If you need to get a contract or other paper signed by a notary public, you may need to pay a modest fee to the notary service provider. This fee may be paid up front or at the end of a transaction such as buying a house. Knowing ahead of time what you can expect to pay in notary fees can help you budget for the expense and avoid a delay in signing your papers.
When Notary Public Fees Apply
Important papers, including property deeds, loan papers, or certification to attest that a copy of an original document is valid, often need to be signed in the presence of a notary public, or a notary for short.
A notary is a person who is authorized by a county or state to verify that people who sign a paper are who they say they are, that all signers are aware of the contents of the papers being signed, and that they are not signing against their will.
Notary service is often offered by banks and other businesses. When you use a notary service, you almost always pay a fee.
Notary fees often depend on where you get papers notarized. State law usually sets the highest charges allowed, and notaries can charge any amount up to that limit. Standard notary costs range from $0.25 to $20 and are billed on a per-signature or per-person basis. In certain states, notaries can set their own fees. Mortgage closings can cost more than other papers to notarize.
Mobile notaries can charge travel fees along with the standard notary fees if they have to go somewhere to get papers signed, but some states limit the maximum travel fee. In many cases those limits are low, but in all cases the cost must be “reasonable.” In most cases, the notary public and the signer should agree on travel fees before a meeting to sign papers takes place. If you're unaware of travel fees, inquire with the notary service before asking for a visit from a mobile notary to avoid costly surprises.
The main purpose of a notary public is to verify the identity of anybody signing a document. With the certification of a notary public, you can rest assured that each person truly wants to enter into the contract.
Home Loan Signing Fees
For home loan papers you sign at the close of escrow, the signing fees you see may be much higher than your state’s notary fee limit. It's common to see a signing fee of $100 or more. In most cases, those charges are legal.
Notary signing agents, notaries who help people close on home loans, decide their own fees most of the time. Closing a home loan can take a a lot of the notary’s time, and they might have to print and prepare papers and pay other business costs. There might be times when the notary does not even receive the full notary fee you pay, because they have to share it with the company where they work.
Loan signing services do more than just make sure your signing is legal. They also ensure that you complete, sign, and return loan papers on time. The signing fee might reflect the array of services they provide. What’s more, the notary might be able to charge per signature, so the cost might reflect the many signatures needed for the loan papers.
If you have any questions about the fees having to do with your loan, ask your home loan broker or closing agent. You may be able to save money by using another notary who costs less.
Ways to Save on Notary Fees
In many cases, such as closing a home loan, you don’t have any control over how much you pay for notary services. The good news is that you don't buy a home all the time, so you won't pay such fees more than a handful of times in your life. On the other hand, if you need papers notarized from time to time, it’s wise to try to bring costs down.
Instead of getting papers notarized at the usual places, such as banks and credit unions, you might pay less, or nothing at all, if you use a notary you know. You might even be able to get papers notarized outside of business hours by someone who moonlights as a notary.
- Notaries in your own network. Ask around, and you may find that friends or co-workers are allowed to notarize papers for you. They might even be willing to waive the cost.
- Banks and credit unions: These places often notarize papers for clients at no charge. If you can make a trip to your bank branch, you might save a few dollars. Keep in mind that banks and credit unions will charge people who don't have an account there for a notary service.
- City, county, or state offices: You might also find a notary at a local police or sheriff's office or at city or county offices.
- In-house notary: If you need a notary on a regular basis, it might be worth having your own, or becoming one yourself. You’re not allowed to notarize your own signature, but you can pay for someone else’s notary training. For example, you could cover the costs for an employee to become a notary.
What to Do if You're Charged Too Much
Most notaries are well aware of the limit of what they can charge, and they stick to the rules. It’s not unheard of for a notary to charge more than is allowed. This is unwise, given that the notaries who are charged with misconduct can get fined or face legal trouble in some states.
Ask the notary what the cost limit is in your state, get a detailed receipt, and ensure that you’re paying a fair price. If you suspect price gouging, contact your state’s agency in charge of notaries. Start with the secretary of state’s office if you don’t know whom to contact.
What Notaries Can't Do
Before you take your papers to a notary public, keep in mind that a notary is not necessarily a lawyer. In fact, they can get in trouble for acting like one if they are not. A notary doesn't need to read the fine print of contracts. Nor do they make judgments as to whether a document is legal or even a fair deal for all parties. For those services, consult with a local lawyer.