Hi everyone! This is Laura with CoachMeLaura.com.
I have been putting out blogs mostly about general notary work and you know, that is really the bulk of my business today. However, I want to mention that I am a loan signing agent and I've been doing that for 16 years, and even now, I still take assignments in that area. So I thought today I'd talk a little bit about 10 key steps to managing that loan signing - from acceptance to invoicing.
This is very high level and very basic. So if you're brand new or you're just thinking about doing this, this will give you an idea of what's expected. If you're just getting your training going, it' should fit right in with that. if you are a very experienced assigning agent, I hope I uncover something you hadn't thought about today!
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I want to start with expectations - there are a lot of expectations for us. For example, timely communication between myself and the contracting company, between myself and the title company if necessary, myself and the ultimate signer for the documents. I am going to be accepting phone calls, making phone calls, and making sure I'm tracking the status of what I'm doing. The attention to detail is really important! I should be able to recognize that if there's a problem with the loan package that I received, that I can communicate that.
There's going to be minor issues that I would not be able to identify in advance because there's so much variation between lenders and title companies, and the documents for each kind of package. But there are some big ones I could notice myself. For example, if it is a loan signing appointment, there should be a note and a deed of trust to backup the note. If it's a refinance on somebody's property that they live in, there should be right to cancel documents in there. If it says that there's a large amount of money due from the borrower, there should be wiring instructions. These are some of the big things that I check now.
Being prompt in everything I do. Promptness - and my response to the assignment itself. Promptness in responding to call backs from the title company or from the signer themselves. Promptness in my arrival at the location, if you're on time, you're late! My target time is five minutes ahead. That way, if I'm in my car, five minutes ahead right there on their street, I'm going to be at their door a couple of minutes before our signing time. I don't want to get there too early because they may not be prepared for me. And now I'm just sitting around.
But I do try to get there just a little bit early. And that means I need to build in margin between appointments to give myself time to pick up, for example, a soda or a water. Perhaps to stop to go to the bathroom. Or, if there's unexpected traffic delay or an extra red light I didn't anticipate.
Next, I need to demonstrate my expertise. This means I know the 'lingo' and when I'm speaking with a signing company or a title company, I know what documents they' are speaking about. I understand my identification laws so that I know what I can do and if that isn't what they present, I know my alternatives. I understand how to present documents and I know the difference between presenting them and explaining them. I know about collecting signatures and that those signatures are all over the place. The 1003, the Loan Application - it's at the top left corner, but then most of the time it's at the bottom! Sometimes it's at the center, sometimes it's at the left, there's initials, there's not initials, there's dates, there's no dates. So I need to be able to get these documents executed promptly.
My professionalism. I'm expected to answer my phone the first time as a professional when I take the assignment and all subsequent communications, whether it's by call or by email. Also, my communications with the signer themselves.That's important because customer experience is king - that drives everything. We want that signer to be comfortable with us - to be comfortable signing their documents. And it doesn't hurt to liven it up a little bit, have a little personality! For some of the documents, I found silly ways to describe them to make it one, a little more understandable, and two, to give a little twist to it. So for instance, if I'm talking about the deed of trust, I'm going to say, 'you know, that document that says when you pay, you stay! And when you don't, you won't! I love that phrase and it makes everybody loosen up a little bit.
So let me walk you through an assignment. And I wanna keep all these expectations in mind. One is I only accept the assignment when it meets my own business plan. That means it's in my territory. It's at a profitable level for myself. I have the time on my schedule, I'm not sneaking it in - not like I've got a 45 minute window and I think I'm going to zip it in. You know, whenever you do that, it's going to be a problem! Also, I want to make sure I have the skills. So if I don't know anything about reverse mortgages, I better have gotten training before I go out and do a first assignment, so I know what to expect.
Now the next step, once I say 'yes, I'm available, it's all good,' is I'm going to be confirming that with the borrowers. So I want to make sure when I talk with the borrowers, they know who I am, why I'm calling, they understand that they need to have a photo ID that's valid for me and what that requirement is in my state. Also if there's any stipulation, like 'I see that there's money due - were you're expecting to wire your money or were you going to have certified funds available for that?' I also would recommend that you get the loan signers and the lenders cell phone numbers. So if something comes up in the appointment, that's the person they need to call. If I'm printing my documents - of course I have the right equipment that allows me to print the right sizes for the right pages, legal and letter, and that I can go back and forth easily without having to manipulate it manually myself. So that means I have a dual tray and it pulls the appropriate one.
I also want to make sure that when I'm printing these documents that I print two sets. One is your signing set, the other one is the borrower's copy. I call that their bedtime reading! They're going to get a copy of everything, no matter if they signed it or not. I'm going to give them everything. It puts them at ease to know they can scrutinize these documents all they want after I leave. Now, I also don't hand those to them though until I'm done with the signing because I may need to switch out documents if they make a mistake rather than striking and correcting it, which you can of course. Some lenders don't like that, so I like to switch them out if needed. Particularly critical documents, like a Deed of Trust, I don't fix it, I switch it. Right to Cancel? I don't fix it, I switch it.
Now when I get there I want to make sure that I evaluate the signing environment for me. And the three things I'm I'm concerned about is one, is there a table for me to work at? Not the coffee table. Sometimes that is all there is, but most times kitchen or dining room table is the size that I need. And the other two are pets and children. They can be the biggest distractions. So you want to make sure that if the pets are loose and you're comfortable with pets, great. Acknowledge them. 'Hi puppy. Good to see you.' I have two Chihuahuas myself I tell people so I'm not worried about them, and that pets usually will settle down pretty quickly. But if they're not that kind of pet, and they are just all over me, I will ask the signer, 'could we put the pet away until we're done signing?'.
Children? Worse than pets, right?! They want to touch the paper and they've got peanut butter. Who knows what is on their fingers! So I want to make sure I've given them the opportunity to set up something for their children to do. They might be watching a movie, they might be playing a board game, they might have a babysitter that's watching them, they might send them out to the backyard to play - whatever it is - so that the signers are not distracted by their children throughout the signing and that the children don't mark up or mess up my documents.
Now, before I present that first document, I'm going to describe my signing process. That means I'm going to say, look, I am your notary and here's what I'm going to be doing. I'll present every document, tell you what it is. I'll show you where you need to sign or date or initial. Today's date by the way is, and I'll tell them that. And the way you sign your name is here, it's right here. The example on the document under the signature line, that's the expectation. Now, you know, whatever they signed, it's their signature. If it's illegible, it's not going matter to me. I can't do anything about that. But I can at least point out this is the expectation.
Now I'm going to start presenting documents and I'm going to let them know I can help them find information that they asked me, but I cannot explain why anything is the way it is. They'll need to call the loan officer for that. So I'm going to present each one and I'm going to not only tell them verbally what I want, I'm going to point at the right spot so that they see it and they hear it.
Now once we get through that and of course some of those documents will need to be notarized. Remember you're expected to notarize at the table. If you want to prepare your cert certificates ahead of time, not a problem, but don't sign and stamp until you're at the table and please sign and stamp when you're at the table. Don't do that when you get home. Same thing with journal entries. Go with what your state says. If you're in California, you got to do it all at the table. But you might be at a state that does not say that and you might be able to pre fill out many of those entries ahead of time. You may be able to take shortcuts, but everything should be happening when you're at the table. Now when I'm done, I'm going to do a last QA step. I've been watching them as I go.
I gave them instructions, but you know, they can miss an initial, a date, a signature, especially when you have two. So I take five minutes to go through it. And my trick is that when I present documents, I start at the top and I go to the bottom. And when I QA documents, I start at the bottom and I go to the top. I do the opposite so that my eyes are more likely to see something missing. Now once I get that QA process done at the table and we're good to go, I'm going to communicate next steps to the signer. I'm taking this package to FedEx so that it will get it delivered. And then I'm going to move on.
Before I leave in my car, I'm going to either get on and do the completion report if that's how I'm going to communicate completion or I'm going to call or I'm going to text - whatever their process is to be notified. So that's really important. I need to communicate the signing status with the company as soon as I can before I move on to other assignments so that they're not bothering me.
I need to drop that package. I may not be able to drop it right at that moment. That's probably just fine as long as you get it in time. But make sure you know where all your locations are. Make sure you know the last time you can drop for 'same day' delivery. Make sure you have a supply of UPS and FedEx envelopes and shipping sheets. So you're always good to go.
And of course the last step is you're going to invoice that customer. You're going to use the process they told you if they said the completion report does it, great. That's what you're going to do. If they say include your invoice in the package, then that's what you're going to do. Whatever their processes follow it because it will more likely be paid on time.
Now what happens if it's not being paid on time?
Well, first of all, you should be tracking your assignments. I use Notary Assist (NotaryAssist.com) Software myself, and I put in the assignment when it's done and then I run an unpaid report every week and it allows me to do that on Notary Assist. That way I know where I'm at and I can see how old it is from the date I submitted the invoice and if they said it's going to be two weeks, I don't start following up until after two weeks. If they said 30 days, I don't start following up until after 30 days and if they said 45 days, I wish I hadn't said yes, but I did. I need to wait the 45 days. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
When you do start following up, let them know, Hey, was it my oversight? If you already sent the check, would you just tell me the number, the amount, the date it was cut, so that I can reconcile this assignment? But you know, sometimes they're just not paying you. So what do I do then? I'm going to make sure in writing, I'm doing the followup and I might be using a legal plan to help me.
The one I happen to use is Legal Shield. I love Legal Shield because they have lots of attorneys here, and actually nationally - all over the United States! And they will send a demand letter that has like 30 attorneys on the top of the letterhead that says, 'Here, you confirmed or agreed to this assignment? This was the money that should be paid. The timeframe was 30 days. We are now at 60 days. Unless you can explain what's happening, if we don't get it by "X" date, we'll be taking the next legal steps.' I've done that twice and you know, both times I was paid within the week. It works! I love it!
So if you have to use a professional organization to help you, use it! it's worth the investment. Legal shield has many other benefits for me. And so I use it for many other purposes because I have rentals. I have them review contracts, lots of different things. But that might be a way to get some extra help rather than going to a collection agency that takes, for example, 30% if they can even collect.
So those are the 10 steps from acceptance to invoicing that I follow so that I have a successful assignment every time. I hope that was helpful for you. You might have learned something that you didn't know or maybe I gave you a suggestion you haven't tried. Fabulous!
Thanks for hanging out with me until now, and I hope that until the next time, you make it a good one!
Have a good one. Bye bye.