BiggerPockets Money Podcast 74: Making Money From a Legitimate Side Hustle With Mark Wills

by | BiggerPockets.com

Side hustle is a big topic on BiggerPockets. But finding the right one—and one that isn’t a scam—can be difficult.

Today’s episode focuses on not only a legitimate side hustle, but also one that involves real estate AND can be as much or as little as you want it to be. Best of all, the most popular time to use this side hustle is at night and on the weekends.

Signing agents work when their clients don’t—meaning they’re busiest at night and on the weekends—perfect for an actual side hustle. Startup costs are extremely low. They hover around $1,000. Working four to six jobs will pay off your initial investment!

Mark Wills shares what you need to get started and how to find jobs once you’re all ready to go.

If you’re looking to generate extra income, this episode is right up your alley.

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, show number 74.

Once you learn how to get the leads which is as important as doing the closing itself, like the signing service is our best way free lead gen just because you live by the location. But the point I’m trying to make is it’s all about lead generation. So if you ask me how many signings you can do, actually it’s based upon how many hours you can fit in a day.

It’s time for a new American dream, one that doesn’t involve working in a cubicle for 40 years barely scraping by. Whether you’re looking to get your financial house in order, invest the money you already have or discover new paths for wealth creation, you’re in the right place. This show is for anyone who has money or wants more, this is the BiggerPockets Money Podcast.

Scott: How is it going everybody? I’m Scott Trench and I’m here with my co-host Ms. Mindy Jensen. How are you doing today Mindy?

Mindy: Scott I’m doing pretty good. How are you doing today?

Scott: I’m doing great. Today’s show is going to be a little bit of a departure from our normal interview style format. But I think that you the listeners are going to like it anyway. Today we’re going to interview Mark Wills from loansigningsystem.com to learn about a concept of becoming a signing agent at a notary and how that can be one of the better potential side hustles that we’ve come across so far you and I.

Mindy: Yeah. Every mortgage needs a signing agent and a signing agent is somebody, it’s a notary, you have to be a notary, who is familiar with mortgage documents. This is neutral third party who walks the borrower through the documents showing them where to sign and initial and date and yada, yada.

Because if you don’t get every single thing right, you can hold up loan funding. But what I really like about this concept is the low cost of entry into a fairly high demand field. You can literally be set up and ready to rock in under $1000. And I think that’s so important because I don’t want to present side hustles or ways to make additional income that are going to cost you a lot of money.

When I first got my real estate license it was something like $3,000 before I started making any money. That’s a huge amount of money but here you go for less than $1,000 Mark will give you some of the information and some of the things that you need to set up a signing company. And it’s like you need a printer and some pens. I’ve got a billion pens in my house. I think that just the barrier to entry is so low it just seems almost like a no brainer.

Scott: Yeah and Mark is really an expert in understanding what it takes to kind of get to break into this field and how to enter into it and then potentially scale it up. And he has a lot of experience dealing with folks that are trying to do this nationwide so we’re privileged to have him on the show today.

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Mindy: Mark Wills, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, how are you today?

Mark: Oh my gosh I’m like really excited to be here. Thank you so much but yeah super excited.

Mindy: I am super excited to have you. A little bit of backstory Scott, I met Mark at the Traffic and Conversion Summit a couple of weeks or months ago in San Diego. I was talking to Nick Lopper and Mark comes up and this like just massive ball of energy.

And I’m like, “Wait, what is it you do?” and he told me about he has a company that teaches people how to be a signing agent. And I’m not going to tell you how to do this because I’m not the expert, that’s why we brought Mark on the show. Mark, what is a signing agent?

Mark: Great question. So a notary signing agent is when a notary public gets hired at the end of a loan transaction process. So every single home buyer or refinancer has to sign the loan documents. And when the loan documents are being signed, it has to be signed in front of a notary.

But a notary who understands loan documents and mortgage documents is called a signing agent. So a notary signing agent signs mortgage paperwork for buyers and refinancers on every mortgage transaction.

Mindy: Okay. So do you have to be a notary to be a signing agent?

Mark: So literally requirement to be a signing agent is to be a notary public and that’s frankly almost the easiest part because 75% of states in this country require nothing more than application to be a notary. Literally like you were applying for a credit card you would send an application in and they do a background check.

And if you pass the background check then they issue you a commission. And then there’s about 25% of states that actually require a course, which is super easy. The state of California is the longest of those as we can imagine, and you just have to pass a little 30 question quiz.

But yeah so being a notary is the only requirement to being a signing agent and it’s super-duper easy to be a notary. And once you get to know your commission you just got to learn how to walk a borrower through a set of loan documents. That’s it.

Mindy: So it the signing agent actually explaining the documents?

Mark: By law we’re not allowed to explain anything. That’s their loan officer’s job, that’s the real estate agent’s job. We’re not selling the product. All we’re doing is guiding the borrowers through the loan documents where they need a date sign and initial, which essentially is a contract between the lender and the borrower paying back the mortgage terms.

So a signing agent says, “Look man, you need to sign here, initial here, date here, this form is blank you need to fill out this form.” So a signing agent just guides the borrower, there’s zero selling because the selling has already been done by the lender, which is actually against the law for us to explain anything. Our job is to guide a borrower through the documents as an impartial third witness to the transaction.

Mindy: Okay so Mark, how did you become a signing agent? How did you get into this whole thing? I mean did you lay in bed at night as you were six and be like, “Oh I hope I get to be a signing agent when I grow up”?

Mark: No, great question. I kind of tripped into it. There’s not any crazy story outside of that. I had a friend who said, “Mark there’s notaries who know how to walk borrowers through loan documents, can get paid up to $150 for an appointment.”

And from there I just kind of dove into it, I had friends who were in the mortgage industry and I’m like, “Wow is this true? Can a notary really make $150 per signing appointment?” And once I found out it was legitimate and now what I call it the best kept secret in real estate is once I found out these notaries were going around town signing loan documents and that was true, I was like I’m all in.

So I’m the kind of guy who once I’m into something and I’m all in. And I just kind of figured it out on my own and took a couple years to really get me to where I am. But yeah I mean there’s nothing outside of just once I heard about I needed to know more about it.

Mindy: Okay so how long does a signing take? You’re saying I could make $150, is that like a five hour signing?

Mark: Yeah great question. So the actual appointment with the borrower, when you’re sitting down with the borrower at the closing table, it takes roughly an hour to sign the loan documents. Because once again we’re not there to sell the product, it’s already been sold. We’re just in there saying, “Ma’am sir you need to sign here, date and initial here.”

So it takes roughly about an hour maybe an hour and a half. As you get better, obviously that time goes down less. But what I will say and one of the main reasons signing agents exist is the for the benefit of the borrower. Meaning that not all borrowers can go to the title company or the Escrow Company. They need a notary to come to their house.

So there is some travel time to get to the borrower’s location, sign the docs and then travel back to the location and return the documents. So when you’re actually sitting with the borrower it’s legitimately an hour or hour and 15. But sometimes it’ll be a 20 minute drive time to a borrower’s location, 20 minutes back. So all in all it should be a three hour round trip appointment. And you can make anywhere between $75 to $200 for that signing appointment.

Mindy: Wow.

Mark: Crazy, right?

Mindy: Yeah. Can you do this when you have a full time job? The answer’s absolutely. And banks don’t lend to people who don’t have jobs fair enough like a bank’s not saying, “You get a loan even though you have no other job.” And point is most people work, right. So the point I’m trying to make is most people only have time to sign the paperwork after they get off work which is evenings and weekends.

So most signing appointments are evenings and weekends. Meaning if you have a full time job during the week, you’re obviously available evenings and weekends too because that’s when borrowers are off work, ready and available to sign loan documents.

Scott: Is that when most of your signing are? Most of your signings are evening and weekends?

Mark: Yeah, 100%. And what I was about to allude to is even if you’re a full time signing agent, most of your appointments are evenings are weekends for the exact reasons I just said. So even if you were to be a full time signing agent, it’s not like all of a sudden you’re eight to five crazy busy. The reason that we exist and the reason that like one of the reasons we exist is to make it convenient for the home owner.

I can’t take time off work today, so someone’s going to come to my house at 7.30 because I put my kids down at 7. And I can sign that paperwork 7.30 to 8.30 tonight. So that literally happens thousands of times a night every single night in this country, where a notary is just throwing in some loan docs in their car driving away and knocking out a loan signing.

Mindy: Okay. So the reason that I wanted to have you on this show is because this sounds like such an easy way to make a few extra dollars. And one of the things that we talk about on this show so many times is financial independence. And a lot of people discovered the concept of financial independence from a position of debt.

And if you’re making $200, even if you do this like one closing a night, that’s $1000 a week that you could throw at your debt. That’s $4000 a month that you could throw at your debt. Now do you just say I want to be a signing agent and then boom you’re a signing agent?

Mark: Yes. I mean literally if you have notary information and you learn the skill set, you’re a signing agent. I think what maybe you’re alluding to is how do you get signing appointments. And there’s different ways of getting signing appointments. You can either get it directly through mortgage officers, real estate agents.

The most popular way of getting signings is through something called a signing service. So once again I always call this the best kept secret in real estate, there are so many moving parts that people don’t know about and there’s a huge industry which are called signing services. And what signing services exist for, it’s like place signing agents at signing appointments that are predetermined.

So for instance an Escrow officer or title officer would call up a signing service and say, “Hey I have a two o’clock appointment in downtown Denver, I need a signing agent there at two. Can you find one for me? So the onus of finding the notaries actually off the escrow title officer’s plate is onto a company or a service called the signing service.

And their job is to get the signing agent. So if you get located through signing services which is the most popular which is kind of like an Uber format where the signing service will find a notary that’s closest to the borrower’s house, that should make some logical sense, right. It’s not like finding a signing agent that happens to be like 80 miles from the borrower’s location.

They’re searching signing agents that live as close to the location as possible. So if you’re a signing agent who lives near the location you get the first ping and offer for the business. And that’s the most popular way of getting business in our industry, along with knowing a real estate agent who’s a friend who has a closing or a mortgage officer or transaction coordinator.

So once you become a signing agent, it’s just not trying to figure how to get the business and there’s many different avenues of getting it. So someone’s maybe hearing this for the first time, there’s a handful different avenues that you get business just like that.

Scott: Can you decline those appointments if I’m busy that night I want to go the ballgame or go on date or whatever it is?

Mark: Oh great question man and the answer is yes. And that’s actually the best part about our industry. People always ask me, “Mark is there really business for everybody?” right I always get that question. And because of your question Scott the answer is yes. See if you say I’m not going to do a signing tonight, by default they need to locate the next signing agent who would be available to ask.

So not everyone is always going to be available for that signing appointment, if that makes sense. Or maybe you’re not even at a ballgame, maybe you’re at another appointment or maybe your appointment starts in an hour and the signing service or the escrow office or the mortgage officer is like, “Hey Scott can do a five.” You’re like, “Hey man I’m already headed my way to a 5.30 I can’t do it.”

So because it’s almost like an on call business, if that makes sense. So the reason that that truly is the kind of business for everybody is for the sheer fact that you may not be available and if you’re not available, next. You know what I mean.

Scott: Yeah.

Mindy: So how much notice are you typically given that there’s a job coming up?

Mark: It can be as short as 30 minutes as long as two days because once again it’s on the borrower’s schedule. So a loan officer will call escrow and be like, “Hey my borrower is available tomorrow at 3PM you need to get a notary out there at three.” Or it could be like, “Mark hey my borrower just called me up 25 minutes ago told me they get lunch at 12.30 and they have child’s play at night so they only can sign at 12.30 to 1.30 after office.

So you need to get a notary- like that’s really how it goes down. So that could be a scenario or it could be the scenario of like my borrower is available in two days. So it’s either, or it could be like now, now or it could be like we have a couple of days. So it varies.

Mindy: Are there any special skills you need for this?

Mark: The biggest requirement and the requirement is having your notary commission. So at the base of it you got to get your notary in one of the 25% of states, and there’s 13 states that require a course and a test. So if you’re in those states you got to be able to pass your notary commission my point, right. So that’s a skillset.

Number two the only kind of skillset really is just I tell people the biggest skillset you need is the ability to pay attention to detail. The reason a signing agent gets paid as well as we do is because it is such an integral part of the loan process. One missed signature can hold up a funding, I mean you know that, you buy and sell real estate.

So if a notary like forgets a signature on the mortgage or deed, funding stops. So if the biggest skillset you need is just your ability to pay attention to detail. And then outside of that I guess another big thing that you need I don’t know if it’s a skillset is transportation because remember once again we work around the borrower’s schedule.

So if a borrower’s like look I’m available at my office, like you going to be able to drive there. So getting your notary commission is a skillset, being able to pay attention is a skillset and then obviously transportation is another requirement that I would say one would need to have.

Scott: How about like a super duper printer?

Mark: Oh great question man, yeah no sure true yeah great question. Yes you need a printer, a dual tray printer that prints legal and letter. Now if you work directly with escrow or title companies you can pick up the docs from their location or you print it. If you work for singing services like I mentioned earlier where they find notaries via location you have to get those docs emailed and printed.

So yes you need a dual tray laser printer. Here’s a little nugget if some people are trying to figure out how to do this themselves which I totally recommend, it can’t be inkjet. So an inkjet printer is actually illegal for our business because inkjet- and here’s a little bit of printer knowledge.

Inkjet printers, the ink stays on top of the paper where laser jet it goes into the paper if that makes sense. So it does need to be a laser jet printer recommended to get a dual tray because you need to print legal and letter size paper.

Scott: How much does a good one cost if you’re going to be doing this a couple times a week?

Mark: Yeah. So there’s actually one that I recommend, it’s a Brother to all of my students and it’s about $250. And their cartridges, the first cartridge that comes in that off of my head it prints about 8000 pages. And then you can get like the Cadillac of printers that goes for like $1,000 and you can get that cost down to like three cents a sheet. I usually recommend starting with the mid tire and a Brother HP anyone in that ballpark is a pretty good investment.

Scott: Got you. So you have a very minimal cost here really to get started and then the cost per page that comes- so and you cost essentially would be at signings is a couple miles driving and then some paper and ink. That’s it.

Mark: I couldn’t have said it better, exactly. That’s literally it.

Scott: Pretty easy.

Mark: Then gas getting to and from the appointment as well. But yeah it would be cost to print, it’d be transportation gas cost. And there’s a few other ancillary items you need which is something called errors and omissions insurance which is only a couple hundred bucks a year it’s like $20 a month. When you get your notary commission you need to file a bond.

But yeah man like I said it’s the best kept secret in real estate, because the minimal total cost is insane. It’s basically a notary commission, some insurance which isn’t a ton of money and a printer. And you’re off to the races. It’s just the skillset of knowing where a borrower needs to sign, date or initial is the skillset. Either someone can learn on their own or they can go through a course, it’s one or the other.

Mindy: So it sounds like the start-up cost unless you go with the $1000 Cadillac printer, you can get started all in for what $500, $1000.

Mark: Absolutely. 100% you can.

Mindy: You’re making that back in like four or five jobs.

Mark: Yeah I mean and we’re independent contractors we’re many business owners. So that’s all tax deductions right so yes it just gets better and better. So you’re 100% right. What I will kind of touch on so everyone gets a really good picture of a signing agent is your fees vary from 75 up to 200. So why they vary is a signing service and the way this signing service stays in business, right they’re full profit obviously.

If they’re the ones funding the business from the escrow company, they take a little bit of the signing fee. So depending what signing service you work for, if the signing fee is $150 dollars that escrow is paying the signing service, the signing service will pay you the notary $100 and they’ll keep $50. Sometimes you’ll find signing companies will take $75 and pay you $75.

And then if you learn to bypass the signing service, you can keep the whole $150. So I say a range so people understand realistically because there’s different avenues of getting business, and I want everyone to understand that it can be as low and this a podcast no one can see my air quotes.

I say as low as $75 because I would still argue $75 for an hour appointment is pretty amazing. But yeah it could be $75 if you work through your signing service or you can keep the whole fee $150 to $200 depending on what the title companies pay.

Mindy: Well I don’t make $75 an hour right now so that’s not bad.

Mark: The best kept secret in the real estate industry I keep telling everybody.

Mindy: Okay so how long does it take? I’m going to get my signing license, my signing agent certificate, what is that?

Mark: So once again, the notary commission comes from your state. So that usually takes depending on if you’re in a state that requires a course, if you’re in one of the 75% that don’t, it can be like two weeks from the application into when you get it, right.

Mindy: Okay.

Mark: So once that is done because that comes from the state itself, then it’s just the learning curve of learning where a borrower needs a sign date or initial. Full disclosure you can learn that on your own, you don’t need a course or mentor, you can go get your parents’ loan documents or your friends’ loan documents from their… or refinance, study those, learn where they need a date sign initial, and that’s the skillset.

So there is a learning curve of making sure you understand where the borrower to date sign initial each paperwork, because as you know many people own many homes. The loan documents are anywhere between 100-150 pages. One missed initial could throw the deal and if you mess up a deal obviously you’re not going to get called back for business again.

So it’s pretty important that you learn the skillset of where they need to sign, where they need a date, where they need an initial, what forms the need to fill out, there’s insurance forms and etc. that they need to fill out. And your job as a signing agent is to make sure all those are done at the closing in order for the escrow or title to fund the loan on time so everybody is happy in the transaction.

That learning curve differs for everybody I guess is the point I’m trying to make. I have some students who can learn that in a day, it takes some students two weeks or 30 days. It all just kind of depends on what your learning curve is and everybody is different on that standpoint.

Scott: Let’s say I’m making just $50,000 a year at my full time job and I’m excited about this I’m like okay I got $1000 into this and pay off a lot of debt and make a lot of extra side money. How many nights in a given week, let’s say I’m in Denver like a top three steady in the country right, population. How many nights per week and then how many appointments per weekend day can I kind of max out on?

Mark: Yeah, I mean honestly full disclosure it’s like any business. If you’re a good real estate agent it’s all about the leads coming in, right. So once you learn how to get the leads which is as important as doing the closing itself right and signing service is our best way free lead gen just because you live by the location.

But the point I’m trying to make is it’s all about lead generation. So if you’re asking me how many signings you can do, actually it’s based upon how many hours you can fit in a day, literally. I mean at the peak of my business I’ve been doing this for 16 years so I was around during the boom which was crazy.

I was literally doing two signings at the same time running back from office to office because there wasn’t enough notaries because there were so many problems going in. So I can literally do 10 to 15 a day. I mean in the evenings it’s usually you can do a five o’clock appointment, a seven o’clock appointment and a nine o’clock appointment because then anything after nine gets a little awkward, like, “Can I come to your house at 11PM?”

So usually in the evenings you can do a five, seven and nine if you’re a good signing agent. And then during the days you can do as many as you can schedule out for yourself. But I think the bigger point that I want to make Scott to your question is like this isn’t some weird little scam niche no one’s ever heard of. Every mortgage in Denver needs a signing agent, like that’s not an exaggeration.

So you can be as busy as the market is in Denver, does that make sense? And I would guess and don’t know this but I would guess in Denver in the major metropolitan area there has to be thousands of refinances and mortgages or purchases closing every single day. I mean hundreds at the minimum, right, around the greater Denver area I mean.

So there’s so much opportunity for signing agents because we ride the tail of the mortgage officer and the real estate agent. And a major marketer like yours man, and there’s notaries doing amazing in fact some of the best ones are in Denver doing eight $10,000 a month in signing agent income because you guys are specifically in one of the best markets.

So but yeah man I mean we are in conjunction with the market. The rates are down which the FED just announced and that they’re going to… rate metro this year, I read an article on Mortgage Daily today that rates are going to drop again. So I’m expecting another refied load like a lot of Los are. So signing agents are needed on every single one of those transactions.

I mean I get so excited talking about this because like there’s opportunities under everybody’s nose. Every real estate agent I talk to is like, “Man I didn’t realise a notary is making $200 an hour,” I’m like, “Yeah it’s on every closing disclosure a line item notary fee, you know what I mean. When I talked to Mindy she was like, “I never thought about it.” And I said, “Yeah it’s awesome.”

Okay Scott everyone knows you and I love real estate like I go looking at houses for fun, right. I saw one recently with carpet on the floors, carpet on the walls, carpet on the ceiling. I bet it would have made a really good podcast booth. But look, I get it not everyone wants to spend their time doing that. So here’s the thing, with Roofstock you can invest in real estate without getting your hands dirty dealing with tenants or managing contractors.

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Mindy: Yeah so who does this not work for? Because this sounds like I get really excited about things super easy and this sounds amazing. I know where you’re supposed to sign, you sign where basically there’s a line you’re going to have to put something on it. Your signature, a little short one is an initial, one with slashes is a date. Who would be bad at this job? Who doesn’t this work for? Who’s not an ideal candidate for this position?

Mark: I mean like I said in the beginning, honestly the biggest job description is being able to pay attention to detail. I mean some people just are attention to detail people, it’s not a race. Some notaries try to think it’s a race getting out or they just don’t super pay attention to detail, they’re not scanning the page.

So honestly my biggest thing to anyone is like you just got to make sure you have the skillset of paying attention to detail. And that sounds like easy until you have 150 pages and you miss one initial on page 79 and the loan doesn’t close on time. So that is probably the most important thing that I’m going cross to anybody who is listening saying I think this sounds interesting is you got to pay attention to detail.

On a macro answer, every state has a background check. So you have to pass your state’s background’s check to become a notary. So every state their different requirements I don’t want to make a blanket statement for all 51 and I say 51 because District of Columbia has their own notary commission.

So every notary has their own background checks requiring different things. But what I can say blinkingly is you can’t have a felony on your background to get approved. So obviously a felony shouldn’t probably apply now after 10 years some states allow to expunge after 10. Once again I don’t want to get that detailed but the blanket thing is felonies.

But the biggest point is you’re signing a financial contract on behalf of the lender and so you just got to make sure that there could be a sneaky little initial in the middle of the note that we may want you to show that recognizes that you’re just in the right mortgage.

And if you miss that little initial in the middle page of the note, the loan doesn’t fund and then you try your luck at business again. So paying attention to detail is honestly the most important skillset to have. But the cool thing it’s like riding a bike, right like once you start getting the flow of it you’re going to be good.

But in the beginning it’s going to be a little nerve wrecking it’s like okay did I miss an initial did I miss a signature. But after five or 10 signings it’s like okay I’m off to the races I’m good to go. But in the beginning a lot of feedback and it’s like man I was so nervous I missed an initial and that’s just kind of because a lot’s riding on it.

Mindy: Is there a minimum age like do you have to be like 18 or 21 or 25? I’m assuming now I’m not even sure. I’m assuming you have to be 18 but.

Mark: Yeah the only requirement is getting your notary commission. So each state is different so I believe I want to get all my feet out of the fire so it’s not like District of Columbia is to 90. I believe every state 18 is the minimum to get commission. So once you have your commission because once again a signing agent is nothing more than a notary public who knows loan documents.

The state doesn’t teach the loan document training, they teach the notary training. So only requirement is getting that notary commission and then like I’ve been saying you can learn the loan document on your own or you can work with someone to teach you the loan document training. So like the real requirement I keep going back to which is the truth and that is having a notary commission.

Mindy: Okay so I am in high school, I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, I hit 18. I can go out and get my notary commission which is let’s say two weeks. How long is the course you said California is the most strict what is that like a one week course, a month course, a year course like I’m clearly not a notary.

Mark: Yeah it’s six hours.

Mindy: Six hours?

Mark: Yeah absolutely. It’s a six-hour course and it’s a 30 question after in which you can miss nine questions of that test so absolutely.

Mindy: Oh my God, okay.

Mark: And California is the hardest by the way it’s like the hardest.

Mindy: The hardest.

Mark: And I’m putting air quotes even though this is a podcast. So it’s really super simple and really six hours is the longest. And California is one of the few that require an in-person course but a lot of the other states are all online like here’s a notary handbook, read the notary handbook take the quiz, right. So that’s the easy part.

Mindy: So I am of whatever minimum age let’s say 18 if it’s 19 let’s say that. I am of whatever minimum age, I go and I get my notary then I am allowed to be a signing agent?

Mark: Yeah literally.

Mindy: So I can just make sure people sign. And I brought you on because you have a course to teach these people how to be a signing agent. And you’ve said that you don’t have to take the course you can go and figure it out yourself. How long is your course?

Mark: My course is six hours. So with my course you get a set of loan documents I give you and then I walk you through each of those set of loan documents. Once again full disclosure I try to help as many people as I can. You can get like your parents’ loan docs if you’re 18 but even if you’re a 30 year old gentleman or lady and you don’t own a home you can get your friend’s loan docs, study those.

So obviously you got to know where people need to sign date and initial. And if there is a hard part about this Mindy and Scott, I always tell people speaking mortgage is like speaking Spanish. You got to learn a new language, right.

So some people know what an arm is or a hillock or… mortgage or PITI. So just learning some of the knowledge is the learning curve I spoke about earlier. I mean the reason we get paid as well as we do is because a lot rides on perfectly executed signing and part of that signing entails knowing what definitions are. Knowing what you’re looking at, being able to guide a borrower through a document.

And that only comes if you take the time to understand and learn. I mean being a signing agent is like any skill you can learn it if you want to learn. It’s like a mortgage officer you can become a mortgage officer with zero background in mortgage and then someone is going to teach you and take you through it, right and those entry level real estate positions.

So being a signing agent is just as easy as okay, can you help me guide me through this learning curve. But like I said full disclosure, I want to come out and let everybody know, you don’t need a course to do this. You can tackle this learning curve on your own. I always tell people you can learn to play basketball on your own.

It’s just that your learning curve will be shortened and the goals of success will be great and if you actually work with a coach. So but yeah you can totally just grab a set of loan docs get your notary commission, go out and kind of figure out stuff on your own.

Mindy: Okay. Are signing agents necessary for other loans or is it just for mortgages?

Mark: I mean I stay in my lane. So there’s something called General Notary Work, GNW is in the same industry, so there’s other ways to make money with your notary commission. I don’t teach that because I’m not expert in it but there’s a ton of ways to make money with your notary commission outside of loan signings. But the loan signings is the most lucrative way to make money with that.

Mindy: Okay so what kind salary are you seeing here?

Mark: I don’t like the word salary Mindy because this is a real business just like if you’re a real estate agent you have to learn how to go out and get the home buyers or home sellers to represent. Being a signing agent is not any different, the difference is you have to learn how to go out and get the signing appointment.

So I know notary signing agents who do this full time who are making $17,000, $15,000 a month. I know signing agents who do it $1000 a month because they only want $1000 a month because part time signing agents they have great full time jobs. So I just don’t like the word salary and I want to make sure that everybody who’s listening to this podcast knows that this is a business.

And you need to go out and learn the different avenues of getting business. But at the end of the say signing appointments, you get paid anywhere from $75 to $200 depending on where you farm it. If you use a middle man or a signing service they’ll pay you $125 to $75 for that appointment. If you go out and get the business yourself directly through a mortgage professional like a family real estate agent fund, you keep the full 200.

So the amount of money one can make, I really tell my students, like any business it’s all about the effort you put into it. This isn’t some weird money falls out of the sky. And I try to be fully transparent with all my students but the coolest part is so many people and I apologize to keep saying this but it really is true it’s the best kept secret of real estate is so many people always focus on being a real estate agent.

And not even realize that every real estate agent needs a notary. Everyone focuses on being a mortgage officer instead of being the notary for the mortgage officer. Right, so many people focus on being an escrow officer instead of focusing on being the notary for the escrow officer. And because everyone’s focused on different parts, the signing agent field is wide open for anybody.

Scott: It just seems like an incredible side hustle to go after and then with opportunities to scale into full time work obviously compared with as you just mentioned an agent, right because if I’m going to be an agent, there’s a lot of hours in Eastern Colorado to get your license. And then getting someone to actually walk them through buying a property is not as easy as some people make it out to be.

Most agents don’t make very much money, but this there’s no crux. You just kind of get in you get that first job, right even through one of these services for $75, make a couple of contacts and then it sounds like you can just set these appointments. You don’t have to go through the process of curating business for an agent over the course of months to close a property or months or years or whatever. You just grab a couple.

Mark: Man I couldn’t have said any better.

Scott: Get a couple going and then you can scale up.

Mark: Exactly right, and then like I said in the beginning of the show most signing agents are part time and then ones who really get it and it clicks scale up to full time. So you’re exactly right. Some people it doesn’t really click but some it clicks and like sky is the limit, I’m out I’m going to build this to $10,000 a month. I can encourage everyone out there, get a notary commission, learn how to use the signing services. We all have a friend who is in real estate. Is that a safe assumption to make?

Scott: Yeah.

Mindy: Yeah I would say that I’ve got more than one.

Mark: Yeah and so each of those real estate agents can be like, “Mindy is my notary on this file.” So that’s literally the power. The real estate agent is at the top of the food chain, right just like they can pick their escrow company, like they can pick their TC, they can pick their title company, they can pick their handyman.

A real estate agent can be like, “My friend Mindy, my friend Scott is going to be the signing agent on this who makes $150, $200 whatever the signing fee is. A lot of real estate agents don’t even know the power that they have and sometimes I tell newer signing agents, just let your friend know that they can use you as a signing agent. It’s literally that easy.

So yes I mean getting business is sometimes as easy hey my high school friend of 20years who is also a real estate agent, I got my notary commission I want to be your signing agent on your next closing. And like Scott said you make a contact through that and that real estate agent knows and escrow or title officer that that deal’s going through.

And then you make a bridge through the title officer or escrow officer. And now you have a tunnel of business just flowing right in. so Scott you nailed it man and it’s all about getting those and then just kind of riding the wave of I’m good at what I do.

Scott: It just seems like you get five appointments a week you make between $500 and $1000. And that’s a really good living right there on top of everything else that’s how you knock out that extra bit of debt to get back to zero or save up to that first rental property.

Mark: And the crazy part Scott is a notary is being hired on every single signing I mean a closing transaction in Denver. Like this isn’t some weird it kind of works sometimes or not. Every mortgage transaction in Denver, there’s a notary who you don’t even know exists is crashing it. And it’s not because this niche is weird it’s just because you don’t know about it, right or you haven’t focused the time to understand it.

And that’s all I’m trying to do and I think what you guys are doing with this podcast today is like if you’re California, or you’re in Oregon like this exists. But yeah like you said man, I think the wheels are turning for you and it’s something you don’t need to quit your full time job to do. I mean even if you did two months that’s still your car payment.

Scott: Yeah.

Mindy: Okay so this exists in all 50 states plus DC so 51 different places you can do this. What I love most about this is not-

Mark: Let me stop you right there because I think that you made a very important distinction.

Mindy: Okay.

Mark: Very good. In our country we have attorney states and escrow states and you’re probably aware of that, okay right.

Mindy: Okay yes.

Mark: Mainly on the East Coast it is a lot of your attorney states, west coast and anything west of the Mississippi is basically our escrow states and anything east of the Mississippi is like 50/50 escrow and attorney states. So in attorney states attorneys handle the majority of the transaction, they are also the notary.

Mindy: Okay.

Mark: The most majority of the transactions. So the business is there in every state, it is way easier a lot plentiful is a better word in escrow states than they are attorney states and I can give you a list of that in show notes if you’d like a link to that.

Mindy: That’s be great.

Scott: Can you just rattle off a couple of the high population states that maybe it’s a little less. Like hey this might be a little more challenging for you if you’re in New York, I don’t know.

Mark: Great question. So I’ll give you a more macro answer because I do this all the time. The best three states are the most populous states in the country which is Florida, Texas and California. Those are three escrow states. So if you live in Florida, Texas and California which is a great chance because it’s like 40% of the country, the most populated attorney state is actually New York.

But a lot of your smaller states per attorney states like New Hampshire, Connecticut, Boston or Massachusetts, so a lot of those are attorney states. Now those attorneys handle it during the day but they still need signing agents to do it in the evening or you can handle out of state signing. So but I’m glad you brought that up Mindy. So escrow states is the majority of states in this country and it’s like if they fall off every mortgage needs one. And in attorney states it basically happens after hours versus in hours.

Mindy: Okay that’s fair. I like that almost anybody can do this. But what I really like about this is that you’re not sinking $10,000 into this to discover that you hate it.

Mark: That’s right.

Mindy: You’re sinking a few hundred maybe $1000 if you get the super printer which you don’t even recommend I wouldn’t recommend either to get some big super printer to discover that you hate it. So get this Brother Printer laser only. But you’re sinking this money in, you can make all this money back in just a few signings and then discover you know what, it’s not for me.

So you’re not like upside down on this side hustle in a way to now I’ve got to do this for a month to get my money back or now I’ve got to do it for a year I’m stuck with this. Like you said it’s the best kept secret, it just seems like a no brainer to try it out. If you want to accelerate your financial independence, I mean if you can read and have a car and a laser printer.

Mark: That’s right.

Mindy: And a notary commissioned and some pens and paper.

Mark: And kind of echoing- I’m sorry Scott.

Scott: No go ahead.

Mark: To kind of echo Mindy’s statement I even tell some people that friends or family or whatnot that’s it’s just a good skillset to have. So let’s say you sink in $500 into it and you do give closings a year, once you learn the skillset you’re good. The notary commission in most states last four years, that’s almost a standard term.

They’re never 12 months they’re usually two years to your years and four years is almost the norm. So once you know your notary commission is good for your years then you have the skillset that let’s say it takes you a couple of weeks to get through your learning curve. And then you’ve got a best friend who does real estate agent and they do four deals a year let’s just say.

And you do those four deals a year for the next four years like it’s just something that I think almost everybody should have in their back pocket. It’s like dude I’m a notary I know how to do mortgage closings and maybe I get a phone call once a month. To me it’s even more macro than just trying to make-it’s actually income now. It’s just something you can have in your back pocket as an income generating tool.

And you can almost just do the learning curve and be like eight months from now, “Oh you know what I’m a notary I can do signing, hey I can do your signing,” if you meet a mortgage officer at a bar. You know what I mean. And so it’s almost even more awesome than it’s just something else that you have in your financial toolkits to create income for yourself or something that has to happen on every single mortgage.

Scott: What a good alternative to driving for Uber or dog walking or handyman work, or whatever it is that you’re thinking about doing as a moonlighting activity after hours right if you work at a job or just going out on your own and figuring something out. What a good alternative to those other things? I mean it’s just great.

Mark: Yeah a lot of our students are Uber drivers by the way they find out from like oh gosh so I can do this also I’m already driving. You know what I mean so I mean there are some signing agents who actually have some portable printers believe it or not. So they have portable printers in their car. They get a text for an assignment from.one of these signing services we speak of.

They print them in the back seat of their car and they’re off to the appointment. The title company gives you a FedEx slip to FedEx those docs back that’s not coming out of the signing agent’s pocket. So they do the signing, they put them in their car and they go to FedEx and bada-bing they make $75-$100 for that deal and they move on. This happens every single day thousands of times a day in our country and people are just like whoa.

Mindy: I need to go get my notary license. My notary commissioned.

Mark: I’m pretty sure you may know a real estate agent or two or 100.

Mindy: I’m pretty sure I do. Scott are you going to get your notary commissioned?

Scott: Yeah tomorrow.

Mark: I know a guy if you need any help with that learning phase.

Mindy: Nice. Okay.

Scott: Is there anything else that we should know about this thing that hasn’t been already covered about becoming a signing agent and going down this path?

Mark: Yeah so the biggest thing I wanted to hammer home to everybody is that you can literally do this on your own. You could pick up a set of loan documents get your notary commissioned, pick up a set of loan documents, figure out where borrowers need a sign date and initial. In fact I have a fairly large YouTube channel that gives a bunch of free videos on how you could do this on your own.

After you go to my YouTube channel which is Loan Signing System, you can literally be a signing agent with the information you get there. I have hundreds of videos. So this is something you can do on your own you don’t need a course. I do have a course Scott so I just tell my students like if you need that extra handholding if you need some to really shorten that learning curve, I would love to be a help to you.

But I don’t want anybody listening to this podcast thinking like you have to take a course. The one thing you have to do is get your notary commissioned. Everything else you can kind of learn on the fly. I will say that your learning curve will be shortened if you follow someone who’s doing what you’ve done.

What’s the saying, the best way to get successful is copy someone who is successful. So I have a course on how to get the business, how to do the signing. But all those things like I said full transparency Scott, Mindy you can learn on your own. I mean from this podcast you can figure out you need to get your notary commissioned.

Sign up for signing services just Google signing services you’ll get a list of them. There’s literally hundreds you’re going to be Googling and be like oh my gosh. These many companies make money in this niche and like yes… so yeah.

Scott: Where can folks find this finer stuff? What is your YouTube channel and what is your website?

Mark: Yeah so Loan Signing System on YouTube search that, that’s the channel. My course is loansigningsystem.com. Once again I have countless blogs on it so if you want to do more research I’ll give you guys a link to maybe a bigger body cast link special link to where people can get if they’re interested they can get more information specifically on kind of the steps to become a signing agent.

I have a checklist of what it takes to be a signing agent I give away for free. Being a signing agent I’m just doing my best to let as many people know that this is the best kept secret in the real estate industry. And whether you take my course or not I’m rooting for you I want you to go wild. If you get a signing in Denver it doesn’t hurt, be in San Diego.

This is one of the amazing things where I’m just trying peak from pedestal because no one else has as far as this idea that people just haven’t heard of it. So loansigningsystem.com is my training course, Loan Signing System is my YouTube Channel. I’m on all the social media channels as you can imagine, Instagram, Facebook LinkedIn.

I try to give away as much free information as I possibly can to help you on your journey. And then if you decide that you want your help from an expert I would love to help but if not I mean I’m rooting for you and you need nothing but a notary commission.

Mindy: This has been fantastic. I’ve been in real estate since almost before Scott was born and I have never- I mean I’ve heard, I’ve used these people but I don’t really pay attention. I’m just signing like 1,000 times over and over initial here and sign there and whatever. And I didn’t really realize that they made $200 a pop.

I’m not making $200 a pop now. So this just seems like a no brainer. I mean what’s the downside? It costs you $500, you invest $500 in this but then you go do two or four or six signings and then you’ve got that all back.

Mark: And you have a skillset for the next four years until your commission expires.

Mindy: And you have a skillset for the next four years should you fall on hard times, should something happen, should you find some debt that you need to pay off, whatever. Life doesn’t always follow the path that you set out for it. And having a backup plan is just never a bad idea. I love it. Mark, thank you so much for your time today. This was super awesome I’m super pumped.

Mark: I’m honoured and stoked to be here. So honestly thank you, if you can tell I can talk about this all day. So I appreciate you both Scott and Mindy and honestly, you need anything any help I’m a call away.

Mindy: Awesome, okay. We will include all of these links in the show notes for this show. Mark from loansigningsystem.com thank you so much have a great day.

Mark: Awesome, bye.

Scott: Thank you man.

Mindy: Okay Scott that was fantastic. What did you think?

Scott: I thought it was great. I thought that there’s a lot of different ways to go about this, right and this is not to detract from the importance of saving money, working at your career and building an investment philosophy that is capable of sustaining financial independence. But this is a great it seems like side hustle.

Man I wish that like when I started out I was working a full time job at Dish Network right. And after hours I would try things like tutoring or driving for Uber or starting a T-shirt company. All these things that were like very close to minimum wage or not scaling like these obviously bad ideas that wouldn’t work. Maybe your t-shirt company will work if you’re listening and thinking about a t-shirt company. Mine didn’t.

But like this would have been a pretty good alternative. Man I could have made a couple extra thousand bucks without too much work or at a reasonable hourly rate if I was thinking about saving up a little bit extra money and maybe accelerating that first home purchase. So I think it’s got a great application across a lot areas for people.

Mindy: Yeah reasonable hourly rate? I don’t know what you’re making Scott but I’m not making $200 an hour over here. I think it’s more than a reasonable hourly rate. And I think that we didn’t ask this question during the episode but I would imagine that as you become more well known to the people that you’re signing for, the mortgage companies, the signing services, as you become reliable, they’ll call you first.

I can just imagine your stock going up with this company every single time you do a loan closing, you do it right and you do it on time. “Hey could you be here at two?” “Sure can.” You get there at 1.55 instead of 2.15, you’re all ready to go, you rock it out.

I’m sure they have some sort of like, “Hey borrower, how did you like their service? A) they were great or they were awful.” I just think that this is super easy and super easy to get started. I mean the whole low cost of entry blows my mind.

Scott: Yeah. I mean it’s certainly not the path to millions but it is definitely I mean what I great way to side hustle and what a good backup plan? If you’re thinking about maybe kind of starting a business or doing something else, what a great source of income while you kind of make that transition?

Mindy: Right.

Scott: It’s not like you’re going to be driving for Uber which is fine it’s just effectively minimum wage after expenses there. And this seems like it’s got a much greater potential.

Mindy: It really does. Okay should we get out of here Scott?

Scott: Let’s do it.

Mindy: From episode 74 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast this is Mindy Jensen and Scott Trench and we are signing off. Get it? Come on you should love it.

Scott: Signing off?

Mindy: It’s a show about signing.

Scott: Oh my gosh yes.

Mindy: You’re so quick with them but you don’t get them when I say it.

Scott: I was quick on that one yeah, that was great.

Mindy: I know I’m very clever. Yay I win. Okay bye.

[End of Recording] [50:35]

Watch the Podcast Here

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • What a notary signing agent is
  • The only requirement to become a signing agent
  • How he became one
  • What signing services exist for
  • Biggest skillset you need to be a notary signing agent
  • Startup cost when doing appointments
  • On doing 10 to 15 appointments a day
  • Who are not ideal candidates for the position
  • The importance of paying attention to details
  • On getting a notary commission
  • The importance of taking a course to become a notary signing agent
  • Other ways to make money through notary commissions outside of loan signing
  • Kind of salary for signing appointments
  • Attorney states versus escrow states
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “Speaking mortgage is like speaking Spanish. You gotta learn a new language.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Being a signing agent is like any skill. You can learn it if you want to learn it.” (Tweet This!)
  • “The best way to get successful is copy someone who is successful.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Mark

About Author

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast is for anyone who has money… or want to have more! Join BiggerPockets Community Manager Mindy Jensen and Director of Operations Scott Trench weekly for the BiggerPockets Money Podcast! Each week, financial experts Mindy and Scott interview unique and powerful thought leaders about how to earn more, keep more, spend smarter, and grow your wealth. You'll get tips for getting your financial house in order and actionable advice from guests who have been in your shoes - and found their way out.

16 Comments

    • mark wills

      Hi Robert!

      Great question, first understand the attorney can NOT also be the notary. By notarial law, you can not notarize anything you have interest in and since the attorney is representing the buyer (and/or seller) they need to have a separate notary do the notarizations.

      Now, to clear up any confusion in the handful of attorney states in our country (which tend to be on the east coast) the attorney will have a notary as an employee in the office to handle the notarizations.

      This is the only reason it is not as good as an opportunity in attorney states, not because the attorney is the notary but they have notaries on staff.

      With that being said.

      There are 100% signings available for signing agents in attorney states through signings that originate outside of the state (for instance if the property is a second home in Florida ((not an attorney state)) and the borrowers lives in Georgia) then a signing agent is located via signing service (just like i discussed in the show) in Georgia to execute the signings.

      There are also occasions where the attorney can send a notary out to the borrowers home to execute the singing if they can not have time to take the day of off work to sign docs.

  1. David Mussaw

    I wonder if any real estate agents are notary signing agents for lead generation purposes. When you’re not wearing your real estate agent hat, you put on your notary signing agent hat, make a few bucks, and speak with homeowners in their homes while signing loan documents.

  2. Sabrina Huyett

    I think UT’s requirements may be higher than CA’s. “There are 35 questions of which 10 are worth 4 points and 25 are worth 1 point making a total of 65 points possible. You must pass with 61 points or higher in order to apply for your notary commission.”

    • mark wills

      great feed back! thank you for sharing!

      I do not believe Utah requires a 6 hour course for there notary exam-thats why i said Ca is the most stringent and lets be honest-a 30 question quiz is not even that bad!

    • mark wills

      You are an independent contractor, no different than if you were a independent physical trainer or a massage therapist.

      You are not an employee of a signing service, this is why you would get paid per appt completed.

      A business license is recommended for most independent contractor but always check with your county.

  3. Craig Coleman

    I’ve been doing this in the Greater Denver area now for 2+ years and honestly it’s the easiest money in the world. I would add that while Mark has laid out the basics to do this gig there’s a few more hoops to jump thru depending on the title company as well as the signing company as most these days require the NNA certification.

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