Earnest money deposits are not legally essential to an offer to purchase, however, the buyer's earnest money deposit tends to dramatically increase the likelihood of closing. The seller is more receptive to the Offer to Purchase and the buyer is showing their commitment to the sale. Earnest money deposits of ŭꯠ to บꯠ on smaller transactions are typical. As a rule of thumb, the earnest money should be 10%┫% of the down payment.
I use LOI's a lot when I am trying to buy a property for much less than what the seller says they want, more flexible terms than the seller says they want OR if I am unfamiliar with the property and area I will use the LOI to start the negotiating process while I do my due diligence work in the background. Remember, most of the time an LOI is not a formal offer but mainly a point of understanding between you and the seller.