A Homebuyer Guide to Earnest Money

A Homebuyer Guide to Earnest Money

A Homebuyer Guide to Earnest Money

Although earnest money isn’t the most well-known aspect of a house purchase, it is undoubtedly crucial. The aptly called “good faith” payment is a reminder that the real estate market is not immune to mistakes or malice. More significantly, it establishes a relative system of checks and balances to ensure that buyers and sellers keep their promises. A good faith deposit, however small, has significant ramifications, which prompts the question: What is earnest money? Better still, how can homebuyers protect their financial interests by navigating their earnest money deposits?

Earnest Money

Earnest money is a deposit provided on behalf of potential homebuyers to demonstrate their commitment to completing the transaction. A good faith deposit, often known as earnest money, is a type of security deposit, is a safeguard placed in place to protect sellers when each party in a real estate transaction signs a purchase agreement. If nothing else, the seller requires proof that the buyer will complete the transaction. The buyer will pay an earnest money deposit, generally between 1% and 3% of the sale price, in exchange for removing the house from the market (and risking a financial loss). The vendor will return the money to the buyer once the transaction is completed. If the transaction fails, the seller is entitled to the money if the previously agreed-upon criteria are met.

The Workings of Earnest Money

When a potential homebuyer signs a purchase agreement, the cash is usually delivered to the seller. When the seller pulls the home off the market and assumes financial risk at that point, it’s only fair that the homebuyer puts some “skin in the game.” However, there’s no reason why potential purchasers couldn’t include the monies in their first offer. In today’s competitive market, including cash with a request can go a long way toward beating competitors. Those considering incorporating a reasonable faith payment with their offer to make it look more appealing should put up enough money to appear serious, but not so much that they risk putting their cash in danger.

An earnest money deposit accompanied by an offer demonstrates seriousness, but it may also be premature. At a minimum, the seller will want to be a part of the discussions that define the terms of the reasonable faith payment. As a result, words are generally discussed at the time of signing the purchase contract. The assignments will detail how much of a practical faith payment will be held in escrow and how it will be released under what conditions. Contingencies will include the contract that allows the homebuyer to receive their money back if they do not purchase the home. A homebuyers deposit, for example, may be refunded if the house fails inspection.

When the seller receives the earned money, it is deposited into an escrow account and held there until the criteria for unlocking it are met. Because the purchase agreement is conditional on various factors, the homebuyer is not obligated to complete the transaction. Despite this, the contract requires the seller to remove the property from the market while being appraised and inspected. The earned money acts as a safety net if the owner loses out on subsequent offers during that time.

If a homebuyer backs out of a deal, the seller will almost certainly be permitted to keep the money. Extenuating conditions may allow the home buyer to regain their deposit, but the terms of each contract are different. If the homebuyer can complete the sale, the funds can cover the down payment and closing charges.

What Is an Appropriate Earnest Money Amount? 

Shouldn’t set an earnest money deposit sum. Instead, the quantity of cash a prospective homebuyer should provide is proportional to the real estate market situation. Sellers who take their houses off the market when a purchase agreement is signed face less risk in a quiet market with little competition. As a result, the earned money will not need to be a hefty sum. In a competitive market, on the other hand, the seller would miss out on numerous bids if they took off their house in the market. As a result, increasing the deposit in active markets is only reasonable. While most earned money deposits will be in the range of 1% to 3% of the sale price, in more competitive markets, the amount may rise. 

Is Earnest Money Refundable?

When agreed-upon circumstances are met, may repay earnest money to the home buyer. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the most typical grounds for a refund of earnest money: 

Home Inspection Contingency

If contract including a home inspection contingency and the subject property fails the inspection, the deal will be voided. the homebuyer may receive a cash refund. The house inspection contingency may result in a refund of the earnest money if the examination is to blame for the home buyer’s decision to back out of the transaction for whatever reason. 

Appraisal Contingency

 An appraisal contingency protects homebuyer’s against overpriced homes. As a result, if an appraisal comes in significantly lower than the sales price, the buyer may cancel the transaction and receive their earned money in full.

Financing Contingency

If a buyer cannot obtain finance, a financing contingency may allow them to receive their earned money deposit back if they cancel the transaction. 

Existing Home Contingency

The sale of an existing home triggers some contingencies. This contingency stipulates that if a buyer’s present home does not sell, they may back out of the agreement, depriving them of the finances needed to make a later acquisition. In that case, home buyer may be entitled to a refund of their earnest money.

Is it possible for a seller to keep the earnest money?

If any of the purchase agreement provisions are broken, the seller may keep the earnest money. The purchase agreement, on the other hand, will specify the terms of the earned money deposit. The prospective buyer is obligated by the terms agreed upon by both parties due to the signed agreement. As a result, if the buyer violates any agreed-upon duration, the seller is entitled to the deposit. If a buyer backs out of a deal for no apparent reason, the seller can keep the earnest money owed to them (as long as the terms say as much). 

What Can You Do to Keep Your Earnest Money Safe?

Following the conditions of a purchase agreement is more important than anything else when protecting earnest money. The agreement’s terms will serve as the foundation for protection. With that in mind, the best approach to secure your money is to draft an impenetrable contract that gives customers the best chance of getting their money back in the event of unforeseen events. Contracts aren’t going to write themselves, so buyers must be aware of what should be included. Some things buyers can do to safeguard their earned money deposits:

Set aside the funds in an escrow account. It should include contingencies in the acquisition agreement. Observe the provisions of the purchasing contract. Make sure everything is written down. 

1. Make use of an escrow account.

It should include a complete statement of where earned money will hold in every purchase agreement. While most earnest money deposits are placed in an escrow account, they can also control them with a title business or legal firm. Regardless, any good faith funds must pass via an account overseen by an independent third party. Because the real estate industry isn’t immune to fraud, enlisting the assistance of a third-party account will go a away to ensure the safety of both parties’ funds. It should include a complete statement that will hold earned money.


The buyer will pay using a certified check, wire transfer, or personal check in most cases. Regardless of the method, the money should be made to the third-party account, allowing them to disburse the funds according to the purchase agreement’s terms. 

2. Recognize and Manage Your Risks

The purchase agreement is where the protection of earnest money begins and ends. Understanding the agreed-upon terms, however, isn’t enough. Buyers must bargain for the times they want in the purchase agreement. Of course, knowing what may include contingencies in a purchase agreement is the first step. As a result, buyers should investigate all of the contingencies that will offer them the best chance of getting their money back and do everything possible to include them in the contract.


Buyers must not only add contingencies but also comprehend what they entail. Only by thoroughly understanding what each contingency entails will a homebuyer be able to secure their deposit. A buyer won’t bend the odds in their favor until they know how to meet their obligations. 

3. Make Sure You Don’t Miss Any Deadlines

Following deadlines is an essential component of safeguarding an earned money deposit. The only buyers who have a chance of getting their money back are those that do what they say within the allowed time frame and adhere to the conditions of the purchase agreement. Work within the contract’s terms and don’t miss deadlines if you ever want to see your earned money again. 

4. Put everything down on paper

It all boils down to the acquisition agreement once more. The purchase agreement is a document between the buyer and the seller that specifies how it will handle the earned money. As a result, everything that the buyers and sellers agree on regarding the reasonable faith payment must be contained in the purchase agreement. Anything left out of the contract is meaningless, so don’t just “shake on it” or accept anyone’s word for it.


What is earned money, if not a guarantee on behalf of homebuyers that they will see a home purchase through to completion? Of fact, the earnest money is effectively a down payment that reveals a buyer’s intentions in its most basic form. On the other side, an earned money deposit is a contract between two parties that fosters honest transactions. Earnest money can aid homebuyers in a competitive market while also giving sellers the peace of mind they need to accept an offer if the terms are followed.

Are you ready to start taking advantage of the present real estate market opportunities?

You may have a lot of money, extensive real estate network, and excellent building abilities, but you still don’t know how to identify reasonable offers. Our new online real estate course, taught by veteran investor Than Merrill, can teach you how to determine the best homes and achieve real estate success.

For more information, contact Estate Land & Marketing for better understanding.

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