People are making too many mistakes
One experienced Washington, DC notary asserts that, throughout the country, “Some of the people just coming into the profession are not literate and make too many mistakes… I get a few calls a week from titlecompanies where the closing was not done correctly, and they ask me to re-do the work… If we want to be professionals, we have to keep ahead, follow the law, and continue to act in the best interests of all.”
“Besides being careful and meticulous,” he adds, “do not backdate documents or signatures, ever! No matter how many times you are asked to backdate documents– supposedly to benefit the borrowers– DO NOT do it. It is illegal. Knowingly putting a different date on a document is fraud and you could go to jail. I have heard of many young notaries who are willing to experiment with backdating. They say ‘What’s the big deal? I was asked to do this.’ As a Washington DC notary, I know I am a state official, and I take this seriously. There is even another notary site where someone claims ‘everyone does this’. NOT everyone does it, and in DC, I personally know several notaries who are now out of work because they got caught. And when your documents are rejected, you will also have legal hassles. Not worth it–if you want to last in this profession. And just as notaries talk–companies talk. Do not risk getting a reputation as an ‘easy’ and inexperienced notary.”
Understand the documents, but don’t advise.
Our Washington, DC notary continues, “READ through all the documents carefully, so you know what the borrowers are and are not being asked to do. The most called-upon notaries and notary signing agents are the ones who know exactly what a document is saying and can confirm that if a borrower asks. If you are a new notary signing agent, read through some sample papers to be able to understand the language and the fees the borrower is agreeing to. Of course, some notaries feel that giving a brief summary of a section could be construed as giving ‘legal advice,’ which is prohibited…so you need to reiterate that you are not giving ‘advice.’ Many borrowers have many questions, and really do not understand a document well enough to sign it; in that case, you must call the loan officer and have him or her speak to the borrower. You can summarize… but you can’t give advice. The better you do your job, the more you will be in demand. This means explaining clearly and in a reassuring way what something says–without giving ‘legal advice.’ ”
Title Producer License
For this reason–the fact that some notaries have given “legal advice”–some states, notably Indiana and Maryland, as well as DC–require a notary signing agent to have a title insurance producer’s license in order to handle loan signings. A North Carolina notary told us that, despite the recent ruling that notary signing agents may continue to do closings, “There is a ‘movement’ in the state to make NC an ‘attorney only’ state.” In Connecticut, attorneys generally handle real estate signings anyway. But Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts (except if the notary works for the lender), South Carolina, West Virginia, and Vermont require an attorney to be involved in the signing…and Texas requires that any HELOC loan be done in the office of a lender, attorney, or title company (but could be done by a notary!). Says our North Carolina notary, “South Dakota is not clear on this issue, and seems to say that an attorney usually handles a loan signing…but attorneys often send their notaries to do it! Honest! The point? This preference for having an attorney supervise a signing is becoming a trend, and you should check with your state and get any necessary certifications that will assist you.”
Taking the trouble to get a new certification
A few notaries have reported that they do not want to go to the trouble of getting a new license or certification of any sort…but it is one more tool to help you get the work you need. A title producer’s license (also called a title insurance producer’s license) just means that you will have taken 50-60 hours of special coursework and will have passed an exam and paid an extra fee. “This license may be one more certification you want to obtain if you want to stay ahead of the game,” our North Carolina notary asserts. “The more certifications you have, the more you will be ready to serve the public as a notary or notary signing agent.”
Have a business plan?
Finally, one of the best tips we’ve heard recently is to have a business plan. It is always surprising the number of people in the notary business who do not have a plan. A plan means knowing what the market is in your area, who your competitors are, how and where you will expand, how much to invest, and also what certifications and credentials you will have. This includes knowing your strengths–what people like about you– and good reviews from those you have done work for. Getting good reviews from people who value your work can give you–as well as others–a fresh idea of what your skills really are, how you look to others. And when others read the reviews of your work as a notary, they will choose you because they will feel your experience and way of doing things are most relevant to their needs.
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