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  • Alexander Wissel

Everything a Buyer Should Know About Earnest Money Deposits (EMDs)

Home Buying Insights

  • Buyers will learn the purpose and importance of earnest money deposits in real estate transactions.

  • How much should you put down for an EMD, and what are the risks?

  • Readers will gain insights into the handling and return of earnest money deposits.


 Everything You Should Know About Earnest Money Deposits - Source: Pexels.com
Everything You Should Know About Earnest Money Deposits

When purchasing a home, you'll come across various terms and concepts related to the real estate process. For many first-time homebuyers, this can be overwhelming. Knowing what and EMD is and why it’s important will help you buy your home faster.


In this article, we'll explore what earnest money deposits (EMDs) are, and their significance in a real estate transaction. Whether you're a first-time home buyer or simply curious about the topic, we've got you covered.


An earnest money deposit (EMD) is a sum of money provided by a buyer – sometimes called a good faith deposit – to demonstrate their commitment and seriousness in purchasing a property. It is the ‘consideration’ in a legal contract and also serves as a form of security for the seller.


What is an Earnest Money Deposit?

An earnest money deposit, often referred to as an EMD – you will hear it be referred to as a ‘good faith deposit’ as well – is a sum of money that a buyer offers as a sign of good faith to demonstrate their commitment to purchasing a property. It serves as a show of seriousness and dedication during the negotiation and purchasing process.


What does an Earnest Money Deposit Do?


Demonstrates Buyer Commitment: By providing an earnest money deposit, buyers signal their genuine interest in the property to the seller. It shows that they are willing to invest time, effort, and money to proceed with the transaction.

Creates a Legal Contract: A Contracts are made up of three basic parts – an offer, an acceptance and consideration. The offer and acceptance are what the purpose of the agreement is between the parties. Consideration can officially be anything, but money is the most commonly used. Your EMD constitutes consideration contractually.


Gives Seller Protection: Earnest money deposits act as a form of security for sellers. If a buyer decides to back out of the deal without a valid reason, the seller may be entitled to retain the earnest money deposit as compensation for the time and opportunity lost during the sale process.

Negotiating Power: A higher earnest money deposit can make your offer more appealing to the seller, especially in a competitive real estate market. It demonstrates your seriousness and financial capability, potentially giving you an advantage during negotiations.

How Much Should my Earnest Money Deposit Be?

The amount of earnest money deposit can vary depending on several factors. A buyer’s financial situation might constrain how much they can put down. Additionally, the amount can change from market to market. Some areas have larger ones, while other EMDs are smaller because of the laws associated with earnest money deposit distributions.


In Maryland, a typical earnest money deposit is 1%. So on a typical $400,000 property you would need to write a check for $4,000. For smaller homes you might see that creep up to 1.5% – so a $200,000 home might have an EMD of $3,000.


Some buyers can afford to put down amounts larger than that, and do to showcase the strength of their offer. We’ll get to why you might not want to put a huge EMD down later in this article.


When is the Earnest Money Deposit Due?


In a typical transaction, we would have a buyer take a picture of their personal EMD check and present it with their offer. The check at this point wouldn’t be anything more than a picture. If the offer is accepted, we have 24 hours – or a reasonable amount of time – to deposit that check in the brokerage’s escrow account.


There are newer programs that can electronically deposit and verify your EMD funds which make it a lot easier for buyers. Contracts vary from state to state, but there will be a section within the first or second page of your purchase contract that spells out exactly home much your EMD is and when it mist be received by.


What Happens if You Don’t Deposit an EMD?


It can be bad. The important thing to understand is that you need to understand is that and earnest money deposit is part of the transaction. If you fail to deposit the check, or if your funds bounce upon payment request – then consideration was never received by the seller. If that happens they may be able to walk away from the sale and find another buyer.


Make sure your funds are available to be withdrawn and that nothing happens to that EMD check.


What Happens to My EMD after it is Deposited?


Once the check is deposited, it will sit in the brokerage’s escrow account until settlement. In the days before settlement, the escrow account will transfer it to the title company to be used as part of your funds at closing. It is typically applied towards the buyer's down payment or closing costs.


What happens to the EMD if the deal falls through?


However, if the deal falls through due to reasons outlined in the purchase agreement, the disposition of the earnest money deposit will be determined by the terms specified.


In cases where the buyer is unable to fulfill their obligations, such as securing financing or meeting contract contingencies, the earnest money deposit may be forfeited to the seller as compensation. Conversely, if the seller fails to meet their obligations, the earnest money deposit is usually returned to the buyer.

What Happens To My Earnest Money Deposit If My Offer Isn’t Accepted?


In the event your offer isn’t accepted there are a couple of different outcomes depending upon if your check was deposited. If your check was never deposited, then you can use it for your next offer. Pro Tip: Don’t put the house address in the check subject line so you can use it more than once if needed. If your check was deposited, you can ask the money to be returned or you could leave it there to be used for another offer.


When the market was hot and we were writing multiple offers in a week for a single client, having an EMD check image we could use quickly helped us put offers in fast.

What Can Go Wrong With My EMD?


In the state of Maryland, earnest money deposits can be tricky. They require BOTH parties to agree to distribution. Meaning if a seller doesn’t agree to it, they can hold it up from being dispersed. For some cases, the funds are tied up for years. Now, they are changing the laws to prevent unreasonable sellers from sitting on deposits, but that's going to take time. The net result is that it’s still complicated, and it varies state by state.

It’s the reason why we suggest sometimes putting the minimum amount needed for your EMD. I don’t know any stories personally, but I’m sure there are buyers who have been burned by not getting their EMD back to use for the next property.


Is an EMD the same as a Down Payment?

In short no. An EMD, or earnest money deposit are funds that show your commitment to buying the home. The funds are simply held in an escrow account until they are used for the settlement. At settlement the funds can be used for your closing costs – the fees, charges and ancillary costs to buy a home – or they can be used for your down payment – the amount your mortgage company needs from you for your loan.

An EMD can be used for a down payment, or it may not be. Sometimes people refer to their EMD as a down payment on their home. Which it kind of is in the general sense, but it also isn’t entirely correct either.

What Is an EMD in Real Estate?

Understanding how earnest money deposits (EMDs) function in your transaction is important when buying your first home. These deposits play a significant role in the home buying process, demonstrating commitment, consideration, and providing a level of security for both parties involved.

Remember, real estate transactions can be complex, and seeking guidance from experienced professionals such as real estate agents and attorneys is always recommended to ensure a smooth and successful buying experience. We cannot say this enough. Get good, local representation.


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