Once you’ve found your new home, you are probably excited to close the deal. However, before you can get the keys and settle in, you’ll need to sign a lot of paperwork.
If that sounds tedious, keep in mind that some of the documents contained in the closing package require not only your signature but also notarization. Below is a guide to know what documents are notarized at closing and the steps to take.
Why Use a Notary?
A notary is a form of protection for the signers of important documents. They lower the risks of doing business by helping prevent fraud. An official signature, seal, and embossing stamp signifies that the persons involved were the ones who understood the document and signed it.
While a notarized document does not mean that the provisions in a document are legal, it does reinforce the veracity of documents in court.
What Loan Documents Need to be Notarized?
Even though most documents in the closing packet are essential during a real estate transaction, only some require notarization, such as the following.
The deed is considered the most important of the documents and establishes the property’s ownership history. It indicates the transfer of property, including all interest, rights, and title, from the grantor through sale or other forms of conveyance to the grantee, known as the buyer or the recipient.
Its form and language may differ for every state, but it will always be filed in the public land records office of the property’s governing jurisdiction. Once made public, anyone can verify that you obtained the title from its rightful owner. Notarization ensures the document’s integrity, since the recorder records the document without checking its validity.
Mortgage or Security Instrument
If the transaction is financed, there will be a deed of trust, mortgage, or security instrument. It contains the property’s legal description, purchase price, repayment period, and interest rate. This document must be signed, notarized, and put in public records similar to the deed. If the borrower fails to meet the terms, the lender will have rights to the property and foreclose it.
Homeowners with a home equity line or second mortgage on their homes will execute a subordination agreement. The lender agrees to be of second priority after the first mortgage in the event of foreclosures. After the borrower and lender sign, know that notarizing refinance documents should also be done.
Affidavit of Owner Occupancy
The borrower must sign an affidavit certifying they will occupy the property as their primary residence. It means they will not rent or lease it out—doing so changes loan terms, say, higher interest rates due to increased default risk.
This document is a sworn, notarized statement from the seller confirming their property ownership. Also, it discloses title defects that can result in future liens, potential disputes, and other issues affecting the sale or transfer of the property.
In this notarized statement, the borrower swears or affirms that all disclosed information in the documents is truthful.
If you use another name besides your legal name on accounts and important documents, you will sign this affidavit using the disclosed name and have it notarized.
This is a commonly notarized statement verifying the legitimacy of your signature on other signed documents.
Error & Omissions / Compliance Agreement
It indicates your agreement in working with the lender to provide additional information or required funds to complete the processing.
Document Correction Agreement / Limited Power of Attorney
This notarized document grants limited power to correct errors in the documents due to a clerk’s oversight.
Marital status, refinance, property survey, homestead, and debts and liens affidavits are notarized statements attest to the truthfulness of information disclosed during the transaction. You will only have to execute the documents applicable to your situation.
How to Notarize Loan Documents
After understanding what documents are notarized at closing, your next step is to have them notarized.
Look for a Notary Public
When searching for a notary, remember to ask if they are a closing signing agent as well. As authorized signing agents, they know the regulations and standards of the mortgage finance industry when conducting loan signings.
Your lender may offer notary services, and sometimes free of charge when you’re a customer. But if that’s unavailable, you can visit law offices, real estate agencies, car dealerships, courts, and libraries to check if they have a notary public present.
Have a Valid ID
One of the main purposes of notarization is to screen and verify the signer’s identity. Since a notary doesn’t know who you are, they can only check your identity through your valid, government-issued identification cards. Bring at least two to the scheduled appointment.
Bring the Documents
Don’t forget to bring the real estate and loan documents that require notarization. Refrain from signing the documents beforehand since the notary public must see you affix your signature.
Closing signing agents differ when they perform notarization—some notarize after every signing, while others do it at the end. Whichever method they choose, ensure they do so on all documents requiring notarization.
Reasons Why A Document Wouldn’t Be Notarized
Notaries have strict rules and guidelines they must follow when notarizing a document. It cannot be notarized if a document does not fit those standards. These prohibitions are there to protect the public and ensure the credibility of the notary.
Here are just a few reasons a document cannot be notarized:
- The document is dated later than the day of notarization, or the certificate that is issued is backdated. This counts as forgery and carries with it additional fines and the potential loss of the notary’s commission.
- The signer cannot be positively identified.
- A signer is not physically present.
- The document is missing pages or has blank sections; those must be complete by the time of notarization.
- The document is blank.
- A signer appears confused or mentally incapable of understanding the transaction.
- If the notary thinks or knows the transaction is illegal, the notary may not proceed with notarization.
- The signer does not speak the same language as the notary.
- The signer is unwilling to swear or affirm the contents of the document (for notarizations that require an oath or affirmation).
- The signer shows indications of being coerced to sign.
- The document does not contain a notarial certificate, and there are no instructions on which type of notarial certificate is required.
- The document is a copy of a vital record. This can include documents like a birth certificate. Notary publics are not permitted to notarize these documents.
- The item is an object rather than a document. Notaries will never authenticate or validate objects.
- The notary is a signer. Notaries are not allowed to notarize their own signatures or serve as a notary if they are a party to the situation.
Notaries can also refuse service if a signer is unable or unwilling to pay any required fees, if the request is made outside of your regular office hours, or violates your established workplace guidelines.
However, keep in mind that the notary is not allowed to refuse notary services due to nationality, religion, ethnicity, age, lifestyle, gender, disability. A notary may be asked to notarize a controversial document involving same-sex partnerships, assisted suicide, medical marijuana, or abortion. Even if a document’s contents offend the notary’s personal convictions, the notary must notarize it.
Notarizing a document does not imply that the notary endorses or approves of its content. A notary is only a third-party witness who validates the signer’s identification(s).
Notaries are also responsible for administering oaths. Their role is to administer the oath, not judge those who take it. Much like the notarization of documents, notaries cannot deny this service based on their personal beliefs or bias.
What Should You Do if a Notary Refuses to Notarize Your Documents?
It might be inconvenient or even upsetting when a notary refuses to notarize your document. But as mentioned above, they could refuse to notarize a document for many legitimate reasons. They may have even determined that performing a notarization breaks the law, which could cost them their commission in addition to hefty penalties.
However, in such instances, they must give you a clear explanation for their refusal. Afterward, they will make a notarial record of the refusal. The record would include the exact reason for the refusal and any other relevant details in case the refusal gets questioned down the line.
Afterward, you may then need to resolve the issues with the document as per their suggestion or consult another notary.
Can a Notary Give Legal Advice?
No, a notary cannot give any advice or opinions that an attorney should give. Notary publics have a very limited, specific role: to authorize oaths, verify identity, and confirm the signatures on a document. It is illegal for a notary public to act as legal counsel or provide a second opinion.
If a notary is under the impression that a signer is not of sound mind or thinks the transaction is illegal, they can always choose not to notarize.
Let Us Help You Today
Now that you know what documents are notarized at closing, get started finding a notary in Florida. If you have more questions about notarization, feel free to reach out anytime—we’re glad to be of help.