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A deposit of money made by the purchaser of real estate. It can serve the following purposes:
• It shows evidence of economic resources and the probable ability to proceed to closing.
• It provides hostage value because of the usual contract provision that seller may retain the earnest money in the event of default.
• It may allow enforcement of a contract that might be defective on purely technical grounds. For example, some states allow enforcement of an oral real estate contract when there has been partial performance by the payment of earnest money. This occurs often, as when a buyer submits a written offer for property and an earnest money check. The seller makes a verbal counteroffer, and the buyer verbally accepts. The seller deposits the check. No one ever thinks to prepare a new written contract for signatures. Standing alone, this is an oral contract that is unenforceable under the Statute of Frauds.