Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Public Thank You

A couple of months ago, my friend and colleague Renee Kovacs decided to try a triple somersault down her stairs. The results of this spontaneous act were sadly predictable. After a couple of months of milking her injuries for all they're worth, Renee and her surgically repaired foot are ready to get back to work. During her extended vacation, Renee has been kind enough to refer many appointments to me. So I'd like to use this space to say thank you. I appreciate her trust and confidence in me, and I know that if the shoe (or cast) were on the other foot (so to speak), I would trust her with my clients. I hope I'll be able to return the favor someday soon (but I'll be on a cruise or backpacking Europe instead of hobbling around on crutches). So thank you Renee and good luck back in the field. I'd say "break a leg," but I'm afraid you'd take that literally.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What's My Password Again?

If you're like me, you've got a password for everything. Your online bank account, Google, Hotmail, FedEx, UPS, forums, and on and on and on. Some want six digits, some want eight digits, some want letters, some want capitals. It's almost impossible to keep it all straight. So you keep your passwords as simple as possible (translation: easy for someone else to guess) and write them all down somewhere (and hope it doesn't end up in the wrong hands).

Maximum PC recently published their sixth annual Softy Awards ( softy = software). One of the winners was KeePass, a program that not only safely stores and manages your passwords, but can also generate highly secure random passwords. The passwords are protected by a master password (the only password you'll have to remember) and can even be stored on a USB key. It's easy to set up (as long as you print out the two page getting started instructions from the help drop down) and took me about 30 minutes to transfer my passwords. My next step is to change all my passwords to randomly generated numbers and letters which can only be revealed by accessing KeePass. KeePass won't display the password. Instead, it allows you to copy it to your Clipboard and paste it into Word (you have 10 seconds). You can also add URLs so KeePass can take you straight to your login page. It's a nice little program.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Google Maps & Increasing Your Local Web Visibility

Google I've posted previously about listing your business on Google Maps. Because Google Maps come up on the top of the page for search results, I think it's a critical part of an online marketing strategy. Although I have a listing, I realized that my listing wasn't coming up near the top for several local searches. So I've spent much of the week researching the factors that are involved in the Google Map ranking. And it's different from regular Google and other search engines.

Once you have a listing, one of the main factors that affects your ranking is having a listing in your local Yellow Book directory. Personally, I've had a business listing in the past with little results. If you don't want to pay for a listing, being listed in some local online directories can still accomplish the goal of raising your Google Maps exposure. Even if you don't have a listing with Google Maps or any other map site, you still want to be in your local directories. I was surprised to see that local directories were tremendously underutilized for notaries in my area. I've added my business to,, & Yahoo Local (I've also tried to add my listing to - update: I've discovered that Infospace gets its info from Superpages). They're all free. Make sure your listings are all consistent. They should have the same title and the same information. This way, Google Maps and others will recognize that it's the same business. Fill in as much information as possible. The more complete, the better. And choose the right category. All of the directories I've mentioned had a specific category for notaries.

Add a listing to MSN, which also has its own map site called MSN Live.

Cumbrowski Internet Marketing has an in depth list of local sites and links to articles on increasing local exposure. Small Business SEM & Blizzard Internet Marketing both have excellent articles on how to rank better in Google Maps.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dump The Junk

The World Privacy Forum has compiled a top 10 opt out list for reducing unwanted junk mail, spam, and unsolicited phone calls. You can find links and phone numbers at the World Privacy Forum website.

Top 10 Opt Outs:

1. National Do Not Call Registry

2. Prescreened offers of credit and insurance

3. DMA opt outs

4. Financial institution opt outs


6. Credit freeze


8. Data broker opt outs

9. Internet portal opt outs

10. NAI opt out

Saturday, May 10, 2008

RESPA Reform - Submitting Comments

You have until May 13th to submit comments to HUD regarding the proposed RESPA reform, including the closing script. Comments should be submitted to (keyword RESPA). The proposed changes can be found at the website.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Closing Script - Comments

Lots of great discussions about the closing script on Notary Rotary and elsewhere. There's certainly some strong opinions and great points on both sides of this. I think it will be interesting to have this discussion again down the road as we see what transpires. For those who missed the thread on Notary Rotary, here it is:

Closing Script Thread

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Closing Script

There's been a lot of discussion about the proposed HUD closing script. The NNA thinks that the script constitutes UPL (unauthorized practice of law). But I've yet to see a legitimate reason explaining how reading a script word for word can be considered practicing law. The NNA also claims that the signing agent industry is being threatened by this proposal. Again, how is reading a script a threat to our existence?

That said, I think walking into a closing and reading a script, including a line by line, fee by fee comparison of the HUD and GFE (Good Faith Estimate) is impersonal, unprofessional, and probably will cause borrowers to tune out much like most of us do when a telemarketer calls and starts reading a script. Some have even suggested that we read the script over the phone BEFORE the closing. Can you imagine what the companies that hire us for their closings would think of that practice? The script can be download here:

I've commented on this in other places, so I'm just going to include some of those comments here:

I think it gets silly when you start reading every line of the HUD/GFE comparison word for word, especially where the figures are identical.

Going over this by phone? Well, maybe your in-house closers can do that, but as an independent signing agent, I know that many of the companies that hire us would feel that this is outside of our scope of duties. I don't think loan officers would appreciate us going over loan terms with their borrowers before we're even at the table. I can imagine the conversation if the terms I tell them over the phone aren't what they were expecting and they call the l.o. and tell them I called them and told them their terms before our appointment (and maybe before the l.o. had a chance to make the call that he/she was going to make to discuss the change). I can kiss that company goodbye. No way would I ever do this over the phone.

it's not the information in the script that I have a problem with. It's vital information and something that I think must be covered with the borrower. It's telling me I have to read it word or word like a sixth grader reading out loud for the class. Anyone that's ever given a speech or made a presentation (and that’s what this is, a presentation) knows you don't write out your presentation word for word. You end up sounding cold and robotic. Don’t give me a script. Give me an outline or a bullet point summary.

"The following is a summary of many important details involving the mortgage loan 123 Main St, Anywhere, U.S.A. Let's compare these important details with the Good Faith Estimate, loan documents, and other disclosures, shall we?" Come on, who talks like that? I don't. So, if instead of that gobbledygook, I say "Here are your loan terms," have I failed the borrower? Am I a bad closer? Instead of saying "read this word for bloody word," allow me to be human. I can cover everything that needs to be covered without having to sound like an infomercial spokesperson.

Friday, May 2, 2008

All The Gnooze You Need To Gnow

Today's Top Three Stories - Including The Fed Rate Cut - From a, ummm, different perspective (warning, mild adult content)....

Thursday, May 1, 2008

As The Crow Flies...Not In These Cities

"According to our system, you're only about 15 minutes away from this appointment."

Not if you live in one of these cites: