VA Loan Earnest Money Deposits: How They Work

Beautiful two story brick suburban house with a concrete driveway and side walk.When purchasing a home, including an earnest money deposit with your offer is a part of the process, protecting both buyers and sellers in a real estate transaction. This deposit is a reasonable payment made by the buyer to the seller to demonstrate that they are serious about purchasing the property.

In this article, we'll explore what earnest money is, how it can help you obtain the home you want, what happens to the money at closing, and how much earnest money you should put down.

Earnest Money: What is It?

If you're applying for a VA home loan, you may need to offer an earnest money deposit. It's essential to know about earnest money before you make an offer on a home. The money will go into an escrow account managed by your real estate agent or title insurance company until the transaction is finalized. You should also know about earnest money refund policies and what might cause you to lose your earnest money.

During the home inspection, you may discover necessary repairs. VA requires that certain repairs be made before closing. You could potentially lose your earnest money if these repairs are not made. Ensure you understand the VA's repair requirements and how they might impact your earnest money.

How is Earnest Money Used

A buyer's commitment is often demonstrated through an earnest money deposit when purchasing a home. This deposit is typically held in an escrow account managed by the buyer's VA lender or the title company until the transaction is complete. The deposit amount is usually a percentage of the purchase price, which can vary depending on the home purchase and negotiations between both parties. 

While an earnest money deposit is supposed to demonstrate good faith, there may be times when a buyer has a change of heart. In such instances, there are situations in which the buyer can walk away while the seller must forfeit the deposit. This typically happens when the buyer's offer is accepted, but the appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price, making it difficult for the buyer to secure financing. 

Many sellers may be hesitant to accept an offer with a small earnest money deposit, as it may not show the buyer's level of seriousness in purchasing the property. On the other hand, a larger deposit can indicate to the seller that the buyer is serious about the purchase, which can make their offer more attractive and increase the chances of the seller accepting the offer.

Where Does Your Earnest Money Go on Closing Day?

The earnest money is typically applied to the buyer's down payment or closing costs on closing day. If the buyer terminates the contract by the terms of the contract and is entitled to a refund of the earnest money, then the earnest money will be refunded at closing.

The earnest money is generally held in an escrow account by either the buyer's real estate agent or a third-party escrow company. The escrow company will manage the funds until they are either applied to the down payment and closing costs or refunded to the buyer.

The escrow company will also handle any disputes arising over the earnest money, such as if the buyer and seller disagree over who is entitled to the money. The escrow company will typically require the buyer and seller to submit evidence to support their claims before deciding.

Canceling a Contract? Here's What Happens to Earnest Money

If a home buyer decides to walk away from a real estate contract, they may lose their earnest money deposit. Instead of getting an earnest money refund, the money will go toward the seller as compensation for the lost sale. However, if the buyer had a valid reason for canceling the contract, they may be able to get their earnest money back.

The earnest money is typically used to cover some initial costs of the home loan process, such as the home appraisal, down payment, or closing costs. If the buyer wants to buy the home and the transaction goes as planned, their earnest money will be applied toward the final purchase price with the seller.

Earnest Money: Can You Get Your Deposit Back?

When buying or selling a home, earnest money plays a critical role. However, circumstances can arise where you may change your heart and not want to buy or sell the property anymore.

For instance, if the appraisal comes in lower than the expected value, it can cause financial issues, making you decide not to proceed with the transaction. It is essential to note that if the buyer's earnest money isn't under a specific set of contingencies outlined in the contract, the deposit will be transferred to the seller.

Suppose you are a seller in a competitive real estate market, and a buyer offers earnest money to secure the purchase. In that case, it can be tempting to take it without hesitation as a measure of their intent to proceed with the transaction.

However, it is essential to consider that the buyer may have a change of heart and decide not to proceed. If this is the case, the buyer's earnest money will be forfeited to the seller.

Although it may be difficult, sellers need to understand that buyers may change their hearts and don't want to buy the property anymore for various reasons.

Holding onto the buyer's earnest money can be tempting in a seller's market. Still, it's always best to review the contract and applicable laws to ensure that you follow proper procedures. Ultimately, earning money isn't worth it if it's not rightfully earned, causing prospective buyers to change their hearts and not want to buy your property.

Contingency Agreements: What are they?

Contracts include contingency agreements to protect buyers from losing their earnest money deposit. These agreements include an appraisal, inspection, financing, and selling contingencies. An appraisal contingency protects buyers if the home's appraised value is less than the offer.

An inspection contingency allows buyers to back out of the deal if unsatisfactory conditions are found during the inspection. A financing contingency ensures buyers will receive their earnest money deposit back if proper financing is not acquired. A selling contingency allows the buyer to leave the contract if they cannot sell their current property.

Do VA Loans Require Earnest Money?

If you're considering a VA loan, you may wonder if you must put down a cash deposit as part of your offer. While VA loans typically do not require a cash deposit, some sellers may request one as a sign of good faith. This could be in addition to any closing costs or down payment required.

If the seller accepts your offer and you provide a cash deposit, it will be put in an escrow account to protect both parties. If the buyer backs out of the deal, the seller may keep the deposit. However, the deposit should be returned if the deal falls through for reasons beyond the buyer's control.

Remember, offering a cash deposit is just one part of an offer, and other loan options may be available to you. Ask your lender for more information if you have any questions about the process.


Including an earnest money deposit with your offer can make your offer more competitive and signifies that you are a serious buyer. The amount of earnest money you should put down varies depending on the area and price of the home.

The deposit can be applied to closing costs or refunded to the buyer at closing if the contract terms are met. While VA loans do not require an earnest money deposit, some sellers may request it. Work with an experienced real estate agent and crafting a good contract with proper contingencies is essential to protect your earnest money deposit.


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