What Is a Notary Public? And their Role in Real Estate
Updated: Sep 30
Most people have heard of a notary, but not everyone knows what they do.
If you’ve ever asked yourself “What is a notary public?”, you’ve come to the right place. While the requirements to be a notary public vary quite a bit from state to state, most notaries are hired to do one main thing – witness a signature so it can be verified.
What Is a Notary Public?
When you have to sign a legal or very important document, it is sometimes required that you sign it in front of a notary public. Simply put, this action is required to make sure the person whose name is on the document is the person actually signing it. When a document is notarized, it simply means that the person or company that receives it afterwards can rest assured that that is the person’s actual signature.
Notaries take an oath to do their jobs honestly and “by the book.” The first thing they’ll do is check the signer’s identification, which usually consists of a driver’s license. Once they are positive the signer is identified properly, they’ll watch that person sign the document, then they’ll affix their identification to the document. This signifies that they did indeed see the person sign wherever they needed to sign.
At that point, the notary normally either stamps the document with a stamp containing their name and notary number on it, or they can affix a raised seal to the document. One or both of these is always required because otherwise, the document is not officially notarized.
What Is a Notary Signing Agent?
When you buy a house, there can be between 100 and 150 pages of documents that are a part of the closing package, many of them requiring notarized signatures. When a notary public decides to specialize in the closing process involved when people buy a home, they are known as a notary signing agent.
So, exactly what is a notary public signing agent? It is someone who has gone above and beyond the minimum requirements to be a notary public and has received special training in the home-closing process. More often than not, signing agents specialize in home closings and devote very little time to other notary work.
This brings us to another point – does a notary signing agent make a lot of money? The answer is, they certainly can if they do enough of them. Notaries are usually free to charge any reasonable amount, but since there are so many documents for home buyers to sign during the closing, their fee is normally going to be more than just witnessing a signature or two on a standard document.
Taking Care of Home Buyers During a Closing
A notary signing agent takes care of home buyers during a closing. Specifically, they perform the following important tasks:
Verifying a signer’s identity. If a notary is personally familiar with a signer, they won’t ask to see any form of identification. Otherwise, some type of ID is required. Some states require two credible witnesses, not just one.
Acting as a witness. A notary signing agent’s biggest responsibility during a closing is to observe each step of the process and act as an impartial witness. They are required to observe each signing and each transaction throughout the closing process.
Validating all of the documents. The lender in particular usually requires certain rules and conditions that must be adhered to by the home buyers and maybe even others. All legal documents need to be validated, within reason, by the signing agent.
Administering oaths. Sometimes, notary signing agents administer oaths to the participants in the closing – namely, the home buyers – to ascertain the truthfulness of their statements and even the documents themselves.
So, what is a notary public? A notary is the witness to signatures on official documents. In most states, becoming a notary requires lots of research and compliance with state laws, that is why we recommend to always have a trusted notary public at hand to help with your real estate transactions.