In a real estate transaction, a touchy issue is how much trust the seller has in a buyer. The existence of a good faith deposit helps put a seller at rest.
Good Faith Deposit
If you are selling your home, condominium or other real estate, you should always require a buyer to make a good faith deposit. The good faith deposit simply establishes that the buyer is serious and, to some extent, has the financial capacity to follow through on the purchase.
The amount of the good faith deposit is dependent upon the agreed sale price of the real estate. Although percentages vary from state to state, a cash deposit equal to three percent of the sales price is typical. For instance, the deposit would be $9,000 for home selling at a price of $300,000. As with most transactions, this percentage is negotiable. I don’t recommend that you accept anything less than two percent.
Once the buyer and seller agree to the amount of the good faith deposit, you have to figure out what to do with the deposit. Importantly, the seller should not hold the deposit as doing so could make the buyer very uncomfortable. Instead, the money should be deposited with a third party and held “in trust.” Potential third parties include escrow and title insurance companies as well as an attorney if your state requires their involvement.
A good faith deposit acts like an insurance option for a seller. Moving through escrow can take 30 to 60 days, during which the property is off the market. The good faith deposit essentially compensates the seller for this time in the event the buyer is unable to follow through on the purchase of the property.
Depending on the laws in your state, a buyer who can’t close will lose the deposit. Typically, the only exception to this is when the seller allows language indicating the deposit will be returned if the buyer can’t get a home loan. Of course, including such language can open the seller up to repeated frustration when bad credit buyers repeatedly fail to get funding.
Good faith deposits are a fundamental part of a real estate transaction. Buyers should expect to pay them and sellers should demand them.