When it comes to loan document signings, especially in the real estate sector, notary signing agents play an important role in ensuring the integrity and legality of transactions. Their duties extend beyond merely stamping a document; they ensure that transactions are legitimate, consensual, and properly executed.
But what does a notary signing agent do, exactly? In this article, we aim to explore the roles and responsibilities of a notary signing agent, as well as the steps you need to follow in order to become one. If you’re interested in learning more about this rewarding career, read on!
Recommended: Interested in getting started? Have a look at the National Notary Association’s notary signing agent packages.
Notary Signing Agent Roles and Responsibilities
A notary signing agent (NSA) is a type of notary public who specializes in facilitating the signing of real estate documents in addition to the following key roles and responsibilities:
- Printing loan documents, witnessing the signing of documents and loan closing process, and verifying the identity of the signers using their photo ID or other methods
- Ensuring that the documents are executed properly and that all the required information is filled out correctly
- Affixing their seal and signature in order to notarize loan documents
- Returning the documents to the lender or title company in a timely manner
- Maintaining a notary journal that records all the details of each signing they perform
However, NSAs have some restrictions on what they can and cannot do. Below are some of the most common examples of things they cannot do:
- They cannot give legal advice or interpret the documents they are notarizing
- They cannot provide any legal guidance or opinions to the signers unless they’ve obtained specific professional licensure, such as title insurance agents
- They must be impartial and objective when witnessing the signing process
- They cannot sign or notarize documents on behalf of the notary public who commissioned them
- They cannot notarize documents that are prohibited or restricted by their state laws. For example, some states do not allow notary signing agents to work on certain types of loans or charge certain fees
Becoming a notary signing agent plays a key role in preventing fraud and ensuring the validity of real estate transactions. You will be able to provide a valuable service to your clients by making the signing process convenient and efficient.
How to Become a Notary Signing Agent
To become an NSA, you must first be a notary public before later completing additional training and certification courses covering your role in the loan process plus the specific documents involved.
Below, we’ve outlined the common steps to becoming an NSA that most states share:
Step 1: Become a Notary Public
In most states, the first step to becoming an NSA is generally to become commissioned as a notary public. While each state has its own specific requirements, procedures, and fees, this will generally involve completing the following common steps:
- Meet the Basic Qualifications: You must be at least 18 years old and be a resident of the state where you wish to operate, or have a place of employment or practice in that state. Finally, you must also have a clean criminal record
- Complete an Application: Fill out and send the required forms to your Secretary of State’s office or an equivalent local authority that issues notary commissions either online or by mail
- Enroll in a Notary Course: Many states advise applicants to take an educational course covering their state’s laws and notarial practices. This helps to ensure that you can hit the ground running by being familiar with your many notarial duties and responsibilities before your first day as an NSA
- Pass an Exam: Depending on where you’re based, you might be required to take and pass a quiz on notary law and ethics, which commonly forms part of the application
- Purchase a Surety Bond: In most states, you’ll need to purchase a bond from a surety company before you can start performing notarial acts. The purpose of this is to keep the general public protected in the event that they suffer any financial damage from an error you made in the performance of your professional duties
- Purchase E&O Insurance: Errors and omissions (E&O) insurance protects you by providing coverage against the legal costs and financial liabilities arising from any professional mistakes that you might have made while performing your notarial duties
If you have not already been commissioned as a notary public, we recommend having a look at our state-specific How to Become a Notary article before moving forward.
Step 2: Take a Loan Signing Training Course
Despite not being mandatory in all states, taking an optional loan signing training course is strongly recommended for a number of reasons, primarily because:
- It can help you learn the skills and knowledge needed to perform loan signings accurately and efficiently
- It can help you avoid common errors and mistakes that could cost you money or reputation
- It can help you gain confidence and credibility as a professional NSA
- It can help you find more clients and get more assignments from signing services, title companies, and lenders
If you’re interested in becoming an NSA, there are many online and offline courses available for you to take. Applicants are strongly advised to take advantage of such courses, which enable them to learn the best practices, avoid common pitfalls, and increase your income potential.
We recommend the National Notary Association’s notary signing agent certification course, which includes background screening, a comprehensive guide, a priority notary signing agent listing, and a loan documents sourcebook.
Step 3: Become SPW Compliant (Optional)
SPW (Signing Professionals Workgroup) is a group of major mortgage holders, such as Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo, that collaborated to create an industry standard for NSAs.
Becoming SPW compliant demonstrates that you have met these industry standards and follow the best practices set forth by the SPW and the National Notary Association (NNA).
This is important for an NSA because it can help you gain trust and credibility from lenders, title companies, and other real estate professionals who prefer to work with certified signing agents.
To become SPW compliant, you’ll need to:
- Be commissioned as a Notary Public in your state (required)
- Pass an exam and background screening that are SPW compliant
- Purchase a minimum $25,000 E&O insurance policy
If you are interested in becoming an NSA, you may want to consider taking a loan signing training course and getting certified by an SPW-compliant vendor, such as the NNA.
Step 4: Purchase Signing Agent Supplies
As an NSA, there are some essential supplies that you’ll need in order to be able to perform your job properly and professionally:
- Notary seal or stamp: A notary stamp or seal imprints your notary commission information on the real estate loan documents you notarize. It is required by law and serves as proof of your authority as a notary public
- Notary journal: This is a record book where you document every notarial act you perform. While it’s required by law in some states, in others it may only be a recommendation. Regardless, it’s invaluable for helping you keep track of your notarizations and protect yourself from liability in the event of disputes or lawsuits
These are some of the basic supplies that you’ll need in order to work as a notary signing agent and perform your duties efficiently, professionally, and legally.
Recommended: Interested in getting started? We suggest having a look at notary.net’s affordable and state-specific notary supplies package.
Step 5: Obtain Errors and Omissions Insurance
E&O insurance is a type of professional liability insurance that protects notaries and NSAs from claims of negligence, errors, or omissions in their services.
It can help cover the costs of legal defense, settlements, or judgments if a client sues you for making a mistake or failing to meet their expectations.
Outside of the obvious security it grants you, obtaining E&O insurance is a great idea as an NSA because it enhances your professional credibility and demonstrates a level of responsibility and assurance to your clients and the public.
This ensures that there is a financial recourse for your clients in case you make any errors during the notarization process. In essence, E&O insurance is an investment to protect your professional practice and personal assets from any financial liability you may encounter while providing your services.
Purchase E&O Insurance with Next Insurance: Next Insurance is a fully online provider dedicated to low-cost, high-protection coverage for small businesses.
What Does a Notary Signing Agent Do FAQ
What is a notary signing agent?
A notary signing agent (NSA) is a commissioned notary public who facilitates the execution of loan and real estate documents by verifying signer identities, witnessing signatures, and notarizing documents to ensure they are legally binding. Their impartial presence helps maintain the integrity and authenticity of important transactions.
What type of notary makes the most money?
NSAs specializing in sectors like real estate and mortgage signings tend to have higher earnings due to their expertise in handling such high-value transactions. However, notary earnings often vary greatly by state, with some being allowed to charge fees that reach up to $10 per notarial act. While NSAs can make more than $100 per signing service on loan document packages, one of the best ways to maximize your earning potential is by offering mobile or remote online notarization (RON).
How do I become a notary signing agent?
To become a notary, you need to meet your state’s requirements, which typically includes paying a fee, completing a training course, passing an exam, purchasing the necessary supplies, and securing E&O insurance or a bond. For a more detailed look at this process, be sure to check out our How to Become a Notary Signing Agent article.
What is the difference between a loan signing agent and a notary public?
Loan signing agents are notaries public who have additional training and certification to handle loan documents for real estate transactions, while notaries public are officials who verify the identities of the signers and confirm that they are signing willingly.
For all related articles, have a look at our How to Become a Notary Signing Agent page.