Likely due to the similarities between the titles of the two positions, many professionals can get confused between notaries and notary signing agents. The title sounds official, but what actually sets them apart from a regular notary? And is this a career path that’s right for you?
In this article, we’ll answer the question of what is a Notary Signing Agent and break down their specific responsibilities — particularly in regards to legal and financial transactions like mortgages and loans. We’ll also guide you through the steps to become one, clearing up any uncertainties you may have and helping you to find clarity on whether this specialized profession is the right one for you.
Recommended: Interested in getting started? Have a look at the National Notary Association’s notary signing agent packages.
What Does a Notary Signing Agent Do
A Notary Signing Agent (NSA) is a type of notary who has undergone additional training and certification to be able to handle loan document signings in the mortgage and real estate industries.
The main distinction between NSAs and regular notaries is that they deal with private financial information and are qualified to confirm everything in the loan documents is legal and accurate. As part of this, some of the common duties of a notary signing agent include:
- Printing loan documents
- Meeting with the signers and verifying their identities
- Notarizing their signatures on the documents
- Following any specific instructions from the parties involved
- Returning the documents promptly for processing
However, NSAs do have limitations on what they can do when it comes to loan signings. For example, NSAs cannot:
- Give legal advice or interpret the loan documents for the borrowers
- Change, alter, or correct any information or errors on real estate loan documents
- Charge fees that exceed the state maximum or that are not authorized by the parties involved
- Perform loan signing service in states that require an attorney or professional licensure, such as title insurance or real estate
- Notarize signatures of people who are not physically present and do not have proper identification
- Use their notary seal or commission for personal or fraudulent purposes
By becoming an NSA, you can enjoy flexible hours, high income potential, and the opportunity to help people with their home loans. However, be sure to always follow the laws and regulations of your state as well as the best practices and ethical standards of your profession.
How to Become a Notary Signing Agent
To become an NSA, you need to first become a notary public in your state. Let’s take a look at the following requirements:
Step 1: Become a Notary Public
The first step is to become commissioned as a notary public in your state. Although the requirements, process, and fees differ from state to state, some common steps include:
- Meet the Basic Qualifications: You must be at least 18 years old, a legal resident of your state, and not have a criminal record
- Complete an Application: Fill out and submit the necessary forms to your state’s Secretary of State office or similar issuing authority
- Take a Notary Course: Most states require and recommend taking an educational course covering state laws and notarial procedures in order to qualify as an NSA
- Pass an Exam: In some states you may also need to pass a test on notary law and ethics, which may be included as part of the application
- Purchase a Surety Bond: This bond provides the public with protection in the event that any potential errors you commit in your notarial acts cause financial damage. You’ll have to verify the exact bound amount in your specific state, since the required amount varies on a state-by-state basis
- Purchase E&O Insurance: This insurance shields you from liability due to negligence or misconduct 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
Once you’ve taken the steps to becoming commissioned as a notary public, the next important step involves getting specialized training. You can get this from a loan signing agent training course, which teaches you everything you need to know about loan documents and how to sign them.
After finishing the course, you should be sufficiently qualified to deal with real estate transactions in a proper and efficient way.
You can find these training courses from both notary associations and online course providers. While there are normally a number of different ways of teaching, many loan signing agents find they prefer to take the course online at their own pace instead of in-person.
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 and notary associations that created a new standard for NSAs. SPW compliance means meeting the requirements and following the best practices set by the SPW for NSAs.
To become SPW compliant, you need to meet the following requirements:
- Pass a background check and an exam every year. This is to ensure that you meet the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s standards for third-party service providers hired by financial institutions. You can take the background check and exam from various organizations, such as the National Notary Association (NNA), the Notary Learning Center, and the American Association of Notaries
- Purchase an Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance. The minimum is $25,000 in coverage. This is to protect you from liability in case of any errors or omissions during your signings
Being SPW compliant not only enhances your credibility and professionalism, but also increases your opportunities and income as a NSA. You can work with more lenders, title companies, and settlement companies that require SPW compliance. You can also charge higher fees for your services, as you provide more value and quality to your clients.
Step 4: Purchase Signing Agent Supplies
As an NSA, you need to have the right supplies to perform your duties efficiently and professionally. Some of the essential supplies you need include the following:
- Notary stamp and seal: These are used to affix your official notary seal and signature on the documents you notarize. You should order your notary seal and stamp from a reputable vendor that complies with your state’s requirements and keep them in a secure place so that no one else uses them without your permission
- Journal or record book: This is used to record the details of every notarization you perform, such as the date, time, location, type of document, type of identification, and signature of the signer. You should use a bound journal with numbered pages and tamper-proof entries. You should also follow your state’s laws and regulations on how to maintain and store your journal
You can purchase these basic NSA supplies from various sources, including online stores, notary associations, and even private companies. When searching around, be sure to check the prices, quality, and reviews of different vendors before making your purchase.
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
Errors and Omissions Insurance (E&O) is a type of liability insurance that protects NSAs from claims of negligence, errors, or omissions in their professional services. This is important because it insulates you from the legal costs and damages if you make a mistake that causes financial loss to your clients.
When choosing an insurance provided to get your E&O coverage, pay particular attention to the premium each provider charges — this is the amount of money you pay for your insurance coverage. While it can vary depending on factors such as the amount of coverage, the term of the policy, and your risk level, the biggest determinant of your premium is the provider you choose.
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 is a Notary Signing Agent FAQ
What type of notary makes the most money?
Notary signing agents (NSAs) tend to make the most money as they can offer their services in a greater number of situations. However, the greatest factor increasing your income level is not the career path you select but rather your level of experience, skills and location. For information on how to kick start your NSA career, see our How to Become a Notary Signing Agent article.
Who needs a notary the most?
Individuals and businesses engaging in legal, financial, or real estate transactions frequently require notary services — clients often include law firms, mortgage companies, real estate agencies, banks, and healthcare facilities. Notaries ensure that documents are signed voluntarily and authentically, providing a layer of trust and legality to the loan process, agreements, and transactions.
How much do most notaries charge?
The cost of notary fees usually range from $0.25 to $20 per notarial act, depending on the state they are based in. NSAs may also charge up to $100 for technology and travel fees, especially if they’re conducting mobile notary services or remote online notarization. They may also earn a loan signing agent commission for their loan document packages.
What is the difference between a notary signing agent and a notary public?
Notaries public authenticate signatures on various mortgage documents, ensuring they are signed willingly and authentically. NSAs are certified signing agents that notarize loan documents. They ensure that real estate transactions and the signing process of loan agreements is conducted accurately and efficiently.
For all related articles, have a look at our How to Become a Notary Signing Agent page.