As more individuals become Notary Signing Agents (also called Certified Signing Agents), this is a question that I have seen and heard asked often. Due to federal law prohibiting such conversations, which is considered “price fixing”, a standard response I see is “Only you can determine what your fees will be. Figure out what your costs are and decide from there.” Unfortunately, because there are no set guidelines, determining your costs can be difficult.
In my early days as a loan signing agent, I tracked everything I did, extensively.
I would track the average size of a loan packet for specific lenders and title companies. I would track who used legal size paper and who used letter size paper. I would track which lenders or title companies or signing agencies wanted scan backs each time. I tracked which companies provided their signing packets in advance and which companies would wait until the last minute to provide documents. I tracked which companies had good communication with clear instructions and those that were easy to reach, as well as tracking those that did not meet those standards.
I would track how long it would take to travel from my home office to a specific location. I would track how long it would take to travel during certain times of the day, or even certain times of the year (in Michigan there are two seasons; snow and construction). I would track the time for routes from one side of town to the other, and track which roads were closed or under construction, or which side streets were better to use.
I would track on average how many notarizations were in each size packet. I would track how long it would take me to notarize an average number of pages. I would track on average how long it would take me to sign with a specific age group of individuals (for example people in their 30’s verse people in their 50’s). I would track on average how long people allocated for their signing based upon where they were signing and at what time of the day.
I tracked everything. I tracked more information than was probably necessary. But in the end, it helped me make decisions, and make them quickly. This also helped me to determine what fees I would charge, or in some cases, what fees I would accept. Simply because the fee was lower than what I would normally charge does not mean I would not take an assignment. It meant I knew what my overall cost was and if it was beneficial for me and my company.
Afterall, time is money, same as physical dollars spent on supplies. When determining what profit, if any, is to be made from a signing, you need to look at your time as well as physical supplies. An easy formula to use is Fee Paid – vehicle (standard are gas, oil change and tires) and office (standard are paper, toner and for my copier the imaging unit) expenses = total minus standard expenses. Subtract the taxable rate leaving a net dollar amount. Divid the net dollar amount that by the time spent in travel and signing only. That will give the hourly rate.
For comparison purposes, let’s use a packet with 147 pages total, 20.1 miles one way, 30-minute travel time and 45 minutes signing the packet. (The fee paid amounts used for example are standard rates I have seen offered in the greater Lansing, MI area)
$75 fee paid = $24.31 hourly rate
$100 fee paid = $35.31 hourly rate
$125 fee paid = $46.31 hourly rate
This is not a set scientific formula to use, but it can give you a place to start.
If you would like to read more on “price fixing” an older but still good article can be found at the National Notary Association “The Truth about Notary Signing Agent Fee Discussions”.