Notary News and Updates

The New Notary Rules

We stand again in a revolution, but what are the new notary rules?

  • Are we in the new wild west?
  • Are the bars set today going to be the bars of tomorrow?
  • Will the laws be consistent, or are we going to need to pull our hair out figuring every minute change?

It’s Time to Be Flexible

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Online Notaries will Need to Be Flexible

While in the long term rules will probably be standardized, that is not the case as of this moment. At this time we have:

  • Temporary Rules
  • States with Competing Specifications
  • Differing takes on the Hybrid Model
  • Specific signings that still must be done in person
  • Questions over whether and which signings will stay legal across state lines

The one closest to being hashed out completely are accepting legal signings in one state to cross state lines. But, there are still a few hang ups in the new notary rules.

Complicating the process are signings that must be done in person. The prevalent thought is that some things like wills or specific trusts must be done in person to truly verify the signer is not doing so under duress. But, to us, that raises a bigger question. If we have to be in person to verify a will, might things like signing off on your home fall in the same boat.

Should there be an age limit? How do we know if someone is fit to sign? Sure, we may face these issues now, but doing so over a webcam is a different ball game.

Are We Playing Follow the Leader?

Who do we depend on for our information, and are we just playing catch up as an online notary?

Most of us would probably agree we don’t want to follow the leader, we want to be the leader. But, as new notary rules blossom and the name of the game changes, that will be difficult for all of us.

It is easy to create a page or a spreadsheet to help navigate the online regulations, but keeping it updated in a timely manner is a different beast entirely. And, unfortunately, most of us are not lawyers and don’t have all fifty states sending us updates as they occur.

So, maybe the leader will be the one who can see what is coming, or at least can find new information the quickest.

Stay on Your Toes Until the New Notary Rules Stabilize

It’s time to get in the game, or to prepare for it. We’ve already spoken about a new mobile office, but how else can you prepare?

Take some time to think about it:

  • Acquire the equipment you need
  • Register in your state if you can do so
  • Practice using the technology. Even if it is not the exact one you will use in the end, understanding the process will help you adapt quickly to any new technology or software you end up using.
  • To go beyond that, understand the technology. You may end up using different platforms for different signings. But, if you understand the process and the mechanics behind it you’ll be an online notary that companies will want to go to.
  • Make sure your clients or signing services you do business with know that you are online and on time.

We may know the general direction the ship is sailing, but we need to be ready to arrive at any of its possible destinations.

The New Mobile Office

As times change and mobile notaries look towards a new hybrid model, what does the new mobile office look like? Mobile notaries already know how to do business on the go, so what is needed to maximize efficiency in the online era?

How do we do so under the new notary model?

Much Stays the Same

The more things change, them more things stay the same.

Alphonse Karr – French Novelist

We still want to do business on the go, if possible. We all want to maximize our business efficiency, as well as profit. And we all would like to do so with the least amount of hassle.

So where do we start?

We all want to still maximize our gas efficiency by taking several simple steps. And we’d like to keep some semblance of a mobile office.

What’s in the New Mobile Office?

You may not have much of a change at all.

Most of us already have our laptops. Some of us already have vehicles with internet, though you don’t have to have a vehicle with internet as long as you have a recent smart phone. The fact is, most of us already have everything we need.

If your vehicle does not have wi-fi (mine does not), you can set your phone up as a mobile hot spot and connect directly to it. Of course, if it does, you can just connect directly to it.

Keep it Quiet

The biggest issue we may run into if we want to do a remote signing on the go is noise. It won’t do you any good if you are drowned out by traffic, trains, parades or just loud areas.

So the big question will be how you track down quiet areas within the route(s) you would normally take for your business. Hopefully a quiet place you won’t get interrupted in during your signing, be it a security guard or anyone else.

This may even be a place that is only quiet part of the day, but we may be looking at places like:

  • Parks where you have an out of the way area.
  • A quiet portion of a large parking lot, or maybe one at night where security won’t be there to interrupt.
  • A rest area.
  • Where your current mobile signing is. People are used to contractors doing computer work before or after a job.
  • A friend or family’s home.
  • Or anywhere else you can find that is nice and quiet.

New Equipment

With any new venture comes new equipment. A mobile office for online signings may not require much, but there are a few things you may want to look at.

  1. Drop Cloth or Background – If we are in a vehicle, we may not want to advertise it. So we may want to use a drop cloth, or maybe a background that is a little prettier, behind us. Make it look like we are in a closed office, or maybe a beach in Hawaii.
  2. New Light – If you end up doing a signing in the evening, or you surround yourself with a drop cloth, you are probably going to want to look into a light. Vehicle or laptop lights are great, but they tend to not provide that nice bright and even light you would have in an office. With LEDs, lights don’t use up much energy, so you can easily get one or two that will make the mobile office look like a static one.
  3. Noise Cancelling Microphone or Headset – Let’s face it. This goes beyond mobile. Have we ever met any kind of office that is perfectly quiet all the time? Client communication is key. Ideally, we’d like them to understand us, and vice versa, just as well as if we were in person. Even a face to face at Starbucks. So a noise cancelling microphone or headset may be the best way to keep out unwanted noise. Just realize if you are twenty feet from the train tracks it won’t do much help.

Recently we were asked if we really should go mobile for online signings. And the answer was simple.

I may prefer to do a signing in the office, but I prefer money more than that.

Mortgage Rates Rise as Lenders Attempt to Limit New Applications

Mortgage rates are starting to rise as lenders try to stem new applications.

Lenders have been swamped with new applications as low interest rates have led to rising home prices and, more importantly, applications.

Why Slow Apps?

While low interest rates have kept the real estate engine moving during the COVID era, some lenders were already finding the low interest rates untenable.

A couple of large lenders had already capped applications based on loan size, while instead focusing on things like fulfilling PPP (Payroll Protection Program) loans. One large lender we know of stopped fulfilling home loans under two million dollars.

Other lenders stepped forward to fill the gap, but growing numbers of lenders are growing wary of the large number of loans at such low rates.

The Bustling Housing Market

As millions have lost work and thousands of businesses have failed, the housing market has helped to buoy the economy.

The massive drop in rates has led to large gains in home prices in most markets, while refinancing has opened the door for lower payments during a time when many need them.

But, long term forecasts are more uncertain. The last thing the industry wants to see is a market with declining prices as we move forward. And let’s face it, neither do buyers, especially after so many were left under water for so long after the real estate crash of 2007.

How Far Will Rates Rise?

Right now we are seeing rates rise between a quarter and a half a point. But, some analysts see this continuing as lenders try to make loans more profitable, hedging their bets from the low interest rates.

Refinance rates are a little more stable, but higher rates appear to be on the horizon. Business outlets like Fox Business are starting to advise those looking to refinance to do so sooner than later.

Has This Affected Notaries?

In some cases, yes. Between the busy market and some notaries sitting out signings due to the pestilence, there has been a notary squeeze for some.

Online signings have (very) slowly started to creep in, but quickly changing rules, no national standard, and work from home have all complicated the situation.

While work from home has been a blessing for many, large institutions are running into issues with training. In an industry where a single typo on a 40 page doc can wreck a transaction, training employees to exacting standards in all 50 states is onerous.

Especially when you are training tens of thousands of them.

If we’ve learned anything in the last year it is to expect the unexpected. Notary demand will remain strong, though.

The New Notary Model

The world changes, we change with it. So, how does the notary create a new model for their business?

The Remote Revolution?

As a notary, and a small business owner, a large change in the landscape requires a change in business model.

Fortunately, as of now, it appears we have some time. Industry forecasts are now predicting remote notarizations to double by 2025, from 2020 numbers. That is not exactly the revolution many were expecting.

Make no mistake, it is coming. But, there will be bumps in the road. Webcams aren’t eyes, and it is bound to cause problems.

IDs can be tough enough. There may be a real push to require RealID for remote transactions. Originally intended for airline flights and sensitive government facilities, the requirements for it are already expanding.

The Mobile Revolution

Don’t forget, you’ve already been part of one revolution!

Mobile Notarization transformed an industry that had been static for hundreds of years. It completely changed the game. No longer did you have to travel to the notary, the notary traveled to you!

This not only allowed greater flexibility for those needing documents notarized, but opened a flood gate for a new generation of notaries. Notaries who now had the opportunity to make more money than their predecessors.

It even saved businesses that needed notaries money, as they were now able to streamline their process and increase their productivity.

What seemed at first glance to some to be a hassle ended up being a win win for everyone.

Remote Opportunities

It is easy to look at a situation and find negatives. It is another entirely to find the positives.

When many of us look at our industry, we think of mortgages. And rightfully so. It is the main source of income for not only notaries, but also notary services such as ourselves.

And it is easy to find ways the remote revolution may cost us. From full virtual closings to things like hybrid signings, it is normal to have some qualms.

But, so did notaries during the mobile revolution. And in the end, the reservations held were let go as the industry blossomed into a new era. One of both freedom for the notary, as well as the customer.

Those of us ready to re-tool our belt will find ways to thrive in a growing marketplace.

New Opportunities Mean New Income

Diversification Makes Notaries Strong

Right now there are still a lot of signings that are static. And even more that never happen, as people just cross their fingers and hope it will all be well.

But, with the proper marketing and business development, the ease of online signings will bring new signing opportunities to the fold.

More competitive pricing will continue to squeeze static notaries, who are bound to onerous fees they can charge in most states. This is a big reason the mobile notary revolution happened and it helped notaries make more money.

Individuals commonly forego getting documents notarized that they should. From simple hold harmless agreements, private loans or IOUs among family members, and even simple agreements between neighbors for things like easement access.

And too often these people get bitten in the rear. Because they find the current process either too onerous or too expensive.

But, remote signings will make this both easier and price competitive.

Diversification Protects You

We say it all the time. Diversify, diversify, diversify.

We can’t tell you how many comments we’ve received over the years about us accepting more types of signings than mortgages. More types of signings than our competitors.

Why would you do that? It is stupid to accept signings that pay less then others. Why waste my time?

But, that is a large part of what made Sunshine Signing into who we are today. Diversification has allowed us to grow stronger even when an industry wanes.

While others floundered during the real estate crash in 2007, we ended up thriving because our business was not solely reliant on new mortgages and refinances. And while others faltered, when the market rebounded, we were able to acquire more business in that sector.

As the old adage says, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”.

Remote Notarization is Diversification

Even after the mobile revolution, static notaries still stand. And even after the remote revolution occurs, mobile notaries will do the same.

So, the question we need to ask ourselves is this?

How do I add robust online services to my existing mobile notary business?

  • How do I capitalize on the slate of new signings?
  • How do I make myself mobile and online at the same time?
  • How do I turn this into an opportunity to make more money?

These are just a few questions we need to ask before we prepare our business for a new world.

And we will talk more about these topics in upcoming articles.

For example, what does the new mobile office look like?

Hybrid Closing and the Notary

The hybrid closing is something a few notaries are starting to be affected by.

As the move to online closings takes baby steps, the hybrid closing is a new trend to take a look at.

Are they the future of the industry, or just a stop gap on the way. With the slower than projected growth of remote online notarizations (we’ll have more on that soon), hybrids are starting to emerge.

What is a Hybrid Closing?

A hybrid closing is one in which part of the closing is done remotely, while another part is performed in person.

The banks are looking towards them as a way to split the work done in the closing.

So here is how it works.

A closing package is composed of several files that need to be notarized. They can all be done in person, but they don’t have to.

For example, in attorney states, under the temporary rules in place, some closings are now being done with some docs remotely, while other documents that require an attorney are done in person.

New York state is the leader in this right now, but it is still in its infancy.

Will This Only Affect Certain States?

Truthfully, right now we are not sure. We only know that a few of the large lending institutions are giving it a try. Only the future holds how much of this will potentially affect the industry.

We do know that lenders put more weight behind certain documents than others. The law in many states does as well. So, those documents are being split under the hybrid closing model.

Since the laws right now are so disconnected across the country, and many are only temporary because of COVID, it is tough to tell where this will spread to.

Does That Mean Two Notaries for One Closing?

For some closings, yes.

And we think that the messiness of these closings will be one factor that decides the future of the hybrid closing model.

Are two notaries for one closing a good idea? A good part of us says it is not. One set of documents. Two notaries. A lot of room for error there.

What if you have an experienced and professional notary for one part of the transaction, and a not so good notary on the other end. It could potentially create a bit of chaos in a lot of ways.

However, that does not mean it will not happen.

If the rewards outweigh the risks, large lenders will follow.

Can the Same Notary do Both Parts of the Hybrid Closing?

There is no reason not.

As many of you know, we now offer online notaries. Some of you are already signed up with us for those services.

We all have to change with the times. And while online notarizations only represent a tiny fraction of our business right now, the fact is that they probably won’t several years from now.

Look, we all have to embrace and adapt to change. The notary industry, and every other thing in our life, is constantly changing. You either change with the times or get left in the dust.

Might it be our preference to find an online notary close to the physical part of the signing? We think so, but to be honest, it is too early to tell. We are looking at a very new and emerging topic here.

What Does This Mean for My Business?

In the short term, probably not much. But, we like to look ahead, and you should, too.

It is best to be out in front of the market. To be ready if and when the next trend comes down the pipeline. To be ready to jump on new trends before our competitors.

This is the best reason why performing a hybrid closing needs to be on your radar.