Ten Common Missteps that New Notary Signing Agents Should Avoid


Notary signing agents are taught how to conduct loan signing appointments in training classes, but some loan signing lessons are learned only through trial and error. Below we’ve listed ten missteps that can plague notaries when they are beginning a new signing agent career.

1- Stamping a Document Because It Says “Seal”

If you see the word “seal” on a document near a signature line, it doesn’t mean you need to place your seal there. The word “seal” is a holdover from the 19th century; it still shows up occasionally on forms that notaries see in loan packages. A safe rule to follow is to place your seal only on a notarial certificate.

2- Using Knowledge from Previous Legal Work Experience

Lawyers and paralegals who perform signing agent work have reported that it’s difficult to forget their legal training. One of the most common errors is allowing borrowers to make changes to their names in the documents without notifying the hiring entity. They learn quickly that this isn’t acceptable and the hiring entity must be contacted for permission.

3- Failing to Keep Hiring Entities Informed

Notary signing agents should inform their hiring entities of any changes in scheduling or regarding issues that arise at the table. For instance, if you can’t identify your borrowers properly or the borrowers decide not to sign, don’t pack up and leave without making every effort to talk to the party who hired you for the assignment. Keep your hiring party informed every step of the way. (Of course, if you feel you are in danger or the borrowers tell you to leave, do what you need to. Your safety comes first!)

4- Believing “Other notaries do this all the time!”

New notaries often hear “Well, other notaries do this for us all the time!” This remark may arise if the notary refuses to perform acts he or she believes are wrong. A notary may also hear this when refusing to accept an assignment being offered for a low fee. The key to dealing with this type of situation effectively is knowing your notary laws and knowing how much you should charge to profit from an assignment.

5- Giving Advice or Opinions

It’s so tempting at times to tell a borrower that he or she is getting a raw deal on interest rates or closing costs. Don’t do it! Keep in mind that notary signing agents can’t give opinions about loan terms, even if the borrowers ask for them.

6- Shrinking Documents to Print on Smaller Paper

Always print documents on the correct paper size. Don’t shrink them to fit on letter size paper if they are intended to be printed on legal size paper. Of course, if you receive permission from your hiring entity to print in this fashion, you may do so; but, always note the name of the person who gave you permission.

7- Attaching Loose Certificates Printed on Non-Matching Paper Size

Loan and real estate documents often require recording in the public records. According to the property recording industry standard, if a notary must attach a loose certificate to a document, the certificate should be printed on a full-size sheet of paper that matches the paper size of the document.

8- Allowing Borrowers to Have their Copies Before Signing Documents

Almost every new notary signing agent makes this mistake at least once! They give borrowers their copies of the loan documents before starting the signing appointment. Some borrowers attempt to review their copies while the notary introduces the originals for signature, resulting in the borrowers’ copies becoming mixed in with the originals. To avoid this common fiasco, hold the borrowers’ copies until the end of the signing appointment.

9- Forgetting to Print the Title Documents

At times, new notary signing agents (especially when working directly for a title company) may not realize that documents produced by the title company can arrive in a separate email or in several emails outside of the lender document package. Make sure you have both the lender documents and title documents in your briefcase when you leave for an appointment.

10- Relying on Peers for Answers

It’s always nice to get a second opinion about a situation, but don’t rely on peers for answers if you don’t know what to do about an assignment issue. Call the company that hired you. If your confusion relates to a notarial act, look at your notary laws or notary handbook; you may also contact the AAN or your notary public administrator for assistance. Now that you know about these common mistakes, you’ll be able to steer clear of these new notary signing agent pitfalls!

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Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies but makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained . Information in this article is not intended as legal advice. We are not attorneys. We do not pretend to be attorneys. Though we will sometimes provide information regarding federal laws and statutes and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered the information from a variety of sources. We do not warrant the information gathered from those sources. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of an attorney in their state if they have legal questions about how to notarize.

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