I find that lots of Buyers are a bit confused about Earnest Money and what its purpose is, how they might be at risk for losing it, etc. It is basically to compensate the Seller for taking their home off the market in the event you violate the terms of your Sale Agreement, but there are nuances to it in addition to that. Here are a few pieces of info & pointers in that regard:
A Few Notes About Earnest Money:
- Earnest Money is a deposit you make at the time you make your Offer. This is to show that you are “earnest” or serious about your Offer, and to compensate the Seller for removing their property from the market (while you perform your inspections & due diligence) should you violate the terms of the Contract/Offer/Sale Agreement.
- Talk to your Realtor about how much an Earnest Money Check should be…. It varies from situation to situation. The ultimate choice, however, is yours. A substantial amount of Earnest Money can demonstrate to the Seller that you are serious about the purchase, and shows a certain amount of stability, though this is not necessary or even advisable in all circumstances.
- Earnest Money goes toward your closing costs & other transactional terms. It is held usually by Escrow as your neutral 3rd party and applied to the bottom line of your transaction, generally speaking. By virtue of its definition as Earnest Money, its NOT an additional fee.
- There are several ways for a Buyer to cancel a sale and receive their Earnest Money back (during specified & agreed-upon timelines & specific acceptable reasons that are all outlined in the Offer itself). This action is not to be taken lightly, and/but, there are definitely provisions for it.
- The Earnest Money check (a photocopy of it) accompanies the Approval Letter, a Cover Letter your Buyer’s Agent will create, and the Offer when your Realtor submits it to the Seller’s Agent (at least… that’s how I always do it). In the event you are unable to physically hand your Realtor a check prior to when you want to get your Offer in to the Seller, you may have the option of using a Promissory Note redeemable/sent to Escrow in check form within a specified number of days following mutual acceptance of your Offer. ***I advise my clients that a check is always preferable. A photocopy of it going along with your Offer makes a statement to the Seller that you are serious. This is especially true in a competitive situation. Again, though, each situation is different. Discuss YOUR best options with your Realtor.
- Carefully study the Sale Agreement (Offer) wording to make sure you understand how and under what circumstances you are allowed to have your Earnest Money returned, and under what circumstances you are not. Basically, staying within outlined timelines and giving notice in writing within those timelines assures your Earnest Money is protected. It is important that, with your Realtor’s assistance and advice, you stay on top of timelines as outlined in the Sale Agreement. ***Bring ANY questions you may have to your Realtor’s attention.
I hope this information was helpful!