Expert Tips for Becoming a Successful Notary Signing Agent
Marketing to Title Companies
Title companies are considered by many signing agents to be more desirable clients than signing services. This is primarily because the title company client typically pays more to the notary signing agent than a signing service will for the same work. As a result, notary signing agents are eager to solicit title companies. There is a right way and a wrong way to approach title companies. It is just as important to avoid the pitfalls of doing things the wrong way as it is to know the right way to target title companies. Doing things the wrong way can put the notary in a bad light with both title companies and signing services. Understanding the relationship between these two types of notary hiring entities will be helpful.The Signing Service’s Relationship with Title Companies Signing services provide an important and sought after service to title companies. While title companies are focusing their time and effort into working for their own clients (lenders) preparing settlement statements and assuring all documents are in place to secure the loan which the title company will be insuring, the signing service puts their time into finding notaries in the location of the lender’s borrower so that the loan can be signed conveniently for that borrower.
By understanding this, the difference in fees paid to the notary by a title company versus the fees paid by a signing service can be easily understood. In short, it could be said that the signing service is actually brokering the services of the notary and being paid by the title company to do so. It is not much different than a general contractor who hires certain types of contractors to build a house. The new home owner pays the general contractor, who in turn, uses their expertise and time to locate carpenters, sheet rock hangers, bricklayers and so forth. For performing that service, the general contractor keeps a part of the payment from the owner as their commission for finding contractors to build the owner’s home.
In a similar situation, say for instance, a title company has set aside $150.00 to pay for the loan signing notary’s services. The title company then contacts a signing service to locate a notary and to oversee the job. In turn, the signing service takes a portion of that fee for locating a notary, negotiating a fee, and following up with the notary to make sure that the documents have been signed accurately, dropped in a timely manner, and that the package is back to the title company or lender by the required time and date. The fee the notary is offered by the signing service is a percentage of the fee paid to the signing service by the title company. The signing service keeps the difference and rather than receiving the entire $150.00 directly from the title company, the notary is offered between $65 and $125.00* of that entire amount. (*Please note that these figures are purely speculative for the sake of explanation. They should not be considered actual.)
Therefore, once notaries have been in the loan signing business long enough to understand the fee structure they may seek to work directly for title companies, avoiding the intermediary of a signing service, so that the notary receives the entire fee rather than dividing it with a signing service.
This is not to say that signing services do not play an important role in the notary signing business. Obviously their services are needed by busy title companies or else there would not be so many of them. However, unless the title company’s policy or their own client (the lender) requires it, title companies are not required to use signing services and do it for the sake of convenience. Understanding this, notaries often seek to reach the title companies directly to solicit working for them without the go-between of the signing service. There are ways to improve the chances of working directly for the title company. Below is discussed the wrong way to go about this, as well as a suggestion and tips for improving the notary’s chances of gaining title company work directly.Caution: Gain Experience before Soliciting Title Companies
Before using the marketing advice in this article the notary should be experienced and confident in their abilities to produce a flawlessly signed loan package. It is better to have experience before approaching title companies because title companies expect that the notaries they deal with directly know how to handle most situations with little supervision. Be patient. Perform many loan signings prior to soliciting title companies. Experience cannot be bluffed and the notary who is not ready to perform signings with a minimum of input from others will cost themselves, and others, time and effort, and perhaps even money, by not being ready for the assignment. (For notaries who have not had the opportunity to sign their first package, this article from an earlier edition of this newsletter might be helpful.)
Ineffective Marketing Methods
Before covering the better way to reach title companies, two ineffective methods of attempting to contact title companies for work will be discussed.
Marketing to the Signing Service’s Client
The most common way, and an almost certainly counter-productive method that newer notary signing agents use to attempt to solicit title company work is by marketing to the signing service’s client. For instance, when the notary receives work from a signing service the notary may decide to market to the signing service’s client, meaning the title company involved in the loan. At that point, the notary decides to include their marketing materials in the loan package returned to the title company. This is a dubious practice for the notary as it is literally attempting to steal clients from the signing service which has hired them. Even though the notary may not realize that they are doing something which is considered unethical by the title company and the signing service, it is. This practice is considered by many in the industry to be an action showing a lack of integrity on the part of the notary signing agent.
Once the notary attempts to market to the title company in this manner, depending on the relationship between the title company and the signing service, the title company may contact the signing service and advise them that the notary they hired is attempting to “steal” business out from under them.
This is a counter-productive marketing technique which will diminish the chances that the notary will be able to work for the signing service in the future. Aside from being seen as unethical, the other reason this is often an ineffective tactic is because the title company employee who opens the package with the returned loan documents (and the notary’s marketing materials included) is generally in the post-closing department. The post-closing department usually has nothing to do with the efforts that go into sending a package out for signing and locating the notary. Therefore, the notary’s marketing materials will not have arrived at the desk of the right person. The notary’s effort has been wasted in addition to risking the chance of being seen as unethical and losing future business from that particular signing service and/or title company.
Soliciting the Wrong Title Companies
Another ineffective way that a less experienced notary attempts to gain title company work is to solicit the most seemingly obvious: locally owned and operated title companies within the notary’s service area.
While in some locations this may work it is often a dead end and the notary’s marketing efforts are not welcome. In the notary signing agent world, all title companies are not created equal and an experienced notary signing agent will understand this. A local title company may actually see the notary signing agent as direct competition. This is because before the days of signing agents the common technique for notarizing closing documents in loan packages was for the borrowers to go inside of the local, nearby title company.
In those days, the lending was done locally by the banks near the borrower’s home. The title company work, plus the loan signing, was done locally, as well. Upon the establishment of national lenders to meet the needs of borrowers taking advantage of falling interest rates in the 1990’s and early in the next decade, national title companies were set up to accommodate those national lenders. In order for the national title company to close loans across the United States in places they had no offices, a new type of loan signing appointment system evolved—the engagement of a notary signing agent’s services. Thus was created the need for notary signing agents who could be hired by the national title companies to accommodate loan signings wherever the borrower was located.
Therefore, the locally owned and operated title company is generally not interested in hearing from a notary signing agent as they see them as the very reason the local title company has lost business locally to national title companies.
Finding the Right Title Companies to SolicitThe signing agent should not give up on marketing aggressively to title companies, however, because there is a way to develop a list targeting national or statewide title companies working in the notary’s local area.
In order to find out what title companies and lenders are working in the notary’s area the notary will probably need to make a trip to the county recorder’s office, usually located in the county courthouse. Once there, the notary should peruse the recordings of deeds of trust (or mortgages) in their county.
If where to find the public records of their county is unknown to the notary, the notary should call their local courthouse and ask where property records are filed or recorded. They may be told that the documents are available to view online and learn that a trip to the county recorder’s office is not necessary. If the documents are not online, the next step for the notary is to go to the office and began reviewing the documents. The clerks in these offices will direct the notary where to find the most recently recorded deeds of trust or mortgages.
While reviewing the recorded documents the notary should look at the top of the first page of each document, and/or look at the signature page, to find the name of the title company overseeing the loan process in that transaction. It is often the custom of title companies and document preparation workers to include on the deed of trust/mortgage instruments where the document should be returned once it is recorded. This is where the title company’s name is that the notary will want to target.
These documents are public record and available to anyone. However, few notaries seem to be aware of this type of information and do not take advantage of it.
During this process the notary should look over at least two months’ worth of document recordings to find the names of those title companies which are actively working in the notary’s area. The notary should write down the title company’s name, address and any other information included, along with the name of the lender which is always stated on a deed of trust or mortgage.
Names of title companies which the notary should especially focus on will be the ones which are located out of state and in nearby larger towns, especially if those names occur more than once during a month. Those are the title companies which need a notary signing agent to sign their loans since they obviously are located outside of the area and do not have offices in the notary’s service area.
Sending Marketing Materials
Once this task of research at the county recorder’s office is complete the notary has a “golden” list of potential clients to target. The notary should then create a marketing piece which will provide relevant information to the targeted title company. Once the marketing piece is created it should be mailed in an envelope to the title company.
One way to improve the chances of reaching the right recipient at the title company is to use the lender’s name, and the word “team” as shown below, and to address the outside of the envelope like this:
Name of Title Company
Attention: Name of Lender Team
City, State and Zip
A letter or note could be included noting that the notary has perused the county recorder’s records and found that the title company’s client is “Name of Lender” and that the notary would like to offer their services for professionally conducted loan signings for that lender. If this process is followed, there can be no question that the notary has used any signing service assignment to gain access to the name of the active title companies in their areas.
Before moving on, again, notice that the word “Team” is used in the attention line. This is because many title companies divide their workers into teams to which lender clients are assigned. An envelope addressed as such will more likely reach the right spot in the title company in the team’s department where loan signings are needed.
This type of marketing is one way that the notary can significantly improve their chances of reaching the intended workers inside of the title companies which use notary signing agents.
Another way to reach the title company workers who might be interested in the notary’s marketing information is calling the title companies on the list and asking for the person on the “Name of Lender’s” team which hires signing services or schedules notaries. Once that person is on the phone, the notary should quickly introduce themselves and ask if it is okay if they send their marketing materials to the person. (Do remember to make a note of that person’s name for future contacting.) The notary should continue to mail the title company periodically. In addition, the notary should repeat the process of going to the county recorder’s office on a biweekly or monthly basis in order that new potential clients can be identified and contacted. New targets will likely appear each week. The more contacts made, the more likely targets will eventually be hit.
Additional Tips on Improving Marketing Efforts
Tip: Timing is important. Mail outs by notaries to title companies should be timed so that the marketing pieces will arrive at the title company during the period of the 6th through the 20th of each month. The days are increasingly chaotic for title company workers as the end of the month approaches and the information will more likely be given less attention on those days. The first week after the end of the month is generally a time when problems from the end of the month are resolved. Therefore, targeting the right time for providing marketing materials is important.
Tip: State the number and types of loans previously handled by the notary on the marketing piece. Gain experience with signing services before tackling the solicitation of title companies as clients. Once you have adequate experience the marketing piece can state a number of successfully completed loans.
Tip: Again, do not attempt to solicit title companies until experienced enough to handle signings with a minimum of supervision.
Tip: Guaranty the work. State on the marketing piece that all work is guaranteed. Briefly explain the policy. For instance, some signing agents state they will correct any error without question and at no additional charge. Other signing agents have a policy that if there is any flaw in the work which is a result of their own error the entire fee will be written off as a courtesy. Each notary must determine their own policy for guaranteed work.
Tip: Read The Marketing Sherpa and other similar marketing websites. The successful notary signing agent will seek to learn the proper techniques for creating appealing marketing pieces and to be persuasive in their presentation.
Tip: Contact your local chapter of the Small Business Development Centers where there are free or very inexpensive courses available on planning and marketing a business.
Tip: Continue to read this newsletter. The American Association of Notaries strives to provide its readers advice they can put to use to enhance their notary signing agent business. If you have a particular question on marketing, please let us hear from you. Email us at: email@example.com