What Do These Terms Mean?
When you are involved in any industry or profession, it helps to know the jargon. As a notary who deals with real estate (a notary signing agent), I have had to learn what all of these terms mean. I am offering them to you here with links so you can learn more about each.
Many of these terms appear in previous articles here on notarymemphis.com or will appear in future articles.
HUD – US Department of Housing and Urban Development (www.hud.gov). This is the largest government agency in terms of federal involvement with homes and cities. They generated many of the documents that appear in a typical mortgage loan package, including the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, the Form 1003 – Mortgage Application, and others.
VA – US Department of Veterans Affairs (www.va.gov). As part of their mandate to assist veterans, the VA guarantees some home loans when they are made to veterans. If the loan is a VA loan, the package will contain several documents from the VA.
CFPB – Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (consumerfinance.gov) The CFPB took over most of the federal government’s role in consumer finance after the 2008 mortgage meltdown. They set up a new timeline of when consumers must receive information during the mortgage process and their Closing Disclosure form took the place of the HUD-1 Settlement Statement and the Truth in Lending Disclosure (TIL) for purchases, sales, and refinances. (The HUD-1 and TIL are still used for reverse mortgages and HELOCs.)
FHA – Federal Housing Administration A program within HUD that provides mortgage insurance on single family homes and on hospitals. Many loans are FHA or VA. When they are, there will be some additional or different paperwork than when they are a “conventional” loan. FHA is also the main agency for Reverse Mortgages through their Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program.
OCC – Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Unlike the other federal agencies that had been involved in consumer finance before the CFPB was created, the OCC retains some federal oversight for consumer finance. Their instructions and guidances to the mortgage industry has had an impact on background checks and other conditions under which NSAs work.
HELOC – Home Equity Line of Credit. A loan issued based on the value of the home minus any other mortgages or liens. This is often a secondary loan with a variable or adjustable interest rate, with the primary mortgage having a fixed rate.
GSE – Government Sponsored Enterprise. This is the term used to refer to both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Fannie Mae – Federal National Mortgage Association. Fannie Mae is one of two GSEs that provide the funding for most mortgage loans. They buy or underwrite loans from most lenders in the USA. (See this article on investopedia for more information.)
Freddie Mac – Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Freddie Mac is the other GSE that is deeply involved in mortgage lending in the USA. (See this article on investopedia for more information.)
Ellie Mae – a software company that provides services to about 1/4 of the mortgage loans written in the USA. See their entry on wikipidia for more information. (They are NOT a GSE, despite having a name similar to Fannie Mae.) Ellie Mae has information on their site that is not seen often elsewhere, so it is a good reference. Many loan packages include documents created using the Ellie Mae software, as can be seen by their name at the bottom of the page.
DocMagic – a software company that provides services to the mortgage lending industry. Formerly in contract with Ellie Mae, DocMagic is often seen in the financial news for deals with other software companies. Many lenders use their software to create loan documents or to provide them to title companies and others in a secure manner.
ALTA – American Land Title Association. A national trade association for title companies and related firms. (It is called “land title” so as to distinguish it from other types of titles, such as titles to cars and trucks or mobile homes.) ALTA sets the standards for title insurance policies. There will sometimes be an ALTA Settlement Statement in a document package to comply with state-specific requirements.
NAILTA – National Association of Independent Land Title Agents. The National Association of Independent Land Title Agents (NAILTA) is a non-profit trade association that represents the interests of independent title insurance agents and independent real estate settlement professionals from across the United States. It is a membership group for title insurance agents and related professionals who may not be getting what they need from ALTA.
MBA – Mortgage Bankers Association A national trade association for mortgage bankers. The MBA has a strong voice as to how things are done within the mortgage industry.
ABA – American Bar Association (national membership group for attorneys) OR the American Bankers Association (national trade association of bankers) More information about the lawyers group can be found at americanbar.org. More information about the bankers group can be found at aba.com
NBA – National Bankers Association (National trade association for minority-owned or women-owned banks) OR National Bar Association (national membership group for minority attorneys and judges). The National Bankers are at nationalbankers.org and the National Bar is at nationalbar.org . Both of these groups were formed in the 1920s and have long served their members with honor and dignity.
There are many additional banking, legal, and otherwise-related groups. The ones mentioned here are just the ones I’ve seen referred to most often.
NASS – National Association of Secretaries of State. This is a professional association for those who hold the office of Secretary of state or it’s equivalent in each of the 50 states. They can be found at nass.org. While they don’t make laws, they are very influential in various ways.
NNA – National Notary Association . They have ownership of the websites signingagent.com and nationalnotary.org. Look for articles about the NNA here on this site soon. They are the largest and oldest notary membership group in the USA.
AAN – American Association of Notaries This is the second-largest notary membership group within the USA. They publish newsletters, send out emails with articles, sell supplies, offer member discounts on their supplies, and have an archive of great articles on their site. (Disclosure: I am a contributing writer for the AAN.)
ASN – American Society of Notaries This is a long-established membership group for notaries. They are not as splashy or marketing-centered as some of the others, so you won’t seen them mentioned as often. Yet, their articles are among the best in the notary field for carefully-stated details and explanations.
NR – NotaryRotary One of the so-called “big three” of notary directory sites, NR’s directory is valuable and their journals are top-rate (I use their Journal of Notarial Events myself). Their forum can be very snarky and overly-reliant on abbreviations. Their rated list of signing agencies (Signging Central) is available only to members, but those who access it regularly say it is the best.
NC – NotaryCafe The newest of the “big three” of directory sites, NC relaunched a few years ago and now offers a lively forum, as well as a directory listing and other services.
123 – 123notary, owned by Jeremy Belmont. This is the oldest of the “big three” directory sites. They have a blog, an archive of articles covering a wide range of topics, a forum, a directory, and Jeremy. (He is pretty controversial. I will leave it to you to research him on Facebook as to why.)
Comments posted in the forums of the big three sites all show up (eventually) on google and other search engines. So, if you are researching a company via google and you see a mention of them on one of those forums, you can read the comments without having to sign in. To find comments on Facebook and most other social media, you have to be logged into that social media site or app and use their own search functions. Keep this in mind when you are doing research: googling alone is not a complete search.
SPW is the Signing Professionals Workgroup, which is a trade group created by lenders and others with help from the NNA. They are an attempt by the major players in the lending and title industries to reduce the risks associated with using third party independent contractors (NSAs) as their agents in dealing with consumers.
ND is NotaryDepot, owned by Joe Noon.
NQ is NotaryQuest, owners unknown.
NLI – Notary Law Institute . Created in the 1990s by Richard Von Alstyne, the Notary Law Institute focuses on the legal aspects of being a notary. They publish books and a newsletter, provide in person seminars, and have an online class. Members get access to an online archive of previous newsletters (which is also true of the NNA, AAN, and other sites.)
N2P – Notary2Pro Created about 9 years ago by Carol Ray, N2P is focused on teaching notaries how to be the best they can be, how to become notary signing agent, and related matters. Look for articles about them here on this site, both previous articles and upcoming ones. (I recently completed their NSA class and am now Certified by them.)
LSS – The Loan Signing System Created less than a year ago by Mark Wills who runs a signing service, LSS is the new kid on the block in terms of notary education. Their mission is to train notaries to learn everything they need to know to go after title company and escrow firm work directly, cutting out the signing services in the middle. I hope to take their classes soon and will report on them here after that is done.
SOS – Secretary of State. In many states, the SOS oversees notaries.
UPL – Unauthorized Practice of Law. A crime in every state and one that notaries may be particularly tempted to commit, as customers and clients and consumers will ask questions that can only be answered with legal advice or legal opinions, which only a lawyer is authorized to give.
NSA – Notary Signing Agent, a mobile notary who specializes in conducting loan document signings for signing services, title companies, escrow companies, or lenders. An NSA may or may not be certified by the NNA, N2P, LSS, 123, or other firms; each of these firms have a different label for their graduates — NSA is the industry-standard term.
A few states require an NSA to have a Title Producers License (TPL) or Title Insurance Producer’s License (TIP or TIPL).
A few states prohibit notaries from being NSAs by requiring attorneys to handle all loan closings; these are called attorney-only states.
GNW – General Notary Work, notary services provided directly to the public. This may involve mobile notary services (where the notary goes to the customer) or it may involve the customer coming to the notary at a store or other fixed location.
RULONA – Revised Uniform Law on Notary Acts. This is an updated version of the Uniform Law on Notary Acts that was put forth by the Uniform Commercial Code Commission (now the Uniform Law Commission). It is one of two proposed laws on notary actions which have been widely adopted in whole or in part by the various states. The other is the Model Notary Act (see below)
Model Notary Act – The Model Notary Act was the first major attempt to help bring states into agreement over notary actions. It was drafted by the American Bar Association at the request of the National Notary Association, has been adopted to some degree by over 30 states, and is just one way that the NNA has had a sizable impact on what notaries do. In 2017, the NNA published a Model eNotarization Act that covers electronic notarization of public records, a topic which was not covered in the latest version of the Model Notary Act.
Notary Codes – Other than state laws (which are often gathered into a book of laws called a Code), there are two Codes which any Notary Signing Agent needs to be aware of: the NNA’s Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility and the SPW’s Notary Signing Agent Code of Conduct. These two Codes are the most important things to study before taking the exam to be certified by the NNA, as the exam is based mostly on details in those Codes.
IRRRL or IRRL — Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan. A type of loan seen often when the borrower is a veteran & the VA is involved with guaranteeing the loan.
ISAOA – Its Successors and other assigns. This phrase or abbreviation is seen in mortgage documents (and sometimes on work orders or offers of work). It refers to any possible future entity that may acquire the right to receive the funds due.
PITI – Principle, interest, taxes, and insurance. The first 2 are required parts of all loans and the last 2 are the most common items included in escrow. The insurance referred to is homeowners insurance. Together with any homeowners association dues, any flood insurance premiums, and any mortgage insurance premiums, PITI adds up to the monthly bill for a real estate loan.
DOT is the Deed of Trust or Mortgage. Also called the Security Instrument, this document gives the lender a claim against whatever interest the signers may have in the real estate specified in the DOT. It secures the loan by making sure the borrower has something at stake if they fail to pay.
TRID – TIL / RESPA Integrated Disclosure. TIL is the Truth In Lending Act. RESPA is the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. The CFPB combined the disclosures required by those 2 acts into one set of disclosures. TRID is also called the Know Before You Owe rules.
Vendor – Someone who sells goods or services or both to a client or customer.
Client – Someone who buys goods or services from a vendor under the terms specified in a contract (the other side in a business to business relationship). Notary Signing Agent (NSA) work involves notaries and clients, usually multiple levels of clients (signing service, title company, lender, investor), and consumers.
Customer – Someone who buys goods or services without a contract (the consumer in a retail sense; the other side in a business to consumer relationship). General Notary Work (GNW) involves notaries and customers.
Consumer – the final customer or client for whom all the work is done; the person or company who keeps, uses, or consumes the purchased goods or services without passing them on to other parties. Generally, a consumer buys goods or services for personal use, not for resale or to use in manufacturing. (The borrower in a consumer finance situation or notary signing agent assignment and/or the signer in a general notary work situation.)
Stakeholder / interested party – everyone affected by a decision or transaction. This may include vendors, clients, customers, consumers, investors, government or third party entities, and the general public, depending on the circumstances.
Disinterested party – Someone not directly involved in the transaction and who has no relationship with any vendors or clients or customers involved that could give them a reason to advocate for one outcome over another
Impartial witness – Someone who is not a party to the transaction and who is observing the signing of a document without bias or prejudice toward any of the parties
Credible witness – Someone personally known to the notary who also personally knows the signer who lacks other acceptable forms of identification. The credible witness usually must swear that they know the signer personally and that the signer is who the document says they are; they may be required to sign an affidavit attesting to these facts.
Affidavit – A statement of facts or intended actions that one or more sides to a transaction are executing upon oath or affirmation; a sworn or affirmed statement made under penalties of perjury.
Oath – A solemn promise to Deity that your statements in the document you are signing are true to the best of your knowledge. The notary must administer the oath by speaking it out loud and asking the signer to repeat it or to agree to it.
Affirmation – A solemn promise made upon your personal honor that the statements in the document you are signing are true to the best of your knowledge. The notary must administer the affirmation by speaking it out loud and asking the signer to repeat it or agree to it.
I think that covers all of the relevant acronyms and terms. If you see any mistakes here, please comment below.
- this page from Fidelity National Title Insurance for more related terms: FNTG Library and
- this Glossary from Strategic National Title and
- this article from the NNA: Glossary of Terms.
Updated October 5, 2019.