Part of every real estate offer is "consideration" - something of value that the buyer puts up to show good faith and serious intent. While consideration is usually in the form of cash, checks or notes, it can be nothing more than such vague qualities as love and affection.

It is in the buyer's interest to offer the lowest deposit possible. Sellers, however, will argue for the highest deposit. There are several factors to consider when proposing an offer.

To start, there is no such thing as a "standard" deposit. The size of a deposit varies with each offer. Just as the price of a home is negotiated, so is the size of a deposit.

As the time between the date of the offer and the date of settlement widens, the size of a deposit usually increases. The reason is that adelayed settlement represents more potential cost to the seller if the deal fails. A large deposit will compensate the seller for carrying costs as well as lost sales opportunities if the buyer does not make a good-faith effort to close the deal.

In making an offer, buyers should be certain to include three features relating to deposits.

First, never make an offer that does not have a contingency for financing. This means that if after making a good-faith effort a loan does not come through, your deposit will be returned.

Second, many offer forms provide that in the event of forfeiture the seller will also have the right to sue the buyer for further compensation. Certainly the loss of a deposit, or the threat of loss, is a sufficient inducement for any buyer to comply with the terms of the contract.

Third, your deposit should be prompty placed in an interest-bearing escrow (trust) account. Except in the case of default, the interest should go to the buyer.