This article is part of our series of interviews featuring successful Notaries. We hope some of their tips and words of wisdom will help you along your path to financial independence and success as a Notary Public or Notary Signing Agent. Walter Hertz of Notary On Wheels in Toms River, New Jersey, is our Featured Notary for March. With over 7,000 signings to his credit, you know he’s serious about his business.
Notary On Wheels
Q:Starting at the beginning, when and why did you become a notary?
A: I started in this business in May 2002. I had been working for a company as Computer Help Desk Support, but the company did not see eye to eye with my views, so I was out. My wife had to become a notary for her work, and she had posted her info on FindANotary.com.* She had me go with her on assignments. With that experience and not knowing where my future was going to take me, I got my notary license and supplies. Then I posted my info on that website and within six hours, I had three calls. So now it started.
Q: What was your first signing experience?
A:My first experience was going into a signing and having no idea what I was doing. I ended up calling the title company from the table, and I was amazed how they talked me through the closing. After a few days of making calls from the table and home, I learned what I was doing.
Q: Is your business full time or part time?
A: I do this business on a full-time basis and average 20 to 30 closings per week, every week.
Q: Do you work with signing companies?
A: I work with signing companies, title and mortgage companies. I have not yet branched out to the medical or senior fields although I do a few personal notarizations.
Q: If you don’t mind sharing, what do you average for a loan signing?
A: My fees range from $50 to $275 per closing.
Q: Do you have a minimum fee?
A: The lowest fee I will accept is $50.
Q: How have changes in the industry or economy affected you?
A: Changes in the industry have not really affected me. Business has slowed a bit, but that makes me work harder and advertise more.
Q: Where do you advertise?
A: In the beginning, I advertised on every site I could find. Now I use just a couple of sites and have created my own web page at GoGetNotary.com where I can direct potential prospects.
Q: How do you network?
A: I know a few notaries in this business, and if there is an assignment that I cannot do, rather than turn it back to the company that gave it to me, I will pass it on to another notary. I make it a practice that if I accept an assignment I will get the job done.
Q: What professional organizations do you belong to?
A: I belong to the National Notary Association and New Jersey Notary Network.
Q: What advice would you give a notary starting out today?
A: A few suggestions I would make:
- Don’t complain.
- Treat this as your business, as if this is your only source of income.
- If you accept an assignment, do it. NO EXCUSES!
- If you are going to be late for an appointment, use your cell phone and call the borrower. The signing company will tell you to call them, but in my experience that company will never call the borrower for you; thus when you get to the signing, the borrower is nasty towards you. You are the one going to the assignment, so you should be the one to call the borrower.
- Treat the borrower you are traveling to with the same courtesy as if the borrower were traveling to you.
- Do not post negative comments on any signing agent message boards. Companies as well as notaries read the boards.
- Be professional in your duties. I’ve had several calls from companies saying borrowers requested me because I have been to their house or business before or a friend of theirs did a refinance and my name has been passed along.
- Read the docs and understand them. This way if you are asked a question at the table, you can direct the borrower to the appropriate section. While we cannot explain the details of the loan, we can show them where information is located. This will save you a lot of time. Example: You are asked a question about the loan and have no idea where that information is. You now have to sit there while the borrower tries to locate the loan officer and maybe have to wait for a call back. You waste valuable time for a question that might have been answered in the docs if you knew which clause to reference.
- Develop a resume for yourself. This can be passed to a company or simply faxed to a prospect company.
Q: What advice would you give a notary who wants to take their business to the next level?
A: In addition to the last answer:
- Get business cards for yourself. There is no need to pay to have them done; you can make them yourself. I make my own. I can be creative and use different colors. You can buy stock for 1000 cards that you can print yourself for under $45.00.
At every closing, I hand a card to the borrower. This gives me credibility. I also include a card in every package I send back; this is very low cost advertising. If I meet a lawyer or loan officer at a closing, I hand out a card and offer to send them my bio and ask them to pass it around to their colleagues.
- Decide what you want from this business. Do you want just overnight packages or do you wish to do e-docs? Two-thirds of my business is e-docs by e-mail.
- Set up and equip your office.
- Make sure you have back-up equipment. For example, I have two laser printers, one of which will handle PCL3 – PCL6 language, including dual paper trays and duplex printing. You do not want to call the company back and say you cannot do the signing because of a printing problem.
- I also have an outgoing fax machine and use a fax service for my incoming faxing.
- I have a high speed cable Internet connection and, if need be, I can use my cell phone as a high speed modem.
- My office is in my home. I do not go to a store to print docs or receive them.
- I also take my laptop to signings and use the Enjoa setup from the National Notary Association. It is an Electronic Notary Journal that records every aspect of what I do and also allows me to take a fingerprint and a signature of the signer. I have a web cam (camera) that connects to the laptop and allows me to take a snapshot of the borrower’s ID which is usually requested by the company that hired me. I have found that many times the borrower forgets to make the copy and rather than have to return another time, the camera allows me to include a copy of the ID with the package. I understand that this adds to my cost and comes out of my pocket, but I am in a service business and this beats having to return at a later date to pick up the copy. It also makes me look better in the eyes of the company that the package is complete.
Q: What is the most unusual or humorous experience you’ve had?
A: I always call the borrowers to make sure they have valid ID and to have them make copies for the title company. One borrower told me that all he had was a copy of his Drivers License and Passport. I explained to him that I must see the originals, and he said he didn’t have the originals because he lent them to a friend to use in Canada.
Also, I find it amazing when I ask a borrower for directions or a cross street, and most of the time they have NO idea where they live. How do they ever find their way back home?
Q: Any final words?
A: I suggest that if you are serious about this business that you believe you are the best in what you are doing. Remember you are serving the public. You have to learn to take it all in stride.
Thanks, Walter. That was a lot of information, and I know you could have shared even more. To learn more about Walter Hertz, please visit his GGN website.