Buying a Home June 7, 2023

How to Avoid Common Earnest Money Errors

Earnest Money Mistakes

When buying a home, earnest money is an essential factor to consider. What is earnest money? Earnest money is a deposit made by the buyer that shows good faith and indicates their commitment to completing the purchase. This deposit is held in trust until the final closing and is credited toward your down payment or closing costs.  

The amount of earnest money depends on the buyer’s situation and market conditions. Generally speaking, the higher the home’s purchase price, the larger the deposit should be. It’s important to remember that your earnest money is typically non-refundable if you decide to back out of the deal for any reason other than contingencies written into the purchase agreement. That’s why it’s essential to find a home you’ll be happy with and understand all contractual provisions before signing.

A deposit demonstrates your commitment to the purchase and your plan to follow through on the contract. But there’s a real risk involved: If you withdraw your offer or change your mind, you might lose your deposit and be out of a chunk of cash.

Here are ways to avoid losing your earnest money when buying a home

  1. Understand the Contract. The first and most crucial step in protecting your earnest money is understanding the contract. The contract outlines the terms and conditions of the transaction, including the timelines and contingencies. Make sure you read and understand every detail before signing. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your real estate agent or lawyer. It is imperative to look at closing dates and other dates related to the process leading up to closing. Violating the timeline could also cost you your earnest money
  2. Work with a Qualified Real Estate Agent. A knowledgeable and experienced real estate agent can guide you through home-buying and help protect your earnest money. They can help you understand the contract and contingencies, perform due diligence, and negotiate on your behalf. 
  3. Don’t sacrifice contract contingencies. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement, but keep your desire for a home from causing you to hastily remove contingencies that are built into contracts to protect buyers. Typical contingencies include loan, title search issues, appraisal, and insurance obstacles. Make sure you consult your realtor before you waive these. You need to fulfill the contingencies outlined in the contract before the deadlines. If you cannot satisfy the contingencies, you may need to cancel the contract and risk losing your earnest money.
  4. Avoid committing to a home “as is.” If you’re putting earnest money on an offer for a foreclosed home, don’t be too eager to accept any home problem. Take the time to understand the home’s issues before writing the offer.
  5. Be Prepared for the Worst. Ensure you have recourse to get some or all of your earnest money back. If the sale doesn’t finalize, you and the buyer must sign a document voiding the agreement. It is always a good idea to prepare for the worst-case scenario. If the deal falls through due to circumstances beyond your control, you may need to forfeit your earnest money. However, you can protect yourself by including a contingency that states the earnest money will be refunded if the deal falls through due to specific reasons, such as the seller’s failure to disclose information.

Buying a home is a significant investment, and protecting your earnest money is crucial. By understanding the contract, performing due diligence, fulfilling contingencies, being prepared for the worst, and working with a qualified real estate agent, you can avoid losing your earnest money and ensure a successful home-buying experience. If you have questions or concerns, contact me to help you understand everything in plain language!

Ready to buy? Let me help you find the right home and protect your interests along the way! 

Trent Beaver