There are a couple of things that need to be cleared up.
1. A check that is normally written to the brokerage is for the Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) and is given when you have a ratified contract. If you have a ratified contract, she is correct. That money is not used to pay a title company for a title search, which is done as an out of pocket expense. An appraisal and home inspection are the same way, they are paid for services rendered whether you purchase the house or not.
2. If the check was written to a title company, what was the purpose - EMD or title search. You will have to put money down for a deposit and pay for a title search with separate funds.
You signed your contract with a specific agent but in Maryland that contract is with the broker. I would first go to the broker and let them know what you issue is with the agent. The agent is to represent you as long as they are not being asked to violate the law or act unethically. Was the "old" check returned to you directly or by a brokers check or have you written them more than one check? As an investor, I have written a check for the EMD to my title company and had it used for several contracts - but only one at a time. Once the contract is ratified that money can no longer be used until released. Since the checks are deposited, photocopies are used.
I would go in a talk with the broker about your concerns and what you are trying to accomplish. They can straighten out any misunderstandings and work with you on getting the issues resolved. The local Board of Realtors, the real estate commission and real estate attorneys are also.
I agree with Laura and Elliot. One EMD for one ratified contract, until applied to purchase or released. I would go talk to the broker as soon as possible to make sure you may not be on contract for two properties.
(Broker, Broker-In-Charge, Managing Broker and Office Manager all refer to the person responsible for all of the agents in that office. The term varies based on the way the brokerage is organized.
Since we are real estate agents and not attorneys, do not take what has been said as legal advice and seek an attorneys advice, if you so desire.
I am so sorry for your situation. It is actions such as these from Realtor's who are hanging onto their business by the nails in their hands. It is so frustrating for realtors that are on trulia that care about customers to hear this and know that your particular realtor will probably still be doing business like this for years to come. Why there isn't a resource/governing body in the industry that actually cleans house is sad. I know everyone will say there are resources for you to contact help, but lets be honest, should you have to hire an attorney, pay thousands of dollars to enforce a professional to be just that, professional.
Again, sorry for your position and I know you will get your funds back, but the head ache should be..
Your earnest money should not have been deposited unless you had a ratified contract. What is the disposition of that contract? Did it fall through? If so, did you receive a release signed by the Seller? Your deposit cannot be returned to you unless you have that paperwork. I would speak with the office manger or Broker for the office to get to the bottom of the issue. DO NOT enter into a new contract until this one is resolved unless you have the financial ability to buy BOTH houses. Clearly dispose of one contract before entering into another. When in doubt contact a real estate attorney.
I would recommend that you contact your Realtor's office manager for more information. If you do not get the answers you are looking for then you may consider contacting your current title company or may even want to use the resources of the new title company you are trying to switch to, and more specifically, their affiliated title attorney, to give you the legal facts concerning your contract, deposits and escrows, and most importantly, your representation and rights as a party to your current contract. Good luck!
Check the contract you signed for information on how earnest money is to be addressed. If you can't find the information there call your agents managing broker to request help to get your issue resolved.
All the best,