Come closing day, there might be a large group of people sitting around a table, passing actual paper, or there might be a group of people assembled virtually, running their fingers over the screens of their laptops or tablets. Either way, there is one unsung and mostly silent member of the group without whom the sale cannot proceed: the notary signing agent.
What Is A Notary Signing Agent?
Notary signing agents (NSAs) begin their careers as notaries public, and then complete additional certification requirements and submit to a background check to become a licensed notary signing agent. They also complete educational requirements that focus on the proper handling of loan documents. Exact requirements vary from state to state, but most require applicants to pass a test and have a clean criminal record.
A notary public performs a quasi-judicial, or ministerial, function that allows a duly qualified person to inspect documents to verify the identity of a document signer by closely inspecting the documentation the signer presents. They also verify that signers are acting of their own free will and understand the nature of the documents they are signing. When circumstances require, an NSA can administer oaths to ensure that any statements made are subject to penalties of perjury.
The NSA’s signature assures that no fraud or duress occurred during the course of the transaction. Legal documents like those transferring title from seller to buyer won’t be accepted, without a notary signing agent’s signature and stamp, by local officials responsible for recording title changes. A missing signature can be fixed later but a missing notary signing agent’s seal means the closing will have to be reconvened.
How Are NSAs Essential To E-Closings?
If you purchased a house more than 10 years ago, you likely weren’t offered the option of closing on your house electronically. Technological change has come slowly to the legal and real estate industries, but with the global pandemic, the rate of change has accelerated. Executive orders are allowing e-closings while legislation to allow electronic verification of signatures is being enacted. In fact, Quicken Loans® offers some form of electronic closings in all 50 states using one of the following methods:
In a hybrid situation – the method most frequently used in the United States – the borrower(s) and the notary meet in person to verify identity. The most important documents (usually the promissory note, transfer deed and deed of trust or mortgage) are signed with a pen and the rest is signed digitally.
In-Person E-Notarization (IPEN)
In this scenario, the borrower(s) and the notary meet in person so that the notary can verify identity, but all documents are signed digitally.
Remote Online Notarization (RON)
If you live in, or are moving to, one of the 48 states that allow RON either permanently or temporarily as of October 2020, a remote notary signing agent is authorized to verify your identity online and watch you sign virtually. In addition to greater convenience, because you can create e-documents that can’t be submitted without all necessary signatures, RON will prevent missing signature oversights that can cause problems and additional expense later.
How Notaries Are Selected
NSAs must be impartial and cannot have any personal interest in the transaction or the parties to the transaction. To ensure this impartiality, notaries are chosen randomly for each closing from a qualified pool.
At Quicken Loans, we search the network of notaries at Amrock, formerly known as Title Source, in order to find an NSA with the highest satisfaction rate in your area. This rate is determined by the NSA’s W-9s, a copy of their notary commission, a background check and a resume with three business referrals. In other words, we don’t take NSA selection lightly.
Once the selection has been made, the notary will reach out to you to make an introduction before coming to your closing location. An NSA who comes to you is sometimes called a traveling or mobile notary, and they tend to charge more for their services. Notary fees vary, but they generally cost from $25 – $40 for one to two notarizations, with an additional $5 – $10 per notarization thereafter. The best way to find out how much traveling notaries cost is by asking your mortgage lender.