April 14, 2024


Mad about real estate

Earnest Money and Real Estate Transactions

First-time homebuyers and those that haven’t purchased a home for many years are often surprised at how important earnest money in negotiating the purchase or sale of a home. What changed is the prices of today’s homes and the old saying give us a thousand dollars and see you at closing is really outdated. Would you take a home you’ve been actively marketing for ninety days off market for four hundred thousand dollars, for a thousand? No, and you shouldn’t. Here are the ins and outs of earnest money and a couple of related experiences.

-Earnest money deposit: The money given to the seller at the time the offer is made as a sign of the buyer’s good faith.

-Earnest money amounts vary, but here are some guidelines. 5-10{ef6a2958fe8e96bc49a2b3c1c7204a1bbdb5dac70ce68e07dc54113a68252ca4} of contract price is typical. Flat amounts like $5,00 or $10,000 also work.

-Most states require that real estate brokerages now pay interest on earnest monies over a certain amount, here it’s $5,000. You will have to fill out a W-9 though to receive interest. Brokers can’t co-mingle earnest monies funds with their business, it needs to go into an escrow account.

-Escrow accounts. Require all deposits you make go into an escrow account. Research state brokerage laws to discover what regulations brokerages must follow with buyers funds.

-All earnest money checks should be made out to a real estate brokerage, not a person.

-Require that you receive a receipt for all earnest monies delivered to a real estate agent or brokerage. This should include a copy of the check on the brokerage letterhead and a signature of person accepting delivery, date and location check was received.

-If the earnest money system is a two-step, with an initial deposit and than a balance, make sure the second one is not delivered until after the attorney and inspection approval period have come to a successful conclusion.

-A quick closing date requires certified checks for earnest money. Many a delay in closing has occurred when buyers earnest money checks bounced. If you’re closing soon, utilize certified funds.

-The buyer ripped to shreds inches from my face his earnest money check. We looked at over a hundred and fifty homes, it was grueling. I couldn’t screw up, this relocating CEO was bringing another two hundred employees, and our firm would be finding them homes too. The problem was that the husband wanted traditional and the wife wanted contemporary, and eventually as their feud escalated, I counseled that it wasn’t the inventory, it was their relationship that was creating the barrier to agreeing on a home. So finally he gave in and we put together an offer, including his $100.000 earnest money deposit, except he sabotaged it with an unusually low price and wouldn’t move off of it. We lost the house and I met them in my office to return their check. As I was delivering the check back to him, I said that maybe they needed a fresh perspective in their home search and that I would find them a new agent. He got up and took the check and inches from my face tore it up dramatically, with the pieces falling down to the conference room table.

-The huge but lost earnest money check. I was representing young, wealthy newlyweds in the purchase of a very, very, very upper-bracket home. The husband was a principal in a investment banking firm, and audited his money market accounts hourly, 24/7. After negotiating a successful contract on their dream home, the husband delivered an earnest money check for a half-a-million-dollars. I in turn delivered it to the listing agent, as is the custom. A week went by and my banker-buyer called and said the check had not been presented against his account. I queried the whereabouts of the check with the selling agent. She said that it should go through any day, sit tight. Three weeks went by and my buyer called again, still no check had been presented. I called again, um, yes she found the check, I never new it was lost. Don’t tell anyone, but my cleaning lady found it behind the sofa in my family room.