I'm frequently asked by loan signing agents, "Should I adopt a pricing strategy for my loan signing business?"
There’s a lot of information about having a comprehensive notary signing agent fee strategy. Some resources and blogs tell you to set different fees based on signing time, driving time, printing time, number of pages printed, number of people signing, and even what time of the month it is (later in the month is usually busier).
So, the real question is: do fee strategies work for loan signing agents?
And the answer is: absolutely not.
Let me start off by saying that I am a signing agent that started my career working for signing services, I currently own a signing service, and I have worked directly with escrow officers for nearly 15 years.
So I say this with great confidence: pricing strategies rarely work for signing agents, let alone any business.
Pricing strategies typically only work for services and products that have inelastic demand. In other words, you have no choice but to pay a higher price because you literally have no other option.
Think hotel rooms in Vegas. During slow times, hotels charge under $100 to try to win your business. But when things pick up (New Year’s Eve, for example), the same room could be $300 or more since you have no other options.
Needless to say, when it comes to loan signing agents, signing services have choices; escrow officers have choices; mortgage officers have choices.
So having a sliding fee structure based on how busy it is, like the Las Vegas hotel, simply isn’t the best strategy as a loan signing agent if you want to stay busy with signings.
What if your hair stylist told you that since he is busy, he is going to charge you double for the same exact haircut? What if your favorite restaurant charged you $25 more for dinner just because it was the 30th of the month? There are more hairdressers and restaurants in your town and you would just pick another restaurant or hair stylist who doesn't have a sliding fee schedule.
Signing agents are no different. If you want to charge more for each and every line item, there will be a signing agent who has a simple pricing structure and will get that signing over you.
I've had some notaries who want to charge more per signing during rush hour. I have some who want to charge more if they have to travel more than 20 miles. I even have some who want to charge more when it's the last day to sign.
And then I have many more loan signing agents that do not adjust their pricing at all.
Show me a signing agent who has a comprehensive fee structure, and I'll show you a slow signing agent. That is simply the truth. It is bad advice to adopt a fee schedule.
If your goal is to be a successful signing agent, it’s important to understand that signing services and escrow officers want to work with signing agents that are reliable. And having an easy-to-understand, consistent fee structure is part of being reliable.
But do you want the main reason not to a have fee a schedule: TRID disclosures
Once escrow and the lender have disclosed a signing fee to the borrower on a final closing disclosure, they can not change it. It's the law. So if you tell an escrow officer that you charge an extra $25 on a rush hour signings, many times they have no choice but to move on because the loan signing fee has already been disclosed. Additionally, if you start asking for more money, you come off as an uneducated signing agent who knows nothing about the TRID disclosures.
Here is my advice: pick a fee that you are happy with and stick with it.
If you are a signing service notary, choose an acceptable fee of $90 or $100. If you work for escrow companies, I suggest $150 per signing. Yes, some signings will be a doozy, but on the other hand, some will be super easy. In my experience, it all averages out at the end.
Is it necessarily “fair” that signing services or escrow officers will pay you the same fee to do a signing where you pick up loan documents, or require a drop off, or if there are three signers versus two, or if a signing takes two hours because there are over 150 pages?
At the end of the day, sometimes you come out ahead and sometimes you don’t. But on the flip side, do you ask for less money when the loan docs are only 80 pages, or if the signing takes 30 minutes, or if the signing is down the street from your house? I'm pretty sure you don't.
The bottom line is this: having a simple flat fee pricing structure will win you more signings than you will lose by having a comprehensive fee schedule. That means more money in your pocket.
The only time I feel it's appropriate to charge more is if you are doing a first and second loan. I advise charging a signing service an additional $50 dollars for a second and $75 if you are working directly with an escrow company.
And I should also clarify: I'm not saying to accept low-ball $75 signings or driving two hours to every single appointment. What I am saying is to have a flat fee that you are comfortable with and don't be afraid to say no if the fee doesn’t meet your needs. Signing services and escrow officers want to work with someone that they know they can count on. As in any business, reliability is key - no surprises. Consistent pricing and flawless work are equally important.
Show me a signing agent with a simple fee structure, and I will show you a signing agent who always gets the first call or text when a signing is available.
If you are told you should have a pricing schedule, you're getting the wrong advice.
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About the Author
Mark Wills is the course instructor of the top rated Loan Signing System agent training course. He has been an active professional loan signing agent for nearly 15 years and owns a loan signing service that does thousands of signings a year.