Renee Kovacs—Consider this article as my “belated” feedback to Notary Signing Agents from my former position as a Closing and Funding Manager for a wholesale lender. I was exposed to a pretty significant cross-section of notary signing agent handiwork throughout the Midwest. I personally worked on over 10,000 loans, overseeing about 80/day, funding an average of $50 million per month, coming out of 600 title agencies, performed by thousands of signing agents so you might say I’ve seen it all.

If I could give you only one, single insight, it would be this: There is almost ZERO feedback from a lender to a Notary Signing Agent. In the 10,000 loans that I handled, I do not recall EVER speaking to a mobile loan signing agent other than the rare calls regarding print issues.

What I see prevalent by way of the discussion boards is an assumption by the loan signing agent that they’re doing everything right (or “right enough”), based on that LACK of feedback. How many times do you read or hear or even say: “Well, I’ve never heard back, so I must be doing it right.” Instead of assuming yourself to be “error-free” in the absence of feedback, assume ONLY that there was never anyone sufficiently ticked-off or frustrated that they got in touch with you. More realistic would be the assumption that you HAVE missed signatures, dated incorrectly, forgot to stamp something, done some things wrong, made some mistakes. Perhaps 1 in 10 closed packages come back perfect, regardless of who closes them.

As far as the lender is concerned, there just isn’t time to waste by getting back to you. The world revolves around the investor and selling that loan. Every day that loan package is NOT in a bulk rack waiting for the secondary sale is another day costing the lender money.

I see many signing agents posting on forums that they don’t read the lender’s Closing Instructions, as they don’t apply to them. The Closing Instructions are a binding contract between lender and settlement agent. The lender says “I want it this way” based on law and the investor’s whims, and the settlement agent is INSURING that those requirements will be met. If they’re not, then the lender can, and often will, enforce the Closing Instructions contract.

For every signature missed, page not initialed, whatever, the first question the lender asks is: “Can I sell this loan as-is?” If the answer is “Yes,” they move on… Feedback given to the signing agent who made the mistake: Zero. Does it mean then that the document isn’t necessary? NO! It means either an exception to the rule can be made, or the lender will FedEx it to the borrower themselves, as that is the most expedient way to correct it. The luxury of time for feedback, for holding someone accountable, for a little informational exchange or even blowing off some steam simply does not often exist.

Do I use black ink or blue ink? It could be an investor requirement, could be just for ease of auditing, could be just the frustration level with seeing red/purple/glitter ink… If it records and that investor will flex, well, you’re not going to hear feedback. That doesn’t mean nobody notices! The Closing Instructions required blue ink, and when it’s done in black, it really can tick you off and your brain just screams “GEEZ, is it THAT hard?!” Is that really the kind of reaction you want attached in any way to YOUR name as the signing agent? Empathy and understanding are products of information and shared experiences. Put yourself in the lender’s chair, imagine sitting hour after hour, auditing 50 packages in a day, and you’ll see how ticked you can get having to use the “smear test” on all those signatures to see if they’re originals. And, yes, you DO have to be certain they’re not copies because, yes, you WILL find copies of things like the NOTE or the TIL or something equally unbelievable.

Now, if it’s something preventing a legal/compliant or valid loan, and they’re very busy, and having a lot of this from the same title office, the lender MIGHT push back on them, but ultimately it only ends up taking longer. It’s easier and faster for the lender to get it fixed themselves.

If you don’t think these errors and omissions are commonplace, have another think. In busy times, we hired extra hands that did nothing BUT chase after borrowers for corrections. Most of the larger title agencies have post-close departments for the same reason.

Well, you say, “No feedback? Who cares?” I’m here to tell you if you sit and do audits day after day after day, you will pick up the patterns and recognize the names. Eventually you will also pick up the phone out of frustration—and sheer amazement—and say, “I don’t want to see this name (closer/signing agent) again.” And you won’t. Quite simply, the lender can remove any particular title agency or signing company from their “approved” list, and any brokers who want that lender’s business will have to choose another closing company.

Well, that addresses the “I never read the closing instructions” and “Blue ink, black ink, who cares?” and the “I’ve NEVER made a mistake” issues. That glitter pens are used is no joke either. And again, considering that maybe only one in 10 packages comes back perfect, why wouldn’t you give yourself an edge by always following best industry practices instead of doing whatever you can get away with?

Now, having made the point that mistakes happen and happen OFTEN, allow me to point out that if ever you’re lucky enough to receive feedback, how you handle such news carries a lot of weight. OWN it, fix it ASAP, and don’t let your ego get in the way of being pleasantly and humbly apologetic.

I’m fond of repeating as necessary, “Even smart people can make dumb mistakes.” You may be one of the world’s finest Notary Signing Agents but stuff happens. Don’t beat yourself up too badly. Learn from each lesson and continue on, an even better signing agent than before.