Sunday, May 20, 2018

I like Big Books and I Cannot Lie! (Books and Goodies for Notary Signing Agents)

I like big books and I cannot lie! 

(Love that song by Sir Mix-A-Lot too!)

My bookshelves (both real and virtual) are well-stocked with information on real estate and mortgage lending, both residential and commercial.

I own all of the books that I am listing below.

If I had not purchased these for myself, I would not recommend them.  I do, however, always disclose when it is truth that I earn 4% - 6% of the amount of the book cost if you purchase one of these from my list.  For instance, in the first book in the list that is $14, I will earn 84 CENTS from Amazon.

No one  book will give you all the answers. 

That’s why I have so many of them to give me a more complete picture about what we do.  In addition, because I write information for notaries, I like to make sure that my information is accurate.


Starting a Business

This is a great book if you are new to setting up your own business!

 If you are looking to add a sideline business on to your current notary business, take a look at this. Find out what you should do!  What fits with you, what motivates you! Then, set objectives for yourself.  This is such a fantastic book!  Check it out!!


Goodies - Get them NOW!  

Entrepreneur's Free Startup Resources

These may not be offered forever.  I found them and I am sharing. 

In one of my late night prowling through the net, I located an Entrepreneur publication on how to start a medical billing business.  That led me to a great collection of helpful letters and forms provided by - I love this website.  If you aren't reading articles there regularly, you should be!!

Download the three zip files from the website:  HERE


Real Estate Closings

Rent for $25 Kindle or purchase paperback used.
One of my favorites, written for paralegals, but provides a willing reader who is a notary signing agent a great deal of insight on the way deals come together. Any version is good for our purpose, so grab one at any bargain outlet you find.  Look for older versions on, eBay, and Amazon.

Author Sandra Gadow is a licensed real estate agent, as well as a writer, researcher, and analyst for the real estate industry. She covers every state in this book and what to expect at closing.


Mortgage Lending & Real Estate Closings Generally

Amazon States: A one-stop reference for in-depth explanations of mortgage topics
Author Jack Guttentag is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist, The Mortgage Encyclopedia helps is a great reference tool for notary signing agents. Features definitions and explanations of common mortgage, escrow, and closing fees and arcane mortgage terminology

Study guide that explains terms and concepts like RESPA, LTV, conventional loans, non-conventional loans. It’s basically a guide for getting through a test.  Those types of booklets can be very informative.

Starting a Signing Agent Business?



Forms and Property Law

Price Varies.
Only in Paperback, I think.  Book of forms for both residential and commercial law.  If you just want a book full of forms about real estate, this will do it.  I have purchased two of them for less than $10 each.  Currently, I have the 2015 version and I paid $9.99 for it at  Also, try eBay for deals on this book.

I love this little handbook on Texas property laws.  It is what every handbook should be.  It speaks in plain language and backs up what it says with citations.


Researching Public Records as a Business

Real Estate Title Search Abstracting  (How to abstract title.)
 Not bad for the price.  I originally ran across this on Source of Title’s website.  I figured if they promoted it as reasonably accurate, it was worth looking at. Weirdly, it has a whole chapter on personalities in the back.


Miscellaneous Guides - Public Records

How to find Records Online and in the Courthouse

Years ago, I had a very lucrative business pulling records at the courthouse.  If you are located near a courthouse, look into it. 

Note:  Anything by Michael Sankey is worth having.


Insights to the Title / Escrow Business

Interesting – How to Start a Business

How to Start a Title Insurance Company:  Your Step by Step Guide 
Wow.  Bad purchase!  Don't recommend.  Ridiculously short 18-page booklet on how to start a title insurance company.  


Commercial Real Estate / Lending / Investing

The following links to books are inexpensive Kindle books. Remember that anytime you purchase one of these, that it is speaking to the beginning investor or lender, not to a notary.  That’s why I am writing a book of my own on the topic.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Tips for Notary Creative Producers of Books, Webinars, and other Notary Info Products

I built my blog's popularity by using my own wall, then setting up a Facebook page for it. Then, I took out a few $35 ads to get the news out.

I also tweeted all of my blog posts.

I have never posted in a group that doesn't belong to me without request or permission.

Two group owners (Kisha Smith & Robert Owens) will ask me to share a blog post on occasion or share it themselves. That kind of advertising is HUGE. It is INVALUABLE.  You don't just take it like you are entitled to it.

That's why creative producers of notary info products need to think twice before using other people's hard work expended by tending and  growing a group. It's not there as a sales tool for notary info product makers.

Don't wear out the group members' attention span by splashing your ads into the group daily. You are getting hundreds of dollars worth of targeted advertisement. Appreciate it, give back BEFORE you start taking.  Else, you might be surprised at what happens when you need help.

--Set up your own group. Spend time in it each day. Set hours that you'll be there. Build YOUR following.
--Participate in other groups without promoting yourself. It gets old when an info producer makes every discussion about them and their offerings.
--Post without promoting daily, then, when you do, it's not ignored. At the very least, put the call to action to buy your product at the very bottom of the post.
--Answer questions. Help.
--Invest your time in the lives of others.
--Set up your own list of who you prefer to use for supplies, training, etc. and why. Share it to show your support to those you hope to have support from.
--For other creative folks who have blogs and groups already, refer people to their blogs and groups NOT to the person. For the love of God, don't send newbies looking for a mentor to the person who is already working a full-time job, has a signing business, and working with newbies through groups.

They are already covered up. Recommend that newbies read their blogs or sites or join groups. Don't tag that person and tell the newbie to contact him or her.

If you can't stretch to give a little bit to other creatives or tenders of groups, don't expect to be welcomed when you need them.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Know your limitations--seriously.

This is no joke. You must know your limitations as a notary public.

I am astounded by the many questions that show up in Facebook groups like: 

"My friend has a problem -- how can I help? I know I can't give legal advice, but have you ever faced this so I can tell my friend how to solve their problem?"

No!  You don't need to do that.  

Notaries notarize.
"I just got a call from a person who needs a quitclaim deed prepared. How do I do that?"

You cannot do that. 

Notaries notarize.

End of story.

Notaries notarize.

You know absolutely nothing about law if you are not a lawyer.  Lock that jaw!

Unless you are working in a law office and being trained by an attorney, do nothing except take acknowledgments and administer oaths until you have been trained fully.  

Notaries do not fill out documents for clients--ESPECIALLY clients with immigration forms.

Notaries do not tell clients what goes in the blank.

Notaries do not prepare statements for clients.

Notaries do not help clients find forms on the Internet. 

Notaries do not stamp a document without a certificate.  

Notaries do not stamp a seal by a signature just for good measure!

Notaries do not help clients, friends, strangers, relatives, bosses, coworkers, or anyone else figure out what they need to do about any kind of situation. Every situation is a legal situation.

Your notary seal is only for one purpose. 

Apply it to a certificate--always on a certificate--to show that someone appeared before you and signed a document. Of course, some states' notaries are allowed to do certified copies of non-recordable documents. That's a very specific procedure and it will be outlined in your laws if you are able to do this type of act.

You say that you want to be helpful to a caller...

About the only way that you can help anyone out is to charge them less or waive your fee for notarizing.  

Some states are allowed to type a document for a client as long as the client prepares it, but I would not advise it until you understand your notary laws perfectly.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Misinformation on Signing by Mark or X

Visit the Texas Notary Professionals Directory if you are seeking a mobile notary in Texas!

For Texas notaries, there is more misinformation online than accurately stated information relating to signing by mark or signing by X. 

I'm looking at two handbooks on my desk in which both have stated a complicated manner of handling the signature of a person who writes an X as his signature.  Both have copied sources (that have copied other sources) from the 1980s--that's 30 to 40 years ago!

The Texas Secretary of State's FAQs says:
Are there restrictions on the way an instrument is signed?
A notary must sign the notarial certificate using the same name that is listed on the commission issued by the secretary of state. However, as long as the name matches, the signature of the notary may be printed, written, typed, stamped, etc.

The individual signing the document may sign in whatever manner he/she chooses.

The name or manner of signing used by the signor is not the responsibility of the notary public. However, the notary public does have a responsibility to make sure that the information contained in the notarial certificate is accurate. For example if John Doe appears before a notary public and signs the instrument with an “X” the notary public should still state in the notarial certificate that John Doe personally appeared on a given date.

In 2014, while editing a handbook for a client, I found this Tex. Gov't Code §311.005(c) which clued me in that Texas law didn't require a person signing by mark  to be treated differently than a person who signed with perfect penmanship:

Tex. Gov't Code §311.005
(6) "Signed" includes any symbol executed or adopted by a person with present intention to authenticate a writing.
      (Note:  italics added by me.)

To me, that sounds like the signer who writes an X or a symbol is the same as any other signer--I'm not lawyer, but that's what I draw from these two items. 

Over the years, I have observed (and experienced) that notary website owners are writing for search engine content--banging on certain keywords to bring shoppers to their supplies section over and above providing accuracy.  There is no problem with that as long as the correct information is provided.

I have also experienced (as an editor) while working with writers that some are more interested in boasting about what the author believes, not producing a guidebook that is accurate.   In fact, the more complicated and frightening some writers can make your duties sound, the better, for some reason. Your actions do indeed have consequences, for both you and the signer.  However, you can't learn in a frenzy of fear.  And, if you are informed and careful, you won't make errors.  

Become an INFORMED Texas notary today!

My best advice to you is when in doubt, go to the Texas Secretary of State's Notary Public Unit for correct information. 

Notary Public Unit: (512) 463-5705
Notary Public Unit FAX number: (512) 463-5255

The Notary Public Unit processes notary public applications. Upon qualification, a notary public is mailed a four-year commission. This unit is also responsible for processing the notary public complaints received and distributing an educational notary public video. Questions/Comments may be submitted by contacting our Notary Public Unit.

Unit Mailing Address:
Notary Public UnitSecretary of StateP.O. Box 13375Austin, Texas 78711-3375

The Texas Secretary of State or your own attorney is the only source that can lead you in the right direction with certainty.

If you are seeking information about how to handle signing on behalf of a person who cannot sign for her- or himself, please consult 


(a) A notary may sign the name of an individual who is physically unable to sign or make a mark on a document presented for notarization if directed to do so by that individual, in the presence of a witness who has no legal or equitable interest in any real or personal property that is the subject of, or is affected by, the document being signed. The notary shall require identification of the witness in the same manner as from an acknowledging person under Section 121.005, Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

(b) A notary who signs a document under this section shall write, beneath the signature, the following or a substantially similar sentence:

"Signature affixed by notary in the presence of (name of witness), a disinterested witness, under Section 406.0165, Government Code."

(c) A signature made under this section is effective as the signature of the individual on whose behalf the signature was made for any purpose. A subsequent bona fide purchaser for value may rely on the signature of the notary as evidence of the individual's consent to execution of the document.

(d) In this section, "disability" means a physical impairment that impedes the ability to sign or make a mark on a document.

Visit the Texas Notary Professionals Directory 

if you are seeking a mobile notary in Texas!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Don't Judge the Texas Notary in the Headlines.

Texas notary Erica J. received her first notary commission in 2016.   Erica J. is now making national headlines because of a notary error she made on a document relating to the most controversial U.S. president in history.

Texas notary laws do NOT require training.
They do NOT require testing. So, many notaries don't see it as a priority.

The error:  She stamped her seal on the page next to the woman's signature. NO notary certificate was used--it was all wrong.  Please see the link for details

I have a great deal of empathy for Erica.  It's tragic. She'll be pestered by the media. Her life will basically turn into a living hell.

There's not a lot I can do to help her, but I sure won't judge her.

The Secretary of State’s office has provided a handbook and excellent free online training for notaries.

Have you read the handbook?  I have--several times.

Have you taken the online video training?  I have. I'll probably take it again, now.  This is a wake up call, Texas notaries.

  • Protect your future. 
  • Self-educate.
  • Know what you can and cannot do. 

I have seen the same notary error that Erica made many times.  It is common.

Over the years, I have talked to several notaries in the Texas Notary Facebook Group  by phone and private messaging about why they cannot do what Erica did. 

Perhaps no one told Erica about the free training on the SOS's website, but you are reading about it right now.  Take advantage of it, please.

Thank you.

Brenda Stone – -  3/12/18

P.S. -- Erica, I don't know you, but if you read this blog post, I want you to know that I am empathetic to your situation.  I don't judge you.  What you did is a common thing that new notaries do--they don't realize that using their seals in that fashion is a problem.   If our Texas laws placed a high priority on notary training in this state of 420,000+ notaries public, you would have been trained.

Yes, you should have read the laws and figured this stuff out, but you aren't the exception.  You are like most other notaries who received a commission in 2016.

I've learned that new notaries don't understand how critical their laws are or why they should be studied.
Notary errors can happen to anyone. I know that doesn't help much, but I'm sorry you are going through this.  Take care of yourself.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"How long until I can go full-time as a notary signing agent?"

Each day in Facebook notary groups I see questions like this:

"How long until I can go full-time as a notary signing agent?"

I won't answer that within Facebook groups because it gets people riled up and the admins and moderators don't need that!

But, in case you wondered, here's what I believe.


Today is the worst time in history to go full time into your signing agent career.

That's right--it is a terrible time; but, it's not going to get any better.

 So, that makes it the best time possible if you plan to take the plunge.

I realize that's not very helpful to hear, but bear with me.


Notaries (even those who just got started) should already know that remote online notarization will have a severe, if not fatal, impact on the ability to make money as a notary signing agent. Why not enjoy the extra income of part-time signing?  Pay off some bills and save up for a rainy day--just know that it may not be permanent.

Why would I say that?

  • If a notary can sit in the comfort of her home and do closings one after another throughout the day, doesn't it mean less notaries will be needed?
  • Companies that have online platforms for notarizing documents are in business to make money and be competitive (just like we are).   The business model for online closings will not be set up to make notaries rich. 
  • Right now, it looks like we will have to use platforms to be online notaries because the cost and technology will be out of reach for us.  If that happens, we'll probably earn no more than $5.00 per notary seal.


It is not going to get any better in the future--this is as good as it is going to get.

It's been a good ride, but the future for notary signing agents as they exist today isn't bright.

Don't give up your dreams of being self-employed.

Keep your eyes open and be ready to abandon the notary gig for greener pastures. As more states pass remote online notary laws, things will shift like crazy. 

Opportunities will present themselves.


This isn't negative thinking.  It's information you need.

Use this knowledge to plan your future wisely. Be cautious.

Don't put all your eggs in the notary signing agent basket. Bank what you can bank today and keep your eyes open for opportunity outside of notary work.


Other things are out there.  By knowing to keep your eyes wide open, you'll see more opportunities.


These books will change your way of thinking.

You'll have ideas and see opportunity that you haven't seen before. They will teach you to think like an entrepreneur.  (If you buy an item through any link provided on this website, I may earn a commission of 6% --it helps with the expenses of running this site.)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Stand Out to Title Companies by NOT Standing Out

Sources used in this article
aside from my experience are


Keep it simple! 

Standing out to a title company means that your work is neat and clean; you haven’t missed a certificate or overlooked a signature.

Standing out to a title company is getting the job done right every single time and not drawing attention to yourself.

Check your work, keep it simple, neat, and correct.

Not standing out is how you stand out!

Being More Appealing to Title Companies

This is a little scary to write.  Some won’t like it.  

I’m going to tell you how a former “insider” thinks when receiving completed mail-a-way packages.  We could always tell which notaries knew their laws and those who didn’t.

I will never forget a California notary signing agent named James.  I had been writing and working with notary laws long enough that I knew to check requirements for a California acknowledgment certificate. I looked it all up and prepared a perfectly stated notarial certificate for California with the exact verbiage as required by the state’s laws.

We went the extra mile.  Rather than it saying he/she/they on the certificate like store-bought forms do, it said “she” which was accurate. It didn’t have a colorful border.  Those were the only differences between the one that we sent out there and the one that came back to us.

The notary had slashed through the certificate I sent.  He wrote “See California Ack on next page.”  So, we had to pay extra for filing fees because he added a certificate and included the number of pages on his certificate.  I could not remove my original certificate. It had to stay and be recorded.
We had to get a $4.00 check for the extra page and write a letter about the reason for the check that we were paying on behalf of the borrower.   

Try to imagine this conversation in a title company.

“We love it when certificates come to us with fancy colorful borders.  We have to measure from the border to the page’s edge.  If the border is too close to the edge of the paper, that creates a problem, but we ADORE using rulers.

And, those little form fields, check boxes, cryptic messages, and sloppy writing—it’s just like a puzzle!  Thank you!  And, it reminds us of Christmas to get half-sheets that have colorful borders and a ¼” margin. 

Challenges are the best!"  

You are welcome to disagree with me!

Stand out by Being Invisible

Don’t be fancy, colorful, or use weird page sizes.

The notarial certificate should be the same size as the recorded document.  Half-size sheets will cost extra money or extra time and look like rooky work. 

Plain black ink on white 8 ½” x 11” (or 8 ½” x 14”) certificates ROCK!

If you write information on the certificate to make the notarial certificate “connected” to the document, please consider that title companies may be required to pay extra to have pages recorded if your writing goes into the margins.  The clerk must take a new page attached the original pages using staples to the new page and record that. ALL writing and marks in many counties must be within the one-inch margin.

If there is ink from a stamp or writing on the backs of pages, those back pages are then required to also be copied and recorded when adds more cost to recording fees.

Loose Certificates May Cause Problems

If there is a certificate attached to the document, a notary will complete it without writing in the margins 90% of the time.  

But, on the other hand, when using a loose certificate, the writing is usually right up in the top margin to “connect the certificate with the document.”  

The loose certificates are often full of check boxes and lines.  Some of them have so many boxes and lines that they look like puzzles.

Is this against the law? 

Not that I know of, but it’s not mentioned in Texas’s notary laws to introduce all those elements.

If you take a notary education course, you’ll be told that you need to use fancied-up certificates.

Guess what!  The course providers usually have a pad of those products to sell.

I just wonder if those who endorse the use of congested half-sheet certificates have ever gone to the recording clerk with a deed of trust to record, especially with one of those little slips of paper having been attached as a notarial certificate. 

It can be an ordeal.  I recommend never using half-sheets in case the document has to be recorded.

Confused?  Check with your Secretary of State.

Don’t take my word for it.

I am 99.99% sure you can make your own simple and clear notarial certificates. 

Unless your state has laws that you must create a record of details on your notarial certificate that “matches” the document, it isn’t required for you to check boxes and fill in little forms inside of more little boxes.  (The last time I checked, Arizona did have this in effect as law and some states’ notary public administrators recommend it.

I am not an authority on this; check your laws.

Once you ascertain that you can legally make your own notarial certificates try your hand at making them to have them on hand. 

Bigger Worries:  Scanners and Copiers

Anyone with a $200 color copier could, in about four minutes, duplicate any certificate you attached so that it could be fraudulently attached to another document.  If that person is going to commit fraud, he or she will have access to a good color copier.  It won’t matter what you do.

The positive value here is if the underlying document you notarized gets separated from the document, you won’t wonder what the certificate should be attached to.  That’s it. It is good information for honest people, but only if it isn’t in the margins.

Grommets, Wax, and Ribbons

The only way to secure one piece of paper to another would be to use wax, ribbons, and grommets. Tampering would be obvious!  But, still, fraud is easily done.

·         The notary’s signature block is cut and pasted onto a new certificate. 
·         Lay on copier or scanner. 
·         Color copy setting.
·         Hit the button. 
·         Done.

Don't work overtime trying to control what happens to your documents after they leave your hands. 

 If you don’t know how to make your own notarial certificates or understand why you need them, please don’t aim for title company work just yet.

Start there!

This article began as part of a bigger blog update about working for title companies.  The points above may distinguish you as someone who is catching on fast to the title and mortgage business.  

From one who has worked inside title companies closing loans of all types and law offices where residential and complicated commercial documents were drafted, I suggest that you try seeing their world and put yourself in their shoes. 


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