The expression "putting your money where your mouth is" demonstrates a monetary sincerity to what could be empty words. In today's competitive market where multiple offers are common, sellers want as much assurance as possible that the buyer is sincere and will close on the sale.
The seller who accepts a contract expects the buyer to follow through but, in most cases, doesn't know the buyer either personally or by reputation. The earnest money submitted by the buyer with the contract shows their commitment to the terms of the offer.
If the amount is relatively small, the seller could be concerned that the buyer may walk away from the contract if they change their mind before closing. The lost time could be injurious to a seller who is trying to meet a deadline.
The more earnest money a buyer deposits indicates to the seller a higher level of commitment to the contract. Except for stated contingencies in the sales contract, if the buyer fails to close on the sale, the earnest money could be forfeited. Significant earnest money makes the seller feel more secure that the contract will indeed close.
There certainly are a lot of things that can dictate how much earnest money is appropriate. Local customs, price of the home and type of mortgage can all help to determine the proper amount. In some areas, it may be common for it to be one to five percent of the purchase price. In other areas, it might be a specific amount like $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the sales price. It really comes down to whatever the buyer and seller agree is the proper amount.
Another strategy is for the buyer to put up an adequate amount initially prior to inspections or other contingencies, and then, to put up an additional amount when the contingencies have been removed.
The earnest money demonstrates the buyers' sincerity in making the offer and proceeding according to the agreement so the seller can take their home off the market and start making plans to move and give possession of their home. A higher-than-normal amount could also help the seller to choose yours in a multiple offer situation. Ultimately, both parties want to close as anticipated according to the contract and the earnest money helps facilitate that.
Your agent can explain what is customary for your area and price range. Many times, a disinterested party, like a title company, will hold the earnest money and the sales contract will provide how to dispose of it should the contract not close.