Cary Home Buyer Tip #9 – Understanding Earnest Money with the NC Offer to Purchase

What is Earnest Money?

Who Holds the Earnest Money?

How Much Does the Earnest Money Deposit Need to be?

What happens to the Earnest Money if I Don’t Close on the Home?

check writing example for earnest money check for NC offer to purchase

These are all great questions that home buyers ask  before purchasing a home in North Carolina.  Here’s a typical scenario for a buyer purchasing a resale home in the Cary-Wake County-North Carolina area  You’ve found a home you’re interested in and ready to make an offer.  That first offer needs to be in writing – for a re-sale home here in the Cary area we’ll use the standard NC Offer to Purchase Contract.  Along with the written offer, you will write an earnest money check.

What is Earnest Money?

Think of earnest money as a deposit on the home, a show of good faith.  If/when your offer becomes a contract your money will be held in trust and subject to NC Trust account regulations.   At the time of closing the earnest money deposit will be credited towards your purchase of the home.

Who is the Earnest Money  Check Made Payable to?

Typically the Listing Company.  Most listing firms in the Cary area maintain a trust account for purpose of holding earnest money deposits, however some small firms choose not to maintain a trust account, in this case we can use the trust account or use the trust account of a local real estate attorney.

How much should the Earnest Money Deposit be?

Technical Answer, the amount of earnest money is negotiable between buyer and seller.  Real life answer, usually around 1% of the offer amount.  Think of your offer as a gift to the seller – the terms and condition of your offer are like the wrapping paper and bow.  The larger the earnest money amount the ‘prettier’ the bow.

What Happens to the Earnest Money if I Don’t Close on the Home?

Notice I saved this one for last?  The best answer here is, IT DEPENDS!  You, the buyer, may or may not be entitled to a refund of your earnest money – depending on why the closing did not occur – the offer to purchase is the guideline.  Here’s the catch – even though it may appear obvious that you are entitled to a refund, both parties (buyer & seller) must sign off on how the earnest money is  disbursed before the firm holding the earnest money can release the money.  If the parties can not agree then it can become a legal matter.

Could I write more about the intricacies & nuances of earnest money?  Absolutely.  Would you still be reading, probably not!  Please let me know if you have any specific earnest money questions that I did not address.

Please Note:  The North Carolina Real Estate Commission has a Question and Answer Brochure available here.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. David,

    Your blogs are always very helpful. I really enjoy reading them as they reinforce best practices.

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