Doing Market Research Before You Launch Your NSA Business

Notaries who are considering becoming notary signing agents (NSAs) need to do research on their legal situation and 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.

Before you even start researching whether there is enough work, you need to know the legal situation in your state. This mostly means three things:

1) Know your notary laws. Get the handbook if there is one. Read it at least twice. Then look up the actual laws referred to in the handbook and read them. If there is anything in either one of those that you don’t understand, call the Secretary of State or other notary administrator for your state and ask them questions until you do. Or speak with an attorney in your state to get clear on what it means.

2) Know the limits on what you’re allowed to do in terms of real estate closings. This will not be covered in the Notary Handbook or notary laws. So, it will require more research. The good news is your local library or state government website may be able to help you.

Some states are attorney-only on real estate closings and that term does not always mean the same thing in every state where it applies. Some require a title insurance producer’s license to conduct closings. At least one state does not allow notaries to handle funds without extra licensing. You need to know what the limits are to being an NSA in your state because this is a huge part of any planning you do for your business.

3) Know the rules about privacy and marketing. These apply to all businesses and you can get into serious trouble if you ignore them. If you don’t know what NPPI or the FTC rules about telemarketing and about affiliate marketing are, you need to learn those and other related matters before you launch your NSA business.

Privacy and NPPI get some coverage in training from Notary2Pro and from the NNA. I have not seen any training on the FTC rules from the major training sources, so it’s up to you to learn this stuff on your own. Visit ftc.gov for the basics. Look for classes on these topics from your local library as part of their new business courses. Also, the nearest Small Business Development Centers may have classes on these topics; find the closest one to you on sba.gov.

Once you know the legal situation, then you can move on to market condition research.

To start your market condition 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 or more 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.


Updated October 20, 2018

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How to Land Title Company Work

How to Land Title Company Work When You Are a Notary Signing Agent
by Tim Gatewood, CNSA, PLSA

One of the most frequently asked questions seen in the notary groups on Facebook is :

How do I get work directly from title companies without going through signing services?

This may be asked by someone who was enticed into the business by marketing from a  training firm that claims they will teach you the secret, or by a new notary who has read the horror stories of lowball or no pay signing services, or by an NSA who experienced those horrors themselves.

For whatever reason, they think there has to be a way to bypass all that signing agent mess and leap straight ahead to the “Promised Land of Going Direct.”

Unfortunately for the ones asking, there is no secret and there is no shortcut. The path consists of three steps.

The first step is to do research. You need to do research to learn the facts about the business you are engaged in. What facts?

  • which title companies are active in your area;
  • who the decision makers are at each title company;
  • what credentials and demonstrated skills (experience) those title companies require before they will consider you;
  • how many loans were closed in your area within the past year;
  • how much competition do you face in your area;
  • what your competitors charge when working for title companies and signing services;
  • what your price point is where you can make a profit; and
  • what your unique selling point is that separates your brand of service from your competitors.

Do NOT expect your competitors to help you. You may find some who are helpful, but most of those with the experience and training to have found useful answers are not giving that away for free.

Unless you can afford to pay for training and have the skills to do due diligence on the trainers, you may want to use the resources that are freely available in your community.

Look for help from the business section of the nearest big public library, from SCORE , from the Small Business Administration (sba.gov), and from the nearest Small Business Development Center (which you can find on the sba site). I call these the free business basics places, and the value they offer for a small business is hard to overstate.

These places all have resources to help you develop a business plan and a marketing plan, as well as to do the research that goes into the plan.

They will not teach you everything you need to know in detail, as they are not notary signing agents. They will help you as much as they are able.

Subscribe to this blog so that you don’t miss upcoming articles here about research for NSAs. Also, I will cover some of those details in my books for notaries.

The second step is to develop a marketing plan. Use the facts you found from your research and the business basics help from the free places mentioned above to create your plan.

The third step is to execute your plan and adjust your strategy and tactics as you see what works and what does not.

It is your business. You have to work it with knowledge (based on research) and planning and consistency if you want to succeed.

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States With Remote Notary Laws

STATES WITH REMOTE NOTARY LAWS

VA and Montana have remote notary laws fully implemented; MT limits theirs to in-state notarization; VA allows their notaries and their signers to be anywhere. (Some VA remote notaries were active at the 2018 NNA Conference in Las Vegas, NV, according to a report from one attendee.)

Texas and Nevada – passed in 2017; scheduled to be implemented in 2018

Indiana, Tennessee, Minnesota, and Vermont – passed in 2018; scheduled to be implemented in 2019

Michigan – passed and signed into law 6-28-18; goes into effect 3-1-19.

Florida and Colorado voted it down this year (died in the legislature).

Ohio passed it in the past but repealed it; they have a current bill pending (it has passed one chamber and is under consideration in the other)

Several other states are still considering it this year. (See this page on the National Association of Secretaries of State website for updates: NASS Remote Notary Task Force) or check legiscan.com for updates on pending legislation in any state.


Please note: Remote Notary is NOT the same as e-notary. Some organizations and media reports are confusing the two terms because remote notary is an online thing that looks like e-notary, but it really is very different.

With e-notary, physical presence is still required. Remote notary lacks a physical presence, so verifying the identity of the signer is at least partly in the hands of a third-party other than the notary.

E-notary is done in person using a laptop or desktop and a secure login to the website. Remote notary is done online using a webcam and other tech.

E-notary is traditional notary only without the paper. Remote notary is an entirely new service being presented to the public as if it is the same thing, when it is very different.

Based on how it has been implemented so far, it appears that fees to the consumer for remote notary are generally going to be higher than e-notary or mobile notary, yet the notary will likely make less per notarization because the platforms involved and the tech investment required by the notary will eat up most of the income.


This list was compiled by Tim Gatewood, CNSA, PLSA
Updated Friday, July 6, 2018

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Education for NSAs

A notary signing agent (NSA) is a mobile notary with special education and training to handle real estate document assignments. It’s important that a notary who is thinking about becoming an NSA has a well-developed plan to get the education they need to succeed.

Here is my suggested plan for
Education for Notary Signing Agents

First, start with my Education for Notaries page here, because you need to be a well-educated notary public before you become a notary signing agent.

Second, you need one or more good books or ebooks about getting started as an NSA (such as mine seen on the Books page) or being in business as an NSA (look for them on Amazon and other online sources, as well as from the NNA).

Reading these books should help you filter out the noise and junk in order to keep the useful, good information as you read the websites mentioned on my Education for Notaries page.

Third, you need formal NSA training, such as that covered in the ongoing series of articles about training that you will find here on this site. You must have formal training and certification from the organizations that your potential NSA clients require, as your marketing to those possible hiring firms will not succeed without it.

Even if you somehow find clients who don’t require formal training and certification, how are you going to know what you’re doing without it? Unless you bring a relevant background in mortgage lending, title or escrow company work, real estate, and/or law, you will be lost trying to conduct an NSA assignment — especially at the professional level that hiring firms expect.

Fourth, then and only then, after you’ve educated yourself and after you’ve been formally trained as detailed above, you may want to get a mentor.

A mentor is NOT going to train you or give you the keys to the kingdom so that you can bypass the need for self-education and formal training. That is not what a mentor does.

You need to understand the limited role of a mentor before you ask someone to be one for you — and you need to know how to screen people so that whoever is mentoring you has enough experience and training to actually know what they are talking about.

If you have some limited areas where you need some questions answered, a mentor can help. That is what a good mentor does.

Check with the trainers where you receive your formal NSA training to see if they include mentoring or offer it for an extra fee.

(If I remember correctly, the NNA has some sort of mentoring program. Those who are getting formal training from N2P can pay a bit more and receive mentoring from them. )

You can get answers on business basics such as market research, bookkeeping, taxes, and marketing from the Small Business Administration (sba.gov), from the nearest Small Business Development Center (find the one closest to you at sba.gov), from SCORE (score.org), or from many public libraries. SCORE in particular is big on mentoring, and that’s not all they offer.

Fifth, do NOT ask to ride along with a local NSA, as this may violate the privacy laws concerning non-public personal information (NPPI). Ride alongs may also be against the terms of the contracts between and among the NSA, the firm that hired them, title or escrow companies, and lenders.

There’s also reports (from Carol Ray of Notary2Pro and others) that Notary Signing Agents who do allow others to ride along with them are frequently teaching bad habits (such as not administering an oath or affirmation when the document or the notarial certificate requires it, which can get you in trouble with the law).

For these and other reasons, doing a ride along is a Very Bad Idea and should NOT be part of your education plan.


So, there you have it — an education and training plan for Notary Signing Agents. As you can see, this will require that you invest time and money if you want to succeed as an NSA. That’s true with every business — if you don’t have any skin in the game, you’re not going to reach your goals. It’s your business. Do what you can to make it prosper.

If you found this article helpful, please subscribe to this blog so that you don’t miss any upcoming articles.

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Where to Report Deadbeat Firms 

Where to Report Deadbeat Firms
by Tim Gatewood

The following is a list of places where you as a notary signing agent can report deadbeat firms.

Deadbeat firms are those signing services, title companies, attorneys, or others who refuse to pay you, give you bogus excuses, send you checks that bounce after you have had to call and call them to get the check — in other words, the biggest pains-in-the-neck in this business. They may be slow pay, pay only after much hassle, or no pay.

Most deadbeat firms rely on scamming from one to pay the one behind. Sometimes, you can get them to pay you when you threaten to expose them as the deadbeats that they are.

Be sure that you have good records of what happened and that you stick to the facts (not your beliefs or assumptions or feelings) when you make your reports. Do NOT repeat rumors in your reports, as that can open you up to charges of libel or slander.

Some of the sites on this list have forums; some have groups; some have other gatherings of people who may want to know about this particular firm that has proven themselves (to you) to be a deadbeat. Once you have found the best place or places on each site to post your report, search for the name of the firm and post a comment under the most-recently-opened topic about them. Do NOT start a new topic about them unless you have searched first and were unable to find them, as some of the forum participants or group members on some of the sites can be very snarky (or hostile-seeming or rude) toward anyone who does that.

Some sites on this list do not have forums or groups, but do have other ways that you can report. Use your awesome research skills (which you should be developing as a small business person) to find the best way to report the deadbeat firm to each site.

There are two ways you can use this list.

First, you can just take it, modify it to make it your own and to make it directly relevant to the particular deadbeat firm that you want to report, and send it to that firm along with a final demand letter. Tell them that you will start reporting to the sites and places listed unless they pay you in full by X date. Then fax, email, and mail the letter. This has gotten some NSAs paid when everything else failed. As you are sending it as a final demand letter, you can still refer the matter to an attorney or a collection agency after the deadline passes, if you decide to do that. Or, you can move on to the second option.

Second, when you are done trying to collect and just want to be sure as many other notaries (and as many other businesses and agencies) as possible are aware of how this firm treated you, then go through the list and report them. Be as clear and specific and FACTUAL as you can in your reports. Leave emotions and “I heard” and “she said he said” out of it. Focus on what was done and what was not done; what you did about it; and what they said they were going to do versus what they did or did not do.

Here is The List of Where to Report Deadbeat Firms

NotaryRotary
123notary
NotaryCafe
the title company and Lender involved with the work
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
ripoffreport.com
NotaryBeware.com
State Attorney General in my state and in their state
Insurance Commission (for Escrow agents) or banking/lending commission (for lenders) in my state & yours
All 3 Credit Bureaus
Better Business Bureau in your state & in mine
Any Notary groups on Facebook, Google, yahoo or other sites that I can find and join
My blogs, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn page
Your firm’s Facebook page & LinkedIn page (if any)
Google+
Your firm’s Google local page (if any)
Yelp
mojopages.com
superpages
yellowbook
yp.com
craigslist in my town and yours
manta.com
b2b.yellowpages.com
findthebest.com
credibility.com
amfibi.com
buzzfile.com
alignable.com
infofree.com
and any other pages I can find where your firm is listed.

(You in the above list refers to the deadbeat firm. Me refers to the NSA who is owed money.)

For maximum impact, look the firm up by name on google, bing, yahoo, and other search engines. Make note of the websites where the firm appears. Be sure to include all of them not already in this list on your list for that specific deadbeat firm.

Deadbeat Zone Stop Sign


As an extra, I am sharing a somewhat different list that someone else created below. Some of the sites on this list are the same as on my list; some are different.

The following list was posted on Facebook in reference to no pay firms, which is a subset of the deadbeat firm (as many of them will pay if you pursue them hard and long enough). Not paying was referred to as Notary Public Theft of Services in that post. I have cleaned it up and taken out everything except the list. If you are in California, you may want to search for the original post on Facebook (or in the forum on NotaryRotary, as that was mentioned by the FB poster as their source) as it contained some California-specific elements that I have chosen to not include here.

(As with the list above “my” refers to the NSA; “your” refers to the deadbeat firm.)

Where to Report No Pay Firms

Lender (find on loan documents) – compliance officer

Title (find on loan documents)

Escrow (find on loan documents)

Bank (if applicable)

Loan Originator (if applicable)

Mortgage Broker (if applicable)

Real Estate Agent (if applicable)

Real Estate Broker (if applicable)

Better Business Bureaus (BBB) http://ask.bbb.org/complaints

Department of corporations in my state and your state (if they are incorporated, even if they are not licensed to do business in my state, I want my state to know that they are a deadbeat firm).

CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/

CA Department of Justice (if the firm is in California only) or the equivalent in my state (if any) and your state

State Attorney General in my state and your state

District Attorney Office in my county and your county

FBI (It counts as Cyber Crime because most likely you have been sent an email confirmation) https://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

My Governor and Your Governor (when looking them up, try “Small Business Issues/Concerns” to find where to report this deadbeat firm, as you are a small business)

Department of Insurance (All 50 States) (If a Title or Escrow company) https://eapps.naic.org/cis/fileComplaintMap.do

FHFA – Office of the Inspector General https://www.fhfa.gov/Homeownersbuyer/MortgageAssistance/Pages/ComplaintsConcernsQuestions.aspx

Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Report Fraud form: https://www.fhfaoig.gov/ReportFraud

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/GettingStarted?NextQID=251&Url=%23%26panel17#crnt

HUD https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/complaints_home

Board of Realtors (if buyer or seller package) http://www.wikihow.com/FileaComplaintAgainstaRealtor

US Representative (Your State, State of loan origination, State of Escrow, State of Title Company location) http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

US Senator (Your State, State of loan origination, State of Escrow, State of Title Company location) upper right hand corner for zip code search. https://www.senate.gov/

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