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Earnest Money


Earnest money is a deposit made by a buyer, as a show of good faith, when entering into a contract to purchase a property. It serves as a guarantee that the buyer is committed to completing the transaction. If the sale goes through, the earnest money is often applied towards the down payment or closing costs; however, if the buyer backs out without a valid reason, the seller may keep the earnest money as compensation.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Earnest Money” is /ˈɜrnɪst ˈmʌni/.

Key Takeaways


  1. Good faith deposit: Earnest money is a deposit made by a buyer to the seller, demonstrating their commitment and intention to complete the purchase of a property. It serves as proof that the buyer is serious about the transaction and is willing to fulfill their end of the agreement.
  2. Refundable and non-refundable: Earnest money can be either refundable or non-refundable, depending on the terms of the contract. Refundable earnest money can be returned to the buyer if the transaction doesn’t move forward due to certain contingencies, such as financing issues or property defects. Non-refundable earnest money can be kept by the seller if the buyer backs out of the agreement without valid reasons as specified in the contract.
  3. Credited towards purchase price: Upon completion of the transaction, the earnest money deposit is usually credited towards the purchase price of the property. This helps reduce the buyer’s out-of-pocket expenses and demonstrates that the earnest money has served its purpose – ensuring both parties are serious about the transaction.



Earnest Money is important in the business and finance domain because it serves as a clear demonstration of a potential buyer’s commitment and seriousness in purchasing a property or asset. This monetary deposit, offered at the beginning of a transaction, helps secure the deal and provides the seller with an assurance that the buyer intends to complete the purchase. It also serves as a form of protection for both parties, as the earnest money can be forfeited by the buyer or claimed by the seller in case of a breach of contract. By offering earnest money, the buyer exhibits good faith, and it facilitates trust between both parties, ensuring a smoother transaction and protecting their interests.


Earnest Money serves a crucial purpose in real estate transactions, acting as a sign of good faith and commitment from the buyer towards the seller. The primary objective of earnest money is to provide the seller with assurance that the buyer is genuinely interested in purchasing the property, thereby reducing the risk of a potential financial loss should the buyer back out of the deal. Similarly, earnest money grants the buyer the necessary protection by keeping the home off the market, allowing them to complete the necessary due diligence and secure financing. The amount paid as earnest money varies, but it is typically a fraction of the purchase price of the property.

The deposit of earnest money also promotes a sense of dedication between the two parties, encouraging them to work cooperatively until the completion of the transaction. In the event that the buyer decides to withdraw from the deal, the seller is entitled to retain the earnest money as compensation. This provides a measure of security for the seller, who may have refused other potential buyers and made arrangements in anticipation of the sale. On the other hand, if the buyer fulfills their contractual obligations and proceeds to close the deal, the earnest money is often applied towards the down payment, essentially acting as a demonstration of sincerity in the overall transaction.


Earnest Money refers to a payment made by the buyer as a sign of commitment and good faith when entering into a contract for the purchase of a property or service. It is common in real estate transactions, where the buyer usually deposits a sum of money with a neutral third party, such as an escrow agent or title company. Here are three real-world examples of Earnest Money:

1. Real Estate Purchase: John and Jane are looking to buy a new home. They find a property that they love and submit an offer to the seller. As part of their offer, they agree to deposit 3% of the purchase price as earnest money to show their commitment to the deal. The seller accepts the offer, and the earnest money is held in an escrow account until closing, where it will be applied towards the down payment or purchase price.

2. Construction Contract: A small business owner wants to build a new office space and hires a contractor to complete the construction. As part of the contract, the owner agrees to pay the contractor an earnest money deposit of 5% of the total project cost. This deposit will be held in an escrow account and will be applied towards the final payment due to the contractor upon successful completion of the project.

3. Business Merger: Company A wants to merge with Company B, so the two companies enter into negotiations. As a sign of good faith and to show their commitment to the merger, Company A deposits $1,000,000 into an escrow account as earnest money. If the merger is successful, the earnest money will be released to Company B. However, if Company A decides to back out of the deal, Company B may be entitled to the earnest money as compensation for the time and resources spent on the negotiations.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is earnest money?

Earnest money is a deposit made by a buyer, typically in a real estate transaction, to demonstrate their intent and commitment to complete the purchase. It is often referred to as a “good faith deposit” and shows the seller that the buyer is serious about the transaction.

How much earnest money should a buyer provide?

The amount of earnest money varies depending on the market and the specific transaction. Generally, it ranges between 1% to 5% of the purchase price, but in some cases, it may be a fixed amount set by the seller.

When is earnest money paid?

Earnest money is typically paid when the buyer submits their offer or when both parties sign the purchase agreement. The payment is usually held in a trust or escrow account by a neutral third party until the transaction is completed or terminated.

Is earnest money refundable?

Whether or not earnest money is refundable depends on the specific terms of the purchase agreement. In many cases, the earnest money is refundable if certain conditions are met, such as the buyer’s inability to secure financing or the discovery of significant issues during a property inspection. However, if the buyer backs out of the deal without a valid reason covered by the agreement, the earnest money may be forfeited to the seller.

Does earnest money get applied to the purchase price?

Yes, if the transaction proceeds to closing, the earnest money is typically credited toward the buyer’s down payment or closing costs.

Can a buyer lose their earnest money?

A buyer may lose their earnest money if they breach the terms of the purchase agreement without a valid reason, such as failing to secure financing or choosing not to complete the transaction without justification. In such cases, the seller may be entitled to keep the earnest money as compensation.

What happens to earnest money if the seller backs out of the deal?

If the seller backs out of the deal without a valid reason or breaches the terms of the purchase agreement, the buyer is generally entitled to a refund of their earnest money. In some cases, the buyer may also pursue legal action against the seller for damages.

Can earnest money be negotiated?

Yes, the amount and terms related to earnest money can be negotiated between the buyer and the seller. Both parties should agree to the earnest money amount and conditions before signing the purchase agreement.

Related Finance Terms

  • Escrow Account
  • Real Estate Purchase Agreement
  • Good Faith Deposit
  • Contingencies
  • Closing Costs

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