WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A NOTARY PUBLIC
and a NOTARY SIGNING AGENT?
In addition to fulfilling all of the important requirements and duties of an HONEST, knowledgeable and prudent Notary Public, a Notary Signing Agent has specialized training/experience in assisting you, the buyer/borrower/seller, in the "signing" portion of the "closing" (generally mortgage refinance transactions, but may also include purchase and/or sale transactions). In addition to notarizing certain documents, the Notary Signing Agent also serves as a "witness" to the signing of the other documents in the package which are not notarized. The added value provided by a Notary Signing Agent is that the Notary Signing Agent will come to you, AT YOUR CONVENIENCE, to assist with the signing of your documents. There may be certain date restrictions (signed before a certain date) that apply, but, other than that, the signing can be scheduled so you do not have to leave work in the middle of the day to go to an escrow office in order to sign your document. Part of the added service offered by Notary Signing Agents is that they will also often provide services on weekends and holidays if that is more convenient for you.
IS A NOTARY SIGNING AGENT THE SAME AS A CLOSING AGENT?
No. Closing Agents (i.e., escrow companies, etc.) prepare documents, disburse funds, and coordinate the total "closing" of a transaction. Notary Signing Agents take part in the "signing" portion of the closing only. A Notary Signing Agent insures all documents are signed/dated and notarized, in accordance to instructions from Escrow or the Lender. Once the signing is completed and all documents are notarized, the Notary Signing Agent is generally then responsible for returning the signed documents to the escrow/title company, or as instructed.
WHAT DOES "CERTIFIED" OR "REGISTERED" MEAN?
There are professional notary organizations and other companies that offer training and/or "certification" or "registration" for Notaries desiring to provide Notary Signing Agent services. These titles are conferred on individuals who have successfully completed a training course and testing that objectively demonstrates that Notary Public's knowledge of the process and requirements to correctly complete the "signing."
Some organizations also require that the Notary Public demonstrate successful experience as a Notary Signing Agent, The Resources page has links to different organizations that provide Notary Signing Agent Training and/or Certification.
MUST A NOTARY SIGNING AGENT BE "CERTIFIED" OR "REGISTERED"
IN ORDER TO BE "QUALIFIED"?
No. Being "certified" or "registered" does not mean a Notary Signing Agent is "qualified," any more than holding a driver's license in their name "qualifies" a person to drive a car responsibly and safely, or with skill. Notary Signing Agents are not regulated by state law in Hawaii. Some states restrict who may assist with the closing of a real estate transaction and Notary Signing Agents may be restricted from operating in certain states. Hawaii does not make such a restriction and any person who is a duly-commissioned Notary Public may provide Notary Signing Agent Services and it is left to the company contracting their services to determine a Notary Signing Agent's qualifications.
Notaries who are not familiar with the documents contained in real estate closing and/or re-financing transactions, or who have not obtained the training, may not be considered "qualified" to provide Notary Signing Agent Services. If your lender sends you documents and asks you to find your own "Notary," you should attempt to find an experienced Notary Signing Agent who is familiar with the documents being signed . Mistakes by an unqualified Notary Public may cause the delay of your transaction.
Certification and/or registration are simply an objective way by which organizations determine that a Notary Public has demonstrated a minimum level of knowledge and competence in the skills required of a Notary Signing Agent. Certification and/or registration, or other designation, also demonstrates that the Notary Signing Agent has invested the time and resources ($$) to prepare themselves and further insure they are qualified to provide the best Notary Signing Agent Services possible
WHO DOES THE NOTARY SIGNING AGENT "WORK" FOR?
If your mortgage broker, lender and escrow/title company are on the mainland, and depending on the Island you live on, the Notary Signing Agent will generally be an independent contractor (business person) who agrees, for a fee, to provide Notary Signing Agent Services for the closing of your transaction. The Notary Signing Agent may be contracted by your Lender, the Closing Agent or a third-party Signing Service whose customer is the Closing Agent. Nevertheless, the Notary Signing Agent should be, first and foremost, an Honest Notary Public who serves as an impartial witness to the transaction. In this respect, the Notary Signing Agent "works" for all parties involved to insure that the parties signing are who they say they are, and all of the other requirements of notarization are met. In addition to the requirements of notarization, the Notary Signing Agent insures that the un-notarized documents are properly executed.
WHO PAYS THE FEE FOR THE NOTARY SIGNING AGENT'S SERVICES?
If the Notary Signing Agent has been contracted by the Closing Agent, or a third-party "signing" service, that fee is paid by you and the cost of the Notary Signing Agent Service should appear on the HUD-1, or other document reflecting the fees associated with the closing of your transaction.
If the Notary Signing Agent has been contracted by a third-party, the amount being paid for "Notary Services" is generally higher than the amount that will ultimately be paid to the Notary Signing Agent. This is because third-party Signing Services also receive a fee for their role in locating and scheduling the Notary Signing Agent to perform the signing.
As with other fees that are paid on your behalf at the time of closing, you have a right to know what you are paying. An independent Notary Signing Agent will likely not volunteer what their fee is for their services, however, since you are paying their fee, you are entitled to inquire as to what the fee is.
WHAT IF MY BROKER/LOAN OFFICER SENDS ME DOCUMENTS AND
TELLS ME TO FIND MY OWN "NOTARY"?
Ask what arrangements will be made for the "signing" of your loan documents.
If you are currently involved in the process of refinancing your mortgage, and your broker and lender are on the mainland, NOW is the time to discuss with your mortgage broker about the how the "signing" process will take place: Who, When, etc. It is also the time to begin thinking about the identification that will be required by law for your signature to be notarized, and whether you have identification that will permit you to be positifely identified (see below) by the Notary Signing Agent.
Insure, well in advance of the anticipated signing date, that you have the proper identification.
Often, people will hold the title to property in a name that they never normally use (their full first, middle and last names, as an example), and do not, therefore, have acceptable identification in the name they will be signing (the name that must be notarized). If the signer of any document does not possess acceptable (by law) I.D., this SHOULD prevent the documents from being notarized because one of the most important responsibilities of a NOTARY PUBLIC is to INSURE that THE PERSON SIGNING THE DOCUMENTS OBLIGATING THEM to 30 years of mortgage payments. is THAT PERSON and not someone attempting to perpetrate MORTGAGE FRAUD. If the Notary Signing Agent is also an Honest Notary Public, then the signer, in this case, YOU, as the borrower, MUST possess I.D. that will permit the Notary Public to POSITIVELY IDENTIFY you as the person(s) signing the documents.
Timing of the "signing" and the scheduled "closing" of the transaction.
Many times the borrowers receive the documents from an express courier, with the instructions to "find a Notary," sign the documents and return the documents the next day. Some lenders simply include instructions to find a Notary Signing Agent. Also, the well-known express couriers (FedEX, UPS, DHL, etc.) have rather unique schedules compared to their schedules on the Mainland and it is not always possible for the completed documents to be returned to the Mainland U.S. as quickly as the escrow/title/lender would like.
Asking your Loan Officer about arrangements for signing your documents early in the process will avoid the last-minute hassle and stress of trying to find a qualified Notary Public or Notary Signing Agent.
If you are asked to find your own Notary Signing Agent, it will be your responsibility to pay the Notary Signing Agent's fee at the time of the signing. It MAY be possible for the Notary Signing Agent's fee to be included with the costs associated with your loan, but this arrangement should be made in advance of the actual signing appointment (a day or two before), and may not be possible if you are not able to contact a Notary or Notary Signing Agent until the day you receive your documents. If you contact the Notary Signing Agent directly, the amount you will be charged for the Notary Signing Agent's services should be disclosed and agreed to by you at the time you schedule the signing appointment.