Earnest money check to the seller shows that you’re a serious contender, and it helps your offer get the attention it deserves. The earnest money amount will vary according to your area. Consider the specific property, the competitiveness of the market and ask if the seller has received other offers. Northern Virginia typically 1-3% of the offer price.
Remember the terms of the contract decide where earnest money lands if the contract is broken. If the buyer breaks the contract this money can be lost. How much you want to put down is always determined by how much you want your offer to be taken seriously by the seller without having to put too much of your money on the table. It’s unlikely that you’ll lose your earnest money deposit, but it’s important to protect yourself.