When it comes to buying a home or entering into a real estate transaction, you may have come across the term "earnest money." Earnest money is a crucial component of the home buying process that demonstrates the buyer's commitment and helps protect the interests of both parties involved. In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of earnest money, exploring its purpose, how it works, and its significance in real estate transactions.

What is Earnest Money?

Earnest money, also known as a good faith deposit, is a sum of money provided by the buyer to the seller during the initial stages of a real estate transaction. It serves as a gesture of the buyer's seriousness and commitment to purchasing the property. Essentially, earnest money demonstrates that the buyer is willing to back their offer with a financial commitment.

Purpose of Earnest Money

1. Showcasing Buyer's Intent. The primary purpose of earnest money is to display the buyer's seriousness and intent to proceed with the purchase. It reassures the seller that the buyer is committed to the transaction and will likely follow through.

2. Protecting the Seller. Earnest money acts as a form of financial security for the seller. If the buyer were to back out of the deal without a valid reason, the seller would typically be entitled to keep the earnest money as compensation for the time and effort lost during the transaction.

3. Discouraging Frivolous Offers. Requesting earnest money helps filter out non-serious buyers. It encourages potential buyers to think twice before making an offer, reducing the chances of sellers receiving multiple offers from uncommitted individuals.

How Does Earnest Money Work?

1. Agreement on Earnest Money Amount. The buyer and seller, usually guided by their respective real estate agents, negotiate and agree upon the earnest money amount. The standard practice is for earnest money to range between 1% to 3% of the home's purchase price, but this can vary depending on the local market conditions and the parties involved.

2. Deposit of Earnest Money. Once the offer to purchase has been accepted, the buyer is typically required to deposit the agreed-upon amount of earnest money into an escrow account within a specific timeframe. An escrow account is a neutral third-party account that holds the funds until the transaction is finalized.

3. Escrow and Disbursement. The earnest money is held in escrow until the closing of the sale. At closing, the funds are typically applied towards the buyer's closing costs or down payment. In the event that the transaction does not proceed, the terms regarding the disbursement of the earnest money should be outlined in the purchase agreement.

Contingencies and Earnest Money

Contingencies are conditions or requirements that must be met for the sale to proceed. Common contingencies include satisfactory home inspection, obtaining financing, and the sale of the buyer's current home. Earnest money is often tied to these contingencies, offering protection to the buyer in case they are unable to fulfill the agreed-upon conditions.

If a contingency cannot be met and the buyer decides to withdraw from the transaction, they can typically reclaim their earnest money. However, it is essential to carefully review the terms and timelines outlined in the purchase agreement to ensure compliance with the contingencies and avoid forfeiting the earnest money.

Final Thoughts

Earnest money is a vital component of the home buying process, symbolizing the buyer's commitment and protecting the seller's interests. By providing a financial deposit, buyers demonstrate their seriousness and intent to proceed with the transaction. Conversely, sellers gain assurance that the buyer is dedicated to the deal. Understanding how earnest money works and its role in real estate transactions will help both buyers and sellers navigate the process with confidence and clarity.



Patrick and Polina have lived in Southern Oregon for more than a decade. They know – and love – this area and often refer to it as “America’s Best Kept Secret.” Whether you are looking to purchase your dream home, sell your existing property or build your real estate portfolio, this dynamic duo has the insight, creativity, and a clear understanding of the market to ensure your success. While Patrick and Polina work collaboratively throughout the process, you will see that each of them brings something unique and valuable to the team, giving you the competitive advantage in every scenario.