Posted by Robert Staats on September 20, 2003 at 09:20:03:
Your best bet is always to present the earnest money check at the same time your offer is “accepted” (seller signs it, making it a contract). Don’t hand a check over at the time an offer is merely presented. Even though you may add some language in the offer that refers to cashing the check equating to acceptance, a dishonest seller could cash your check and then plead ignorance about your offer since the seller never accepted/signed it. Of course if the seller were very dishonest, he/she could cash your check anyway and run - hence it’s a good idea to have an escrow agent or reputable real estate agent hold the check.
You also mentioned that the seller may not understand the contract since he/she does not speak English. You may want to see a lawyer, since I’m not sure you even have a legally enforceable contract if the seller can legitimatley claim that he/she had no way of knowing what it said and instead they claim they relied on your verbal instructions which can of course be subject to disagreement later. All of this is dependent on how much you can trust the seller, but in my experience you want to rely on more than trust.
Hope this helps!