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About: ACNS, AllCountiesNotary.com

ACNS, offers fast, reliable and professional mobile notary services to: Attorneys, Title/Escrow, Banks, Real Estate Agents, Stock Brokers; as well as to the general public.


To Offer Prompt Mobile Notary Services with a commitment to excellent customer service and a name that can be trusted.



Here are some of the more commonly-used words and terms you may encounter when dealing with real estate loan documents and notarization.  I hope you find this information helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions About Notary Items Please note that the information given on this site should not be interpreted as legal advice. Legal advice may only be given by an attorney.


What is an Acknowledgment?

An Acknowledgment is a certificate completed by the notary according to Civil Code section 1189, wherein: (a). The signer personally appeared before the notary on the date and in the county    indicated and acknowledged executing the document being Acknowledged, (b). The notary signed    and affixed his/her seal on the Acknowledgment, and (e). The notary properly    identified the signer. The wording of the Acknowledgment must read:             State of California             County of ______          On_____before me (Name and title of officer executing the Acknowledgment), personally appeared _____________          who proved to me on the basis of satisfactory evidence to be the person(s) whose name(s) is/are subscribed to the             within instrument and acknowledged to me that he/she/they executed the same in his/her/their authorized capacity(ies),             and that by his/her/their signature(s) on the instrument the person(s), or the entity upon behalf of which the             person(s) acted, executed the instrument.                 I certify under PENALTY OF PERJURY under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing paragraph is           true and correct.                WITNESS my hand and official seal.   

What is an Adjustable Rate Loan or Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)?

A loan with an interest rate that changes during the term of the loan.  The payments generally increase or decrease with the interest rate.  The rate is based on one of several "index" options.

What is an Affidavit?

A written statement, signed in the presence of a notary, in which the signer swears under oath that the information provided is true and correct to the best of the signer's knowledge.  (see jurat)

What does it mean to Amortize a loan?

To pay off a debt in installments that include both principal and interest.

Amount Financed

A required Truth in Lending Act disclosure for consumer loans.  Calculated by starting with the full amount borrowed (principal) and subtracting out the dollar amount of prepaid finance charges (finance charges the borrower is paying in advance).

What does Apostille mean?

A document required by foreign countries attesting to the validity of a notarized signature on a U.S. document.  (Also applies to certain non-notarized certified copies.)  In California, apostilles are performed by the California Secretary of State's office after the documents have been notarized by a California notary public and verified by a county clerk-recorder.

Why is the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) typically higher?

A required Truth in Lending Act disclosure for consumer loans.  It is a calculation of the cost of credit as a yearly rate, shown as a percentage.  It is typically higher than the interest rate because it incorporates prepaid finance charges that are not interest.

What does Authentication mean?

A procedure performed by the California Secretary of State that provides authentication of public official signatures - including notarization(s) - on documents that are to be used outside the United States.  The country of destination determines whether the authentication is to be done as an apostille or certification.

What is a Balloon payment?

A scheduled payment due at the end of a loan term that is substantially greater than the regular monthly payments.  It is designed to occur when the regular payments do not pay off all principal and interest owing (not fully amortizing) on the loan over the term of the loan.

Who pays the Broker Compensation or Fee?

The amount of money the broker will receive for finding a loan for a borrower.  This amount may be paid by the borrower, by the lender, or shared by both.

Certified Copy?

A duplicate of an original document, such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or divorce decree, that has been certified as an exact reproduction, usually by the officer/clerk responsible for issuing or keeping the original.  In California, notaries may only certify copies of power of attorney documents.


When a notarized document is authenticated by the California Secretary of State for use outside the United States, the authentication takes the form of either an apostille or certification, depending upon the wishes of the destination country.

What determines the Closing date?

The time when loan and mortgage documents are formally signed and the loan transaction is completed.  Also called loan closing or settlement.

Who is the Closing Agent?

The person who organizes and is in charge of the loan closing.  The closing agent can explain all documents the borrower must sign.  Also called settlement agent.

What determines Closing Costs?

A general term to describe the fees that a borrower will pay at closing.  Also called settlement fees.

Conformed Copy

When carbon copies are made from original documents, the notary is sometimes asked to conform, rather than notarize, the copies.  To conform a copy, the notary must re-affix his official seal on the copy (carbon usually does not readily transfer a seal impression) and write "Conformed Copy" prominently across the copy.

Conforming Loans

Loans which conform to Fannie Mae guidelines.  The conforming loan limit for a single-family mortgage purchased by Fannie Mae is $417,000.  (compare to jumbo loans)

Copy Certification by Document Custodian

For documents that - by law - cannot be notarized (including passports and driver's licenses), a California notary can perform a "copy certification by document custodian".  To do this, the holder of the original document makes a photocopy of the document, and certifies the copy by means of a written statement.  The notary then notarizes the signed, written statement.
Credit Score

A number intended to show lenders how likely you are to repay a loan; i.e., whether you are a good or poor credit risk.  This score can be an important factor in determining whether you will get a loan, from whom, and what interest rate and fees you will be charged for your loan.  The score is generated by a mathematical formula that considers your credit reports and other variables.  It may also be referred to as a FICO (Fair Isaac Company) score, Beacon score, or some other name; these are companies that create credit scores.

Deed of Trust

In some states, including California, loans are secured by means of a document called a deed of trust, which serves as a mortgage document.  The deed of trust must be notarized.

Document Preparation Fee

Money you may be charged for the preparation of mortgage loan documents.  This charge will be shown on the HUD-1 Settlement Statement.

Fannie Mae

The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), a federally-sponsored agency which buys mortgages from banks, savings and loans, and other lending institutions.


Credit scores calculated by Fair Isaac Company are often referred to as FICO.  Normally an average of credit scores taken by three national credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

Finance Charge

A disclosure that appears on the Truth in Lending Act Disclosure Statement.  It is intended to show the cost of your loan as a dollar amount.  It includes: (1) interest that will be charged over the life of the loan; and (2) some up-front fees (prepaid finance charges).  Prepaid finance charges include such items as mortgage broker fees, lender fees, points, and some closing agent fees.  Any closing fees that are unreasonably high should also be included.  You may also be required to pay other fees that will not be included in the finance charge.

Fixed Rate Loan

A loan in which the interest rate does not change during the term of the loan.

Flood Certification Fee

A fee charged to determine if the property lies in a flood zone and whether flood insurance is required.

Fully Amortizing

This describes a loan in which the balance owed at the scheduled end of the loan is zero if all regular monthly payments are made as scheduled.

Good Faith Estimate

A document that lists the estimated fees you will have to pay to obtain the loan.  It also identifies who is expected to provide services and receive fees in connection with your loan, such as credit bureaus, appraisers, and closing agents.

Government Recording Fees and Taxes

Fees and taxes required to be paid to the local government where your mortgage documents are filed.

Grant Deed

A document which transfers ownership of real property from one owner to another.  The grant deed contains an implied promise that the person transferring the property actually owns the title and that it is not encumbered in any way, except as described in the deed.

Homeowner's / Hazard Insurance

Homeowner's or Hazard Insurance is required to protect the mortgage lender against possible damage to your home.  It can also protect the borrower.  A borrower must obtain this insurance and bring proof of its existence to the loan closing.


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


A closing statement (or settlement statement) of all costs and fees in your closing.

Interest-Only Loan

A loan in which the borrower pays only the interest that accrues on the loan balance each month.  Because each payment goes toward interest only, the outstanding balance of the loan does not decline as payments are made.  At the end of the loan term, the borrower must repay the principal or convert the loan to a conventional repayment loan.

Introductory Rate

Some loans have a lower introductory interest rate, which remains in effect for a limited time.  At the end of the introductory period, the interest rate will increase.  Also known as a "teaser rate."

Journal of Notarial Acts (also Notary Journal)

A book in which the notary records significant information pertaining to each notarization, including: date; venue; description of notarized documents; names, identification, and addresses of all signers; and more.  All persons being notarized must sign the journal; thumbprints may also be required, depending upon the type of document being notarized.

Jumbo Loans

Loans which exceed the Fannie Mae guidelines for loan size and amount.  Jumbo loans may have different guidelines from those of conforming loans.  A jumbo loan is a home loan in which the amount loaned to purchase or refinance exceeds $417,000.  (compare to conforming loans)


What is a Jurat?    A Jurat is a certificate completed by the notary according to Goverment Code Section 8202,    wherein: (a). The signer personally appeared before the notary on the date and in the county    indicated, (b). The signer signed the document in front of the notary, (c). The notary    administered the oath or affirmation, (d). The notary signed and affixed his/her    seal on the Jurat, and(e). The notary properly identified the signer. The wording of the    jurat must read:             State of California          County of ______           Subscribed and sworn to (or affirmed) before me on this____ day of ____, 20__. by ___________, proved to  to me              on the basis of satisfactory  evidence to be the person(s) who appeared before me.


A claim (legal interest) against a home.  Common types of liens include a mortgage, tax lien, and judgment lien.
Line of Credit

Also called an "open line of credit" secured on your home.  Often there are no closing costs involved, or the lender offers to pay all closing costs.  Used like a checking account for borrowing an amount up to your credit limit.

Loan Modification

A loan modification is a modification to an existing loan made by a lender in response to a borrower's long-term inability to repay the loan.  Loan modifications typically involve a reduction in the interest rate on the loan, an extension of the length of the term of the loan, a different type of loan or any combination of the three.  A lender might be open to modifying a loan because the cost of doing so is less than the cost of default.  Not to be confused with a refinance.

Loan Term

Length of time until your loan is fully due and payable.


A promise in which you agree to put up your home as security for a loan.  The mortgage is the instrument that secures the Promissory Note, in which you promise to repay the loan by a certain date.  The mortgage document allows the lender to force a sale of your home (i.e., foreclosure) if, for example, you fail to make payments, fail to pay property taxes or insurance, or fail to keep other promises.  In some states, including California, the mortgage document is called a "deed of trust."

Mortgage Broker

A person or company that obtains a mortgage loan for the borrower from another lender.

Mortgage Insurance (MI or PMI)

Insurance that may be required when a loan is greater than 80% of the value of the home.  This insurance protects the lender in the event a borrower fails to make the loan payments.  The borrower ordinarily pays the cost of MI or PMI, in the form of monthly premiums added to the mortgage payments.

Notary Public

A person commissioned by a state government to serve the public as an impartial witness with duties specified by law.  The notary has the legal authority to witness the signing of documents and to administer oaths.

Notary Signing Agent

A notary signing agent is a notary public who also possesses expertise in the specialty of real estate loan document signings.  His knowledge of loan documents enables him to provide his clients with guidance and assistance in sorting through and understanding the many types of documents typically included in loan packages.


A written promise or contract to repay a debt or loan.  The note states the amount and frequency of payments, and is secured by a deed of trust or mortgage.

Notice of Right to Cancel

Under federal law, you may be permitted to cancel or "rescind" a mortgage loan within a specified time (generally three days) after you have signed loan documents in a refinance or other mortgage loans which do not involve the initial purchase of a home.  The lender is required to give the borrower: (1) notice in writing of this right to cancel or rescind; and (2) the deadline to cancel.

Open-End Loan

A loan that permits the borrower to draw money periodically, up to a pre-determined credit limit.  A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is an open-end loan secured by a home.

Payment Schedule

The information on the Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement shows the amount of the first loan payment, the amount and number of the regularly scheduled payments, the amount of the final payment, and when all those payments are due.  The actual payment due may be greater for a number of reasons, including taxes and insurance.  If the loan has an "adjustable rate," the actual payments will differ from the payment schedule.


A fee charged by the lender as additional compensation for making the loan.  One "point" is equal to 1% of the principal amount of the loan.

Prepayment Penalty

The charge that can be imposed if you pay off your loan before maturity.  The Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement will show whether a loan has a prepayment penalty.

Prime Loan

A loan offered to borrowers with better credit history (also called "A" loans).  Prime loans generally are priced lower, have lower interest rates, and cost the borrower less.

Promissory Note

A legal contract in which the borrower promises to pay back a loan.  The promissory note sets forth the terms and conditions that apply to the loan repayment, such as interest rate, when payments are due, where payments are made, what happens if payments are not made, etc.

Quitclaim Deed

A document which transfers all or part of an interest in real property from one party to another.  When a quitclaim deed is used, the person to whom the interest is transferred accepts all risk of undisclosed claims and defects.

Rate Lock

A written agreement between the borrower and the lender or broker that as long as the loan is closed within a certain period of time (e.g., 30 days), the interest rate on the loan will be set (locked) at an agreed-upon rate.

Recording Fees

Fees charged by the local government to record loan documents (for example, the deed of trust).  These fees will be charged to the borrower and shown on the Settlement Statement (HUD-1).


Paying off an existing loan with the proceeds from a new loan, especially at a lower rate of interest, using the same property as security.  Not to be confused with a loan modification.

Reverse Mortgage

Unlike an ordinary mortgage, in which the borrower makes payments to the lender, a reverse mortgage involves payments by the lender to the borrower.  It is an arrangement whereby homeowners get cash (usually in the form of monthly payments or a lump sum) in return for a mortgage on their home, which is used as security against the loan.  This is a strategy sometimes used by homeowners who want to supplement their income, using their home's equity as collateral.

  Sub-Prime Loans

These loans are priced higher than prime loans (often much higher).  Loans to borrowers whose credit is less than perfect are almost always subprime loans.  There are also other circumstances that lead to subprime loans, including high outstanding debt, unproven income, etc.  Even borrowers with good credit may receive subprime loans for a variety of reasons, including fraud and discrimination.


A drawing or map showing the precise legal boundaries of a property and other physical features, prepared by a registered land surveyor.

Title Insurance

Insurance that protects both the lender and the borrower against loss resulting from defects in the title or claims against a property that were not discovered in the title search.

Transfer Tax or Charge

A government tax or charge that is usually based on a percentage of the property value or loan amount and imposed by state or local law.  Many states do not require this charge for a refinance loan, but almost all require it for a home purchase.  Transfer tax is shown on the Settlement Statement (HUD-1).

Truth in Lending Act (TILA)

A federal law designed to protect borrowers and to give them enough information to comparison-shop for loans.  TILA requires certain disclosures about the loan and when they must be given to the borrower.  TILA also provides additional protections and prohibitions.

Truth in Lending Statement

A document required by federal law for all consumer loans.  It provides key information to enable borrowers to shop around and compare loan terms from various lenders.

Underwriting Fee

A fee charged by the lender to evaluate whether the borrower qualifies for a mortgage loan.  An underwriting fee may be charged to the borrower and shown on the Settlement Statement (HUD-1).

Upfront Costs

Costs or fees charged to the borrower at or before closing of the mortgage loan, such as loan application fees, appraisal fees, points, broker fees, credit report fees, real estate taxes, etc.  Upfront costs can be paid in several ways: (1) they can be paid by the borrower in cash; or (2) they can be added to the loan amount and financed over the life of the mortgage.


The physical location or address where a notarization is performed.  The venue is recorded in the notary's journal. 

Yield Spread Premium (YSP)

A payment made by a lender to a mortgage broker in connection with a borrower's mortgage transaction.  It is shown on the Settlement Statement (HUD-1), but often in a way that is difficult to understand.  For example, a $1,000 yield spread premium may be shown as "YSP POC 1000."  Borrowers are often unaware that the YSP payment is being made.  The payment of a YSP by a lender affects the interest rate charged to the borrower.