My First Commercial Mortgage Loan Experience as a Notary Signing AgentBrenda Stone
This is the third in a series of articles about commercial loans. Unless you have questions you’d like to see answered regarding commercial loans for notary signing agents, we are moving to the topic of wills and powers of attorney,.
I thought I was early when I walked into the multi-story building that housed the Houston title company that had hired me for the next three days. I would be handling their overflow of borrowers who were closing on home equity loans. I wanted to make a good impression, so I arrived early–around 7:30 a.m.
I’m not going to lie. I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. When I found the office, finally. I figured that it was so early, surely no one would be there, but I pulled on the handle of the oak door, just to make sure. It swung open to a full house of activity! Early morning signers were everywhere waiting to get signed up and head to work.
The receptionist had a borrower at her desk–they were going over documents. She looked up at me and motioned toward an office door behind her.
“You’re the notary, right? Natasha is in that office.”
I headed in the direction she motioned and waved my thanks.
An attractive petite woman appeared from the door I was headed toward. Her name was Natasha and she was a senior escrow officer, according to the brass plate beside her door. I put out my hand to shake hers. That’s when it hit me. Natasha is “Ah Satan” spelled backwards. I stared as Natasha’s pretty blond head spun completely around. Her voice was a growl, not a real voice at all, and she said —
“Welcome. I am Satan’s she-wolf. Go handle Closing Room #1.
The documents are in there. I will tear out your throat if you screw it up.
You could die here today.”
This was before I had even been told where I could set my purse down! I considered running out the door.
Here’s a tip if you find yourself in the same predicament: a she-wolf can read a notary’s mind, so be careful what you think about. Natasha reached out her paw (cloven foot or whatever it was) and grabbed my purse. She slid it into a drawer and locked it. Her movements were unnaturally fast, a blur…practically invisible. She turned back to me, and smiled…or perhaps she bared her very long, very white teeth.
Without taking my eyes off of her, I nodded and backed out of the room. There was nothing to do but find Closing Room #1.
As I emerged from Natasha’s door, another fashionably-dressed woman came out of a glass room (apparently my next stop–Closing Room #1) and said in a shrill tone,
“Hi there! Are you our closer?
I nodded, smiled, and tried to speak.
“Soooo…we are all here…can we get started please?” She was impatient. Apparently they had been waiting a few minutes. It was not yet even 8 a.m.! Here is another tip. Realtors, lenders, and title people love mornings, or at least they pretend to love mornings. They are Morning People with a capital M and P. Breakfast is probably their favorite meal. If you go there early, take food. I could have escaped right then if I had been clever enough to bring pastries.
I learned later that the shrill woman was an assistant to someone in the room. I could see the 6 to 8 inches of documents piled up on the table. Maybe it was more. I nearly fainted.
Oh my stars! What had I gotten myself into? This was no refi or home equity loan!
It was a high pile of something I had never seen! I had been signing loans regularly for a year or more. I had never had one turned back for errors, but at that point, I had never seen documents piled so high.
Feeling the hot breath of Natasha-the-she-wolf or one of her minion on the back of my neck, I realized I could not make it out the front door before Natasha could rip out my throat and she had my purse, my keys, and my money. I could not get far without those, so I decided that I would be safer in the glass room. I took a breath and walked in like I had managed she-wolves and big stacks of documents for years,
I stood as straight as I could and introduced myself. I opened my journal and said to the crowd “If you are signing documents, I need to see your ID and please state what your role is in this closing.”
That wasn’t what they wanted to hear, but that is how we did it. They would have preferred diving right in, but we got the identification out of the way; then, I took a minute to look at the stack. I was overwhelmed, so I quit looking and reverted to the strategy I used on my first loan signing:
Eat the elephant one bite at a time!
Of course, the meaning of that is that I would deliberately handle one document at a time, one page at a time. We would sign and notarize (if needed) and repeat until they were all done.
I announced, “Folks, I am walking in without your backstory, please set me straight if I assume something that isn’t right.”
We started with the settlement statement on top, a HUD-1, because the Closing Disclosure (CD) had not yet been born. And, even if the CD was being used that year, CDs are not required for commercial mortgage loans. They can be included, but they are not required.
I glanced at the settlement statement to discern what was going on in that room before I started talking again. I was shocked at how many people were sitting around the table.
As I recall, in attendance were: the seller of the business and spouse, the seller’s business broker who found the buyer for the seller, the seller’s attorney, the buyer and spouse, the buyer’s lender, the buyer’s attorney, a commercial real estate broker, an accountant, and two people whose functions I never knew. This was a sizable transaction, and everyone wanted to make sure they got their dollar out of it.
I went down the settlement statement beginning with the seller. I couldn’t believe everyone was there listening and watching. I went over the settlement statement one section at a time, not really going over specifics because I was about to hyperventilate. I would point to the section and ask the seller “Any questions on this part?”
Mostly, they said no, but they did ask a few questions. And, that’s how I figured out this tip–the best way to answer questions when your heart is beating so loud in your ears that you can’t hear a thing is not to try and answer but to say, “Okay, let’s read through it.”
There was no way I could break it down further with all those eyes on me. Keep this in mind–the documents have the answers. You just have to slow things down if the borrowers or sellers don’t understand something and encourage them to read through it.
I had the seller sign all the transfer documentation, plus a multitude of affidavits and agreements. When I was finished with the seller side of this commercial real estate deal, I asked if anyone wanted to leave or if they were going to stay for the other side of the business.
They all stayed…of course, they did! Because they needed for me to finish getting the documents signed, so they could get their checks! The buyers agreed for them to stay because there was no place for them to wait except in the closing room with the mob of other people.
That was only about an inch out of the stack of documents. So, I began on the buyer/borrower’s side of the settlement statement, and I worked my way through that and presented the remaining documents to the buyer. Fortunately, only one signer executed most of the documents for the borrower. There were a few for the guarantor and maybe a few others for someone else to sign. I really can’t remember now–it has been about 15 years. But, we got through the whole stack.
I left the room and gave the documents to Natasha who went through them turning the pages with her French-manicured she-wolf claws. Natasha finally nodded and agreed not to eat me alive. That was that. She let me stay!
Natasha and I worked very well together. I learned a lot from her each time I went to help out.
I know, however, that she expected me to fall flat on my face that morning. Her boss had called me without consulting her–that never makes for a good introduction to someone who has to depend on you to sign 40 or 50 home equity loans in three days.
Fortunately, during the rest of the three days, I handled equity loans. It all ended well. It was a great experience and I went back every time they needed me to work with them in their title company during the busy years.
I’ll close with this–one thing that I have observed since that first day working elbow to elbow with Natasha is that escrow officers are most definitely NOT human–the good ones are mountain movers and miracle workers!
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Thank you Brenda for writing this. Im looking for something to supplement my income while Covid is keeping me from working. Reading your article gives me some insight in a Loan Signing Agents lift.
Thanks much. I appreciate it, Lisa. Brenda Stone