What is a notary public?
Updated June 25, 2021
A notary public is a certified professional who inspects documents to verify the identity of the document signer in a variety of instances, including real estate transactions, to prevent fraud and duress.
The duties and powers of notaries and their exact roles in property sales and purchases vary via location in the U.S. and also country by country.
In the U.S., the notary signing agent is a specialist who focuses exclusively on home loan documents.
The notary signing agent, who, unlike a conventional notary, is required to complete additional certifications (some states require a title insurance license, a closing agent license or other special licenses) and an annual background screening, handles much of the paperwork during the real estate transaction. The notary signing agent not only notarizes documents by signing and stamping them with a seal but also prints and delivers loan documents to the signer and mails the completed document package to the title company or lender.
With all 50 states in America sanctioning some form of electronic closing, the role of the notary signing agent continues to evolve. In some cases, the notary signing agent meets with the client in person to verify identity and monitors the signing of the most important documents, including the promissory note, the transfer deed and the deed of trust or mortgage, then oversees the digital signing of other paperwork.
A notary public is a certified professional who inspects documents to verify the identity of the document signer in a variety of instances, including real estate transactions. Credit: Stephen Goldberg/Unsplash
In other cases, after meeting in person with the client, all documents are signed digitally.
With remote online notarization, which became popular and permissible during the 2020 pandemic, the notary signing agent verifies the client’s online identity and watches as the client signs virtually.
Notary signing agents, who are impartial, are chosen randomly from a qualified pool. Property buyers pay their fees, which range from $25 to $50 for the first one or two notarizations and $5 to $10 each for additional ones.
Notaries in Canada
In Canada, the role of notaries is somewhat different than it is in the U.S. In Ontario, for example, laws vary by province; in some cases, the notary has the authority to go so far as to prepare legal documentation.
In Quebec, where real estate transactions are required to go through a notary, the buyer typically makes the selection and pays the majority of the fees, which range from C$1,000 to C$1,500.
The notary is responsible for a variety of important tasks, starting with looking over the documents and making recommendations before the signing of the offer to purchase.
The notary also makes sure the equivalent of the sales price is deposited in a trust account when the bill of sale is signed and compiles a real estate file that includes examining previous deeds to the property, checking the certificate of localization and making sure the distributions for municipal and school taxes are correct and outlined in the mortgage.
After ensuring that the buyer has taken out home insurance coverage for the newly acquired property, the notary drafts a bill of sale and when it has been signed by the buyer and seller, files it in the land registry. Then the notary releases the money by issuing checks, and is present when the buyer and seller formally confirm the bill of sale and keys are surrendered.