Earnest money, otherwise known as an earnest money deposit, is money a buyer gives to a buyer's attorney, a brokerage, or an escrow agent (but never the seller directly) to show their seriousness in buying a seller's property. Earnest money is generally required to be deposited within a few days of the acceptance or signing of the contract, and it can only be refunded under certain circumstances, so in addition to the contract itself, earnest money deposits bind the buyer to their responsibilities in the transaction.
There is no 'set' amount of earnest money that is required and it is a condition of the offer and contract, but generally at least 1%-5% of a purchase price is put up as earnest money. Additionally, some states include an additional and much more immediate deposit of a token amount (it can be as low as $1,500) to encourage the seller to stop showing the property while the conditions of the contract are being worked out. Then, the rest of the earnest money deposit is made.
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