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November 25, 2011

Payment terms – set by the Buyer or Seller?

Filed under: Ken Edelstein — Tags: — admin @ 9:11 am

Payment terms – set by the Buyer or Seller?

As often discussed “in the old days” the “Closer” had “pickups” and earned a significantly higher fee than current signing agents. Sure they took risk, but the higher fee (often several hundred dollars) made up for the few that did not fund…..

Fast forward to today. Notaries are the “seller” of their “signing agent services” and the buyers are Signing Services, LO’s, Title companies, Escrow companies, etc.

In every other case that I know of – it is the SELLER who sets the payment terms. The seller / service provider sets how and when they are to be paid. Common sellers are Ebay merchants, Exxon, McDonalds, your dentist, even the babysitter. As the BUYER in almost every case – you make payment “up front” prior to getting the service or merchandise. There are exceptions; when you leave your car for service, you pay when you pick up the car. Or, you don’t get the car and a “mechanics lien” kicks in and the car is either taken or held till payment is made.

What baffles me is the supposed “industry standard” whereby notaries are expected to up front expenses, services, and professional time; in the “hope” of later payment. Some, actually as I read the various posts, many – are never paid.

As mentioned the high fee true “closer” was paid at closing, and “on the HUD” – paid according to law – on time, with other disbursements.

With the proliferation of, to phrase it gently, “problem receivables”; I just don’t understand why so many notaries do not require “up front” payment. Almost all of my individual (non-signing) work is received in advance. My standard answer as to “why in advance” is that it is dangerous for me to go from place to place adding cash – it’s much safer for me to be paid by credit card. “Why in advance?” – because many cards often fail clearance. I tell clients that they receive a nice receipt from PayPal – and I receive a scheduling notification. Simple, clean and effective.

I require the same of all but the highest rated signing related work. Unless they have the best of 123 AND Rotary feedback – it’s in advance or I decline the job. I would not be able to maintain this policy if it was costing me a big chunk of work – but it is NOT. With “pay in advance” I can accept work from the WORST “duds” that most would turn down due to their “no pay / slow pay” reviews. That’s not a problem when the money is already in the account. Why would they do such an about face – because they are desperate to farm out the job to keep THEIR client happy. Soooooo, don’t have a “won’t take work from dud list” – have a PayPal account – and insist the dud’s prepay!

I have brought this subject up in various postings. Again I urge all to open a PayPal account and request/require advance payment. It greatly helps to have a website that provides assurances about your integrity.

It is the seller not the buyer who establishes the terms of the sale. You are selling your services; “they” are buying them. Putting up with the various delays, deductions, and out and out ripoffs makes as much sense as pulling into an Exxon station and asking them to fill the tank and “invoice” you. BTW: using a credit/debit at Exxon is still paying Exxon in advance – just not with cash.

Kenneth A Edelstein
Mobile Notary, Apostille / Legalization Processing & Fingerprinting

Please also see:

2018 Good Signing Companies – a thorough list

Bouncey Bouncey Paypal

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How far do you go to push for payment terms?



  1. Note: My original title for this article was: Payment terms – set by the Buyer or Seller?

    The title: Making Deadbeat Signing Companies Pay Up Front? – was add by Jeremy when the blog was published.


    Comment by Kenneth A Edelstein — November 26, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

  2. They all lie saying they can’t pay until the loan’s funded, how can you possibly you get payment upfront?

    Comment by CM — November 27, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

  3. The other issue is, if they have a long pattern of non-payment or late payment, why feed the troll and take any work regardless they pay up front? Shouldn’t our goal be to work directly with Escrow companies so they’re not needed and we get a higher fee? I think we should all work to put these kind of agencies out of business.

    Comment by CM — November 27, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  4. I agree with the last post, we need to get rid of these signing agencies. Many are slow payers or non payers, this is disturbing since escrow pays them once we complete the work and if they go under as some have done to me there is no recourse, you cannot even sue them since they filed bancrptcy.

    Comment by Yvonne — November 28, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  5. I have stopped doing business with any Signing Company unless they pay up front. My best Signing Company was doing just that; paying me before I went out to do a mortgage signing – $125. This wonderful relationship ended after ~ 7 Closings, but it was a nice run. What happened? I’m sure you know. I wouldn’t doubt the fact that some other Notary told them they would do it on terms as well as lower the fee. I have also gotten a couple of other Services send me my check in an overnight envelope with the docs. This is the only way I fly now. I simply stand firm with the mindset that I will simply not get paid if I go with their terms.

    In order for us to make headway – in order for their to be a paradigm shift, a high percentage of Notaries must simply say”No”. For the most part, I have found very good success in saying “No”.

    Comment by Regina Brown — December 10, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

  6. What about those signings that cancel. We would have to credit back that money then we pay the cc fee on that credit. I feel the borrowers should pay us write a check or we take a swipe device to the table (although that could back fire on us for now they are not all aware of how much they are paying for us for we are hidden in the fees).
    I already have this set up for when I do tax returns

    Comment by Susan — December 13, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  7. I agree that some companies should pay up front because they don not was to pay a fair price. then they wasnt you to wait month on the payment.

    Comment by Tensie Evans — December 13, 2011 @ 7:00 pm

  8. Getting paid up front sounds like a workabe solution for all the dead beats. I would like to be paid up front before I actually go out of my way, and spend my time going to and doing the signing and preparing the documents in my office. I checked with my local bank and they were telling me they would sign me up to take credit cards over the phone but there is a cost to that application. Pay Pal seems like viable way to get paid and I will investigate that entity.

    Comment by Raymond Cote — December 14, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

  9. I loved reading this post!! Thank you! I feel so much better if we all stick together on this!!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!!

    Comment by carole — December 22, 2011 @ 12:22 am

  10. Susan said “What about those signings that cancel.” – It depends on the type of cancel. If you did some “work” you should keep some payment. If the cancel is prior to any work – all money refunded. HOWEVER – if the borrower uses the RTC you are to be paid in full as you did the full job. Elsewhere I discussed that I cannot have a financial interest in the OUTCOME of the documents I notarize. Thus, if I do the signing my interest ends and my full fee earned. The reason is that I should not encourage the borrower to keep the loan so I would get a full fee. That does not happen when the full fee is considered earned regardless of the funding status. Of course we are responsible for fixing errors at our cost. With PayPal the “refund” cost is very small – and avoiding getting “burned” will more than counteract that rare event.

    Comment by Kenneth A Edelstein — January 11, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

  11. “Refusals to Sign” are NEVER my fault! I am pleasant and professional at all of my signings. I do NOT give legal/other advice, I find information in documents for the signer(s), I plan on every signing to take up to 2 hours, so I don’t rush away to my next signing before we are done. I have done the prep work, I have printed the required documents AND copy for signer(s). I triple check my work and one last time before I leave the signing table, and I double bag every document package WITH shipping labels on both envelopes. When the plumber/electrician/cable guy/whatever comes to your house, even if it’s not fixed, you have to pay their agreed fee. I EXPECT my full agreed to fee no matter what. BUT, we fight the newbies who won’t take the time to calculate the low fees vs their own costs, which means they are giving away their services.

    Comment by betty — December 10, 2019 @ 1:58 pm

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