Join Club

Ask Eli: Sellers Don’t Sleep/Buyers Don’t Cheap On The Earnest Money Deposit

Ask Eli banner

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: What is the point of an Earnest Money Deposit (EMD)? How much should it be?

EMD is Insurance For Seller, Strength For Buyer

An Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) represents strength of officer for the buyer and insurance for a seller that the buyer will not walk away from a deal, outside of any legal means of voiding a contract (contingencies such as the Home Inspection and Condo/HOA document review). It’s a negotiable sum of money deposited by the buyer into an escrow account after the contract is finalized, usually within 3-5 days. If the buyer walks away from the deal outside of legal means/contingencies, the seller can keep the entire sum of money as damages.

The administrator of the escrow account is also a negotiable term of the sales contract, but in most cases, it’s the same company that’s handling the title check and settlement duties, but it’s also common to see the money held by the Buyer Agent’s broker. There are very strict rules governing the administration of EMD money to prevent co-mingling of funds or conflicts of interest.

A sufficient EMD shows that the buyer is serious by giving the seller security that you’re not going to walk away from the deal and because you’re financially capable of transferring that money shortly after the contract is ratified. In most cases I recommend that buyers make, and sellers expect, an EMD equal to 2-3% of the sales price. Anything under 1% is cause for concern. The exception to this is with builders (new construction), who generally expect 5-10% EMD.

At settlement (the day you purchase the home), the EMD is credited against your closing costs and down payment. If the EMD exceeds the sum of these amounts, you’ll get the rest back.

Picture This

To help explain the value of a strong EMD deposit, imagine a scenario of a buyer purchasing a $500,000 home with a $1,000 EMD. The home inspection has concluded, appraisal sufficient, and loan approved so everything is ready for settlement. Five days before settlement, the buyer sees the perfect home go on sale for a great price and decides he’d rather buy that one. With no contingencies left to legally exit the deal, he decides that losing $1,000 is worth voiding the current deal and pursuing the new home. Had the EMD been a more appropriate 2-3%/$10-$15,000, the buyer is likely to stick with his current contract and even if he doesn’t, at least the seller receives a payout likely to offset the pain of losing the contract.

Note: This is EMD in theory. In practice, everything is circumstantial. Sellers often agree to release the full or partial EMD to a buyer who walks, but can also sue for damages in addition to the EMD in certain cases where they’re unable to contract for the same sales price or better.

Your questions have been great, but I need more! Ask away!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

Recent Stories

An unusual crash blocked lanes on I-66 Friday evening. Three people were hurt, none seriously, in the crash on eastbound I-66 near Patrick Henry Drive, according to the Arlington County…

It’s going to be a windy Saturday. The National Weather Service just issued a Wind Advisory for Arlington and other parts of the D.C. region, in effect until 6 p.m….

Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…

McLean-based Golden Boot Soccer has been a leader in youth soccer skill development and fun for nearly 30 years, and this summer they’re bringing their popular summer camps back to…

It is the decision of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) to implement the Proposed Action: the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update (Pentagon Master Plan) as the framework to guide future decisions regarding land use and infrastructure at the Pentagon site and Mark Center. The Pentagon Master Plan aims to provide an update to the existing conditions at the Pentagon and Mark Center and presents projects and revisions to land use categorizations that will address the specific needs to reduce the Pentagon’s environmental impacts and advance sustainability, security, and resilience. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review has been completed through preparation of a Final Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate environmental impacts arising from implementation of the projects. WHS has concluded that no significant impacts to the human or natural environment will result from implementation of any projects, and recognized negative effects will be reduced by adherence to standard best management practices, applicable permit and consultation conditions, and standard operating procedures. This decision is further documented in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) signed on March 20, 2024.

This notice announces the availability of the FONSI to implement the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update.

For further information and to request a copy of the Final EA or FONSI, please contact Brian King, Environmental and Sustainability Program Manager, WHS/Facilities Services Directorate/Standards and Compliance Division/Environmental and Sustainability Branch; (703-614-3658 or [email protected]). Please include “Pentagon Master Plan Final EA and FONSI” in the subject line.

Submit your own Announcement here.

The 3rd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference will feature Thomas Silverstein, renowned Fair Housing expert and Associate Director of the Fair Housing & Community Development Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Come hear the latest news about fair housing enforcement, policy, and programs within Arlington County, Virginia, and across the country! Our expert panelists and guest speakers include fair housing advocates, elected officials, and government officials tasked with advancing housing equity at the local, state, and federal level.

Arlington has made substantial strides in advancing housing equity and improving fair housing policy with the adoption of the Regional Fair Housing Plan in 2023. Come learn what’s next to fight housing discrimination, incorporate equity for marginalized populations in our housing policies and programs, and increase awareness of fair housing rights under state and federal law.

We’ll have updates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing federal rule, a panel discussion of fair housing progress at the General Assembly and across Virginia, and a panel of local experts discussing the progress Arlington has made and what remains to be done.
Please RSVP in advance to ensure you receive your free lunch at the conference. Free and open to the public.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.


Goth-Dark Wave Dance Party with Belly Dancing and Drag King Show.

                                         Part of Our

Alternative Thursdays for Alternave People with Alternative Lifestyles

                                      Performances By

Belladonna and the Nightshades

Ya Meena

Drag King - Ken Vegas

DJ Michelle Guided

National Chamber Ensemble – Concerto Celebration

We invite you to join us for an extraordinary evening of music at our Season Finale, “Concerto Celebration”! Enjoy several masterworks as NCE performs two famous concertos in an intimate chamber music setting, opening with a delightful work by Chevalier


Subscribe to our mailing list