I posted about this on my original blog several years ago. It all remains true. (I have added a few additional points to it that were not in the earlier version.)
Why A Notary Signing Agent Must Call the Borrrowers
Before Printing Documents or Making a Trip to the Signing Location
Sometimes, when I receive an assignment to handle a real estate signing as a Notary Signing Agent, my client will include a statement about going ahead even if I can not reach the signers/borrowers. Sometimes, they don’t provide useful phone numbers (disconnected, cell phone that is unanswered while they are at work, main switchboard for an employer where you need at least a department to reach the employee, or other circumstances). Whether it is because they don’t want anyone to call the borrowers or because the phone numbers given are not useful, this creates an issue and the need to explain why I insist on calling the signer and, preferrably, speaking with them first before I go out.
First, there is the matter of identification.
If they don’t have a form of I.D. acceptable under the Tennessee law and rules for Notaries Public, they need to get an acceptable I.D. before I arrive.
I do not expect title companies or lenders whose offices are in other states to be familiar with the notary laws and rules in Tennessee. That’s my job and I must follow the rules here.
Problems with their i.d. are a big issue for those who took title under one version of their name but have a different version of it on their driver license and other forms of i.d. The only ways around that are if I already know the signer(s) personally (rarely happens) or if we can use a credible witness, which can get complicated. I have only used a Credible Witness once or twice in all the many years that I have been a Notary Public.
Second, for a refinance loan (which most of my work as an NSA has been), there is the matter of funds changing hands.
If there is cash due from the borrower, it will have to be in a cashiers check or wire transfer it it is above a certain amount, which varies based on the title company and/or lender.
If there is money due to the borrower from the loan proceeds, the borrowers need to understand that I don’t deliver money; there is a 3 day right to cancel period that has to pass before the lender or title company will cut any outgoing checks.
If the borrower does not have the required funds due or if they expect me to deliver the funds coming to them, this could mean the signing does not take place.
Third, there is the matter of how long the signing will take.
Some loan officers tell borrowers it will take 30 minutes. In my experience (15+ years), the average signing take 60-90 minutes & can take as long as 2-3 hours, depending on circumstances. They need to know this & have set aside enough time to get it done so we don’t find ourselves having to stop before we are finished.
Fourth, there is the matter or where and when.
Sometimes, despite assurances from the title company and the lender that the appointment was confirmed, the signers are actually not available at the time and place on the work order. (I had one recently who lived in another state, with the work order showing the signing location here due to the property being here. They had no plans to visit the property on that date, so the appointment was re-assigned to a notary in the area where they lived.)
Sometimes, the borrowers are available yet they prefer to sign at a different time or place than indicated on the work order. I will accomodate them as much as I am able. If they want it to be earlier or a different day, they need to speak with their loan officer to make sure the loan documents are prepared in time with the correct info on them.
Part of this is also verifying that the location is where the online maps show it as being; those maps are not always accurate & I don’t want to get lost on the way there.
Also, sometimes the house numbers are impossible to read from the street, so knowing what landmarks or vehicles to look for can mean the difference between finding them and driving around looking.
In addition, some neighborhoods or properties can be unsafe to enter unless there is someone there who is expecting you.
Fifth, there is the matter of my fees.
(This is really the least important reason to me, but it is a reason.) I expect to be paid my full fee once I arrive at the signing location unless I do something wrong.
While print fees & trip fees are nice and certainly appreciated, I am there as a Notary Public, a disinterested third party witness. If you make my fee contingent on whether they sign the docs, this may be seen as changing the nature of my role in the signing to someone with a vested interest in encouraging them to sign.
I always try to be a Notary Public first & a Signing Agent second. If I arrive without speaking with the signer(s)/borrower(s) and they are not ready to proceed due to one of the above reasons or any other and you want to reduce my fee because they did not sign, this creates a conflict that I would rather avoid. Even if we have agreed in advance about my fees under such circumstances, it may be seen as a conflict of interest.
I am a professional Certified Notary Signing Agent. This explanation is offered so everyone involved will understand why providing good contact numbers for the borrowers is always a Good Idea and why asking a notary signing agent to “go ahead even if you can not reach them” is a Bad Idea.