Should you sign with a mobile notary - image of people, paperwork, penWhen it’s time for your final document signing prior to the close of escrow or refinance, is signing with a mobile notary better, or should you do it at the title company? These aren’t papers that you can DocuSign – they must be done in person.

What is a mobile notary?

A notary, or notary public, is someone who can check your identification and verify that you are who you say you are. A mobile notary public, usually called a mobile notary, is someone who travels. They come to you.

Quick summary

  • You often have a choice about signing with a mobile notary,  or signing at the title company.
  • Be aware that in most cases you will pay a little more in closing costs if you elect to sign remotely.
  • Some lenders and title companies may nudge you to using an out of office signing and may have built that fee into their closing cost estimates for you, but it is optional, not mandatory!
  • Even if you sign at the office, you may not get the escrow officer but still have a notary and still have an extra charge. Or just a higher fee than at other title companies for this service. Different title companies have different fees and policies.
  • Best bet is to call the title company and ask if the fee will be less if you sign at their office.

During most of Covid, home buyers and sellers did not have a choice about where to do what we call a signoff: title companies did not allow signings in their office for most of the pandemic. Instead, buyers, sellers, and refinancing home owners would meet with a notary, often outdoors, to sign documents prior to the close of escrow or completion of the refi.

At the beginning of the pandemic, and for about the first 18 months or so, Realtors were not permitted to attend the signoff. We are now, though.

Fewer restrictions, title company office signing is now permitted

Now that things are opening up, consumers have the ability to sign at the title company in nearly all cases. A mobile notary remains an option, and may be preferable for you, but make sure that you are informed so that you are making a choice with all the factors on the table. (As of October 2022, if the Covid pandemic worsens again, this could change.)

Signing remotely may be better for your schedule

A traveling notary can work evenings and weekends, while the title companies don’t work all hours. Instead, the title company office is likely to have their earliest signing appointments at 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. and their last slot for signing at 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m., as they close at 5. That notary public will go to your home, office, or some other location that works for you.

A mobile notary fee includes both the notarization of each document as well as the travel time and extra service. Often the cost is $150 – $200. If you only pay for the documents by signing at the title company, typically it’s closer to $50 in many cases.

At times we’ve seen the lenders run a little behind on their schedule, and to make up some time they may ask you to sign in the evening at home. Recently we closed a sale with a credit union doing that – they wanted our buyers to sign on the weekend before a Monday closing, which was going to be very tight and likely cause a closing delay – plus it was going to cost our clients more. Instead, the buyers signed at the title company on the Thursday before that Monday closing.

At times there are delays by lenders or others that may make paying the extra cost a reasonable thing to do so that the sale closes on time. At other times, though, it may be a waste of money!

Save money by signing at the title company

If you decide to sign at the title company office instead, and if an escrow officer signs you off, you may only be charged per notarized document, which may be around $10 – $20 per item. Often the notary fees are in the range of $50 – $60 when done in office by an escrow officer.

Something to be aware of: just because you’re signing at the office does not mean that you will get an escrow officer signing you off or that there won’t be extra notary charges piled on. If the office is busy, the title company may bring a notary in to do the signing. Some title companies charge more than $100 to do the signoff no matter who’s involved (escrow officer or a contracted notary).  In those cases, there’s a good chance you’ll be paying more than $100 for the service even if you only have a few docs to record.

If the extra cash is more important than the convenience of a signing at home or work, call or email the escrow officer to learn what the cost difference will be if you sign in one location as opposed to another.

Conclusion: mobile notary or title company office signing

Title company fees can be confusing. Some just charge title and escrow and not much else. Other title companies seem to charge for everything, including signings, but also printing loan documents. It can be challenging to compare apples to apples in terms of fees because some title companies may appear to have lower fees if you only check title and escrow costs, but then they are more if you are saddled with a lot of extra costs.

Some title companies appear to have lower fees for one buyers versus sellers or vice versa.

We are assembling some data and hope to sort through the myriad of policies and fees to figure out the total costs. Lenders have the APR to compare rates and fees, but we don’t have anything like that for title companies that I’m aware of.

Finally, I’m not suggesting that fees are the only criteria to use when selecting title and escrow services. Far from it! Just as with lenders and Realtors, there are better and worse professionals across the title and escrow business. What I would like to know is if the best service and skill can be found at a moderate price and not at a company charging 30% more than the competition.

The question of where and how to do the signoff to save a few dollars is really quite small in the greater scheme of things. In some cases, signing at the title company may save $100 to $150 off of your costs. If that’s the case, why not save a little there? There are bigger dollars to go after, of course. But when you are just a week away from closing, you may look at that extra hundred as money that could go to a better use than the convenience of signing at home after hours.