Notary Fees: How Much You Should Pay
Why Are Mortgage Notaries so Expensive?
Notaries verify the signatures of everybody who signs a document, helping to ensure that there are no forged signatures and that nobody is signing against their will.
To get a document notarized, you may need to pay a modest fee. Those fees often depend on where you get the document notarized—states set maximum allowable charges, and notaries can charge any amount up to that maximum. They can also charge nothing at all.
Standard notarial charges are often between $2 and $20 per signature, but mortgage closings are typically more expensive.
Mobile notaries are allowed to charge additional fees for making the trip to your location, but some states limit the maximum trip fee. In many cases, those limits are quite low, but in all cases, the cost must be “reasonable.” Before requesting a visit from a mobile notary, find out about any trip fees to avoid surprises.
Mortgage Loan Signing
For home loans, like purchase loans, refinancing, and reverse mortgages, the notary fees you see in disclosure documents are often much higher than your state’s maximum charges. For example, you might see a notary fee of more than $100.
Are those notaries breaking the law? In most cases, they are not. Loan signing services include more than just notarizing your signature. What’s more, the notary might be able to charge per signature—not just 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 pay other expenses.
Sometimes, the notary does not even receive 100 percent of the notary fee you pay.
If you have any questions about the fees related to your loan, ask your mortgage broker or closing agent. You may be able to save money by using a different notary.
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. Over your lifetime, you won't see meaningful savings from slashing 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. You might even be able to get documents notarized at low cost outside of regular business hours by somebody who performs notarial acts by day.
Who is a notary? You might be surprised. Ask around, and you may find that friends, family, and co-workers are available to notarize documents for you. They might even be willing to waive the fee altogether.
Banks and credit unions: Financial institutions often notarize documents for customers at no charge. If it’s convenient to make a trip to your branch, you might save a few bucks. Banks typically charge non-customers for notary services.
Government offices: You might also find a notary at local law enforcement offices, such as the local sheriff’s department or city and county offices.
In-house notary: If you frequently need notary services, it might be worth having your own notary or becoming one yourself. You’re not allowed to notarize your own signature, but you can pay for somebody else’s certification. For example, you could cover the costs for an employee or co-worker to become a notary public.
What’s Not Included in the Fee
Notary services are often misunderstood. The primary function of notarizing is to verify the identity of anybody signing a document, and to ensure that each person truly wants to enter into the agreement. However, a notary does need to read contracts. Nor does a notary public make any judgment as to whether or not a document is legal—or even a fair deal for all parties. For those services, consult with a local attorney.
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 fees you charge as a notary. In many cases, the amount of income you can earn per year is not enough to make a living. Instead, notary services are often offered as supplemental services. For example, a bank might provide notary service in addition to other banking services, and being a notary public makes you a more valuable employee.
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, get an itemized receipt, and ensure that you’re paying a fair price. If you’re not satisfied with what you see, 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.