Notary Fees and What to Expect

Why are Mortgage Notaries so Expensive?

Notary embosser seal stamps
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When working with important financial forms, a notary verifies the signatures of everybody signing the document. This helps to ensure that signatures are not forged, and that nobody is forced to sign the document.

Notary Fees

Notaries charge a modest fee for this service. Fees charged often depend on where you get a document notarized. Many states set maximum allowable charges, and notaries can charge any amount up to that maximum (and they can also charge nothing at all).

In many cases, notarial charges are between $2 and $20 per signature. Mobile notaries are allowed to charge additional fees for making the trip to your location. Again, some states limit the maximum trip fee (often keeping the fee extremely low), but in all cases the fee must be “reasonable.”

If you request a visit from a mobile notary, be sure to find out about any trip fees before booking your appointment.

Mortgage Loan Signing

For home loans like purchase loans, refinancing, and reverse mortgages, the notary fees you see are often much higher than your state’s maximum charges. For example, you might see a notary fee of over $100.

Are those notaries breaking the law? In most cases, they are not. Loan signing services include more than just notarizing your signature (plus the notary might be able to charge per signature – not per visit). Closing a mortgage loan often takes over an hour of the notary’s time, and the notary might have to print and prepare documents and cover other costs.

In some cases, the notary does not receive 100% of that fee.

If you have any questions about the fees you pay, ask your mortgage broker, and ask if you can save money by using a different notary.

If you’ve been Overcharged

Most notaries are well aware of maximum fees, and they charge what is allowed. However, it’s not unheard of for a notary to overcharge (which is unwise, considering the consequences).

If that happens to you, ask the notary what the maximum allowable charges are in your state, and ensure that you’re paying less than that. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome of that conversation, contact your state’s agency in charge of notaries (start with the Secretary of State’s office if you don’t know who to contact).

Ways to Save Money

In many cases, such as closing a mortgage, you don’t have any control over how much you pay for notary services. Those situations are generally rare occurrences (unless you buy and sell homes often), and over your lifetime, you won't see meaningful savings from bringing down notary costs.

However, if you frequently need documents notarized, it’s wise to minimize costs. Instead of looking for notaries at the usual places (such as banks, credit unions, office supply stores, and shipping stores), you might do better elsewhere – and you might even be able to get documents notarized outside of normal business hours.

You might be surprised who is a notary. Ask around, and you may find that friends, family, and co-workers are available to notarize documents for you (and they might be willing to waive the standard fee). You might also find a notary at local law enforcement offices, such as the local sheriff’s office.

Banks and credit unions often notarize documents for customers at no charge. If it’s convenient (and worth it) to make a trip to your branch, you might save a few bucks.

In-house notary: if you really need to do a lot of notarizing, it might be worth having your own notary. You’re not allowed to notarize your own signature, but you can pay for somebody else’s certification (such as an employee or co-worker).

Charging Notary Fees

Income from notary fees is generally considered income for federal income tax purposes, but check with your tax advisor to confirm how you should handle your income as a notary. In many cases, the amount of income you can earn per year is not enough to make a living, and notary services are often offered as supplemental services (for example, a bank offers notary service in addition to other banking services).

What’s Not Included in the Fee

Notary services are often misunderstood. The main function of notarizing is to ensure that a document is signed by the right person and to verify that the person truly wants to enter into the agreement. However, a notary does need to read the agreement (or make any judgment as to whether or not it is legal – or even a fair deal for all parties). Learn more about what it means to have a document notarized.