The Not-So-Secret Way to Increase Your Loan Signing Income WITHOUT Driving All Over Town by Leveraging the Power and Possibilities of "In-house" Signing Appointments

Uncategorized Feb 01, 2020

The Not-So-Secret Way to Increase Your Loan Signing Income WITHOUT Driving All Over Town by Leveraging the Power and Possibilities of "In-house" Signing Appointments.

When I am in full "hustle-mode" as a mobile notary and loan signing agent, I've been known to drive 300 to 400 miles per day. I even remember a few times where I had to get TWO oil-changes in one month because I drove over 6,000 miles in a 30-day time period.

That's all fine and good for someone like me, that loves to drive. But what about you? Do you want to drive that much?

Chances are, you don't. And that's okay!

As a small business owner, you get the final say in what works for you and what doesn't. Afterall, there are lots of reasons that driving a lot may not work for you.

Top Reasons Notaries Don't Like to Drive

After talking to notaries all over the country on my daily mentor calls (book for free here), I hear all kinds of reasons y'all don't like to drive. Here are some of the most common:

  • Wear and tear on their nice vehicle
  • Unreliable vehicle or no vehicle at all
  • Too much lost time
  • Won't drive on freeways
  • Too scared of accidents and crazy people
  • They just don't want to 

Whatever your reason might be, don't sweat it too much. There are always options. One of my favorites are what some people call "in-house" or "in-office" signings. 

What is an "in-house" signing?

In contrast to mobile signing appointments where you may travel to the signer's home or office, In-house, or in-office, signings are loan signing appointments that are held in the offices of the Closing Agent (Escrow Officer or Attorney, typically). 

As the loan signing agent for these appointments, you'll likely be sitting in a conference room or spare office to conduct your duties. The signers will then meet you there at their assigned time. 

Sounds cool, right? But, you're probably thinking...

If they have their own notaries on staff anyway, why don't they just do the signings themselves?

The first time I was ever booked for an in-house signing, I asked myself the same thing. In fact, I even asked the escrow officer that hired me, "Not that I am complaining, but why hire me to come into your office like this?" 

We laughed a little, and she explained that in her little branch office, there were only two of them at any given time. She was the manager, and her employee was receptionist/escrow assistant and there were many times that they would be overbooked. 

Bing! And there went the proverbial light bulb. 

If this office needed in-house services, then I knew others would too. I started including this in-house service in casual conversations with current clients and prospects. 

It turns out, that many closing agents utilize in-house notary services, and here is why:

Here is why closing agents hire us to notarize in their own offices

  • They may be temporarily short-staffed due to medical leave, vacations, maternity/paternity, etc. 
  • They are just too busy to handle their closing volume in general (dream clients).  This happens a lot with home builders and other top performers in real estate.
  • And, my favorite, many of these companies are realizing that it makes more sense to hire contractors for the loan signings so the closing agents can focus on tasks that generate revenue (like networking and building a book of business) or working their files efficiently and in compliance with state and federal law.

The Most Common In-house Scenarios and How You Get Paid

Performing in-house loan signings for these closing agents can look a couple different ways. One thing you can pretty much count on though, is that these appointments will occur during standard business hours for that closing agent (please remember, this business is loaded with exceptions to the rule, so you may get called for early morning and evening appointments in-house as well).

 Scenario #1-

Like my first in-house signing, you may be booked for a "one-off" signing appointment. That just means that if you get booked for 10:00am, you'll show up by 9:30am, or so, to get set up and introduce yourself. It's very important to show up early enough as to not cause stress for the person that hired you. That said, you also don't want to show up so early that you cause an interruption or inconvenience. Once the signing is complete, you're free to go. You'll be compensated for this one single appointment as per the policies of the company that hired you. 

Scenario #2

In scenario #2, you may be booked for multiple appointments, often back to back on the hour. You'll likely be given a conference room or office for each appointment and the signers will just come in at their scheduled time to sign with you. Once your last signing is complete, you are free to go. You will be compensated for each individual signing appointment, and paid as per the hiring company's policies. 

Scenario #3

This is a daily "flat rate" plan. You and the hiring company agree on one fee for the entire day. Whether you have one signing, or six signings, your fee is the same. Sometimes, when you're booked for a full day flat rate, you may actually have zero signings because of cancellations and reschedules. You still get paid your flat fee for the day. The key here is that you are expected to stay for the full day, 8-5 (or whatever your client stipulates). Rest assured that has your relationship develops, your client will likely cut you loose early if they know there are no other signing appointments coming in that day. But, in today's marketplace, these signings happen very last minute, so they may keep you...just in case. 

Fees to Expect for In-house Signings 

Fees for these one-off signing appointments will vary, of course. There is always the big differentiator- whether you were booked escrow direct or through a signing company. Because I have no idea what other signing companies pay out to us, I'll ballpark some of the escrow direct fees I have personally experienced, and then share some fees that other notaries have encountered. 

For the one-off signings, you can usually expect your fee to be around the same as if you were mobile and going to the borrowers home. For buyer and refinance packages, this could be between $100-$150 or so. There are some obvious exceptions to this. In fact, some title companies pay significantly less for their in-house signings. Notably, North American Title (some locations) are known to pay only $60 per signing. This still works out for many notaries for reasons I'll get into soon. I charge the full fee for a loan signing appointment to my clients, but I remain open to discounts depending on the situation.  Always keep the big picture and longterm potential of your business relationship in mind. 

On a day where you may be booked at the same location for a few signings (scenario #2), you can expect similar pricing to what we just discussed.  Your client will likely appreciate a price-break, if it makes sense to both of you. I had a client in Chicago that would pay $100 per in-office signing. The notaries on my team loved working there because the client often had a signing booked every hour on the hour for the whole day. That's 7-9 signings per day! That adds up quick.

For the daily flat rate scenario, you can negotiate what works best for your particular situation. The idea is to create a win/win arrangement between you and your client. This allows them to get maximum value for their needs, and it creates an income stream for you. This range could be anyhwere from $150-$400 per day. 

Three things to consider in this flat rate model:

  1. Beware of the "job trap." Yeah, it's cool to have a flat fee to help consistent income come in, but this can quickly turn into a regular 8-5 job if you're not careful. If you have a client willing to spend $400 a day, you might think that may be a fair trade for you. But, many of us started our mobile notary and loan signing business because of the flexible schedule. This scenario can chip away at your flexibility, if you get booked a lot.
  2. Feeding off of number one, resist the urge to compete or low-ball your pricing. When you are just starting out, or if you are hard-up for cash, it's easy to look through the lens of desperation and just agree to a lowball fee because it helps you at the time. I made this mistake! I was desperate and broke and agreed to a fee that was lifechanging for me because I was at rock bottom. Anything was amazing to me. But, as my business grew, and I needed to add team members to sub-contract the work to, I had very little cushion to compensate both the notary and myself as a signing company. This is part of thinking with the big picture in mind. You never know how your business will grow and morph.
  3. When you're booked all day at one location, you forfeit the ability to take anymore signings that occur during that time block. 

Feeling excited about the possibilities here? These in-house signings were a game changer for my business, and we continue to do lots of business this way, and they are favorite for my team for a number of reasons. 

Cut Your Expenses

When you are booked for in-house signing appointments, you save on the two biggest expenses a mobile notary and loan signing agent has:

  • Fuel and Vehicle Wear and Tear, because once you are at the office, you don't go anywhere else.
  • Printing, because once you finish a loan signing appointment in-house, you or the closing agent's team will make a copy of the signed document package. This is a little different from our mobile appointments where we print out unsigned copies of the document package.  All printing is done at the closing agent's office with no expense to you!

What to Expect When You Do an In-house Loan Signing

Dress your best. For most of us, this probably goes without saying, but still... You aren't running to Walmart real quick, this is a professional office appointment. This is even more important than in your mobile signings. Match or exceed (by a little) what the closing agent's apparel is. Do NOT skimp on this for in-house signings. No matter what they say to your face, jeans, yoga pants, shorts, revealing wear, etc is not acceptable. 

High pressure work environment. On your end, as the loan signing agent, this may be stressful because you may not get as much time to review documents ahead of time, especially if you're booked back-to-back. Once you get in a groove with a familiar client, it gets a lot better.

Have thick skin. You are not the only one that will be under stress. Remember, escrow officers have one of the most stressful jobs in America and everyone throws them under the bus. It's tough for them too, and sometimes they snap a bit. Try not to take it personal and roll with it. This is not to suggest you put up with blatant abuse (ever!). 

Attention to detail. Depending on your state, client, and situation, this signer's loan may be closing within minutes or hours of the signing appointment. Accuracy is extremely important.

Signing time. The clients that I have for these scenarios hope for, and expect, signings to be totally complete within one-hour. That means we have finished the signing, checked documents, and made copies all within an hour. Sure, this is difficult sometimes, because the borrower technically sets the pace for a signing. Still, using the scripts and efficiency systems I lay out in Sign & Thrive will help you accomplish this 90% of the time.

Asking questions. Because you are right there in the office, you have access to all the decision makers you will need in a signing. Most closing agents welcome and encourage questions for clarity on what is expected of you. They also welcome questions from the borrower, if they have any. In these in-house signing scenarios, it is a best practice to run any questions the borrower has for the lender through the closing agent too. Remember, the closing agent has clients involved in this transaction too, so they want to manage their brand and reputation. If you sidestep them and go directly to the lender without communicating your intentions, it might get misconstrued. 

Work well with others. When you're in-house, you are part of the team of employees there in the office. It is imperative that you are easy to work with and get along with the other team members. You also have to be aware of how you are showing up. Are you chit chatting too much? Remember that they are there to work, and you should be too. What about your resting bitch face (RBF)? I've had to shuffle notaries to other clients because their regular relaxed face just looked pissed off all the time (crazy, right?) and it made the client uncomfortable.

Checking Documents. You know my motto: "Quadruple check your documents!!" Well, when you're in-house you often lose that luxury because of the fast-paced nature of these appointments. In fact, sometimes, closing agents or their assistants will come in midway through the signing and take what you have completed so they can start checking and "flipping" the file. That's why it is imperative to check each document while the signer is signing, and check it again immediately after they sign and before you flip it over. If you get a chance to check it again before you hand it off to the closing agent's team, take it. Avoid relying on the safety net of their team checking the documents. Strive for perfection! And, that said, one of the great perks of in-house signings is that the borrower is still right there for the off-chance you missed anything. 

How to Get More In-house Signings

Like any service you will offer in this industry, the value of in-house signings is in the eye of the beholder. Some offices will immediately recognize the value in your offer, and some will not. 

For those that do not automatically see why they should hire you for in-house signings, you may have to get a little creative and paint the vision for them. You can gleen some of the knowledge you've learned in this article to help craft a powerful value proposition. You now know what they are looking for. Now, all you have to do is personify it in your business and make sure they know about your services. 

How I got my in-house clients

For my in-house strategy, I employed the methods I share in my Daily Do's checklist and Morning Mastery program (available to Sign & Thrive members), but I focused on branch managers of escrow offices. 

To sum that up:

  • Make a list of the people and companies I want to work with
  • Research who they are and what they are up to on Linkedin, Facebook, and Google
  • Find something relatable between them and me
  • Craft a unique and creative email where the focus is more on them, than me and my services
  • Specifically mention the daily rate or in-house service option and ask them if that would be of value to them. 
  • Stay in touch, regardless of their answer at the time. They'll need me at some point!

This method has resulted in client relationships that have created friendships, tons of revenue, and an avenue to create a longlasting business that survives regardless of economic cycles. 

Let me know how it works for you!

 

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