are not an experienced notary with excellent skills, you don’t merit high pay! Become an expert, pay your dues, master the art of communication, and then you might get better offers. Only 2% of the notaries on 123notary are top notch, and they are getting most of the good offers!

Tweets:
(1) It is bizarre to see how signing companies work on such varied margins ranging from modest to highway robbery!
(2) Notaries feel that it is not fair that they get such a small percentage of the notary fee on the HUD

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