Notaries who are considering becoming notary signing agents (NSAs) need to do research on their market conditions before they launch their business. You won’t know if it makes sense to spend the money for training or certification or background checks until you’ve done this research.
While those firms that sell training and other credentials make it sound like every notary public can make good money as an NSA, the sad fact is that the 80-20 rule applies with the NSA business just as it does with every other business: 80% of all new businesses fail within the first five years and only 20% succeed to that point.
So, you want to do research in order to know if this is a strong prospect for success in your area AND to have the data that will go into your business plan and marketing plan, as planning improves your chance of being in the 20% who succeed.
To start your research, I would suggest you check with the county recorder or register’s office and see how many loans were closed there in the past year. You may have to spend a day there doing research to find out, but that’s cheaper than paying for classes and then being one of the 80% of businesses that fail.
If it turns out that there’s a lot of loan closing work, then you need to figure out how much of it’s being done in-house by lenders or title companies versus how much is being done by NSAs.
If it’s not many loans or almost all of them are done in-house, you have your answer. Not every market can support more NSAs.
The lender should be mentioned in the mortgage or deed of trust, which will be recorded at the county recorder or register’s office. If the lender is local, that was probably closed in-house. If the lender is not local, they may have used a local attorney or a local title company office or an NSA to close the loan. So, you need to get familiar with the notaries involved to figure out how much loan work there may be in your area.
As you do research, make note of which notary notarized the deed. Then look them up online. You can look the notary up in the big four notary directories: 123notary, notaryrotary, notarycafe, and signingagent. If they are on any of those directories, they are probably a freelance NSA as opposed to an in-house notary employee.
Not every NSA will be listed on one of those big 4 directories, so this is not an exact count — but it should give you some idea.
Once you have enough information about the loans and the notaries involved, you can estimate the two most important parts of your market: is there enough potential work to make it worth getting the credentials? And how much competition will you be facing if you enter this market as a new NSA?
My belief is that you need a relevant background in real estate or mortgage lending or law in order to hit the ground running by working your pre-existing network for referrals. You need people who know, like, and trust you enough to refer business to you. That’s basic marketing.
If you’re having to build that network from scratch, it’s going to take a great deal of time. That means you may not be able to make more than a part-time income at first, even if your market conditions are excellent. By the time you’ve built your NSA business up to a full-time income, the disruptive effects of remote notary laws may hit.
For a five to ten year plan, consider that remote notarization means your local market will, one day soon, be competing with others all over the country.
There may be a bunch of work right now, but anyone who looks at the technology trends should realize that all these local markets with local market conditions are going to become one big market in which the only thing that most hiring firms will look at is who has the lowest fee.
Add in some title companies or platforms setting up call centers to do remote notarizations using minimum wage employees and that’s it, game over.
If you have excellent marketing skills and/or a relevant background, you may be able to make some serious money before remote notarization fully rolls out. Without those, it’s far more likely that this NSA business will be your side gig at best.