Some Perspective on Notary Signing Agent Fees 

When I became a notary in 1997, the National Notary Association  (NNA) was sending out promotional materials to every notary they could find, selling their services. I don’t recall when they started promoting the idea of this notary signing agent (NSA)  business, as I did not respond to their marketing letters.

It was years later when I became an NSA,  after we had one handle our refinance signing. She directed me to signingagent.com for info.

Back then, that domain was owned by the National Association of Signing Agents (NASA), who offered a book (in 3 ringer bind form) on being an NSA. The NNA bought them out less than a year after I joined them.

Both (the NNA and the NASA) were talking about $60 to $80 for refi closings with overnight packages and $90 to $100 if you had to print the docs — and title companies offering (so they said) $150 to $250 per closing IF you could qualify to work directly with them.

That was in 2002. A lot has happened since 2002.

Inflation, though small on an annual basis, has continued to push the cost of living up. Expenses for being in business have gone up. A great many signing services & title companies & lenders went under, both before and after the 2008 mortgage meltdown hit. Fees being offered have gone down, not up.

Bigger banks and lenders have merged, so there are fewer of those now & the ones that remain can be more picky about whose services they use. New local & regional banks that have come into being to fill the niches not taken by the bigs are less likely to need our services or to know we exist.

This makes marketing far more of a challenge and a chore than it was back when fees offered were better.

The loan packages have gotten larger, too. Where it used to be common to see 100-120 pages for a refinance,  now they often run 170 or more pages. Reverse mortgage packages have also gotten bigger. This adds to the expense and time required to do a proper job with the signing work.

The NNA stopped talking about ranges of fees, perhaps due to price fixing concerns, perhaps due to pushback from title companies and others, perhaps due to complaints from NSAs who failed to get that range of fees.

Despite all this, the NNA and others continue to promote the business, so new people are entering the field all the time. Meanwhile, Snapdocs has given a large number of signing services and title companies a platform that does for them what signing services used to do — while charging them a fee for that platform, a fee that gets deducted from what they would have offered us before “Snapduds” came along.

Add to this remote notaries, state-specific laws or rules on fees, legal concerns about price fixing, and reasonable concerns about being undercut by competitors  — add all that to the mix and very few people who know what they’re talking about want to tell you what to charge. Or give you a range of fees.

Any fee offered is not automatically too low. Any fee you suggest is not automatically too high. It depends on what the scope of work is and how much competition you have in your area.

If it’s a smaller package (under 100 pages) and/or there are many established NSAs in your area, you may have to take a lower fee just to get your foot in the door, especially if you’ve not figured out how to find work beyond the lists of signing services that everyone gets access to through 123notary, NotaryRotary, or other sites.

If we’re all competing for work from the same list of companies, sooner or later they will try lower fees.

Also, you need to understand some facts about signing document packages, including the fact that not all packages are the same scope of work. Your fees should be based on your scope of work, your expenses and time in providing that scope, and market conditions in your service area.

If your market is already saturated with NSAs, you may never be able to make a go of this business until some of them leave the business. That’s something almost no one says, but it’s true.

For some NSAs, this can not be more than a part-time side gig because their service area has too many established competitors.

For those in that situation, they may not “see” the true costs for each assignment, as these costs will be spread out over a long time (wear & tear on printers and computers and vehicles don’t show up daily).

The short answer is that the NNA was really the only company that gave a list of fees & they stopped doing so years ago. We are not going to tell our competitors what we charge. You need to figure out the fees that work for you. And we need to adapt to the changing market so it doesn’t matter what you charge.

You can’t make it up with volume if your per unit costs are more than your fees. That’s the bottom line.

None of us can say what your per unit (per signing assignment or per appointment) cost is, though, so we can not tell you what your minimum fee has to be in order for you to make a profit. And only you know how much profit per hour is an acceptable income to you.

I’m working on an article about calculating your expenses, but you don’t have to wait for my article to get started on setting your own fees.

I suggest you go to sba.gov and see what they offer in terms of mentors through SCORE. Also use that site to find free local classes through the Small Business Development Centers. Don’t overlook online learning on that sba.gov site itself.

Use those resources to learn how to calculate your costs of doing business. Estimate your expenses until you have six months or a year in;  track them and see what they are. Then you’ll know what your fees need to be. If you’ve been doing enough work and learning from the work you’ve done, you’ll also have a track record of experience, which will make it possible to begin finding & marketing to better-paying firms.

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About Tim Gatewood

55+, male, widowed (May 2016). Mobile notary public and signing agent, freelance writer, and ordained minister. Science fiction and fantasy fan, willing servant to cats, avid reader and collector of books and other stuff. Please see my websites (including this blog and others) for more info on me and what I think about the issues of the day.
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