What form can this agreement take? Preliminary contract?
In Germany, parties usually do not enter into a preliminary contract. The seller and the buyer negotiate the key elements of the contract, such as the property to be sold, the price, the date of taking possession, etc. and the notary, in his/her capacity as a neutral and impartial counsel, draws up the draft sale agreement in consultation with both parties. The sale agreement only takes effect after it has been concluded as an authentic document before a notary.
Of course, the parties are free to enter into a preliminary contract but, generally, they do not chose to do so as, to be valid, the preliminary contract would also have to be concluded as an authenticated instrument before a notary.
Are there any consumer protection measures (cooling-off period, right of withdrawal)?
The parties can freely chose the date of the authentication, depending on the notary's availability, and thus give themselves whatever reflection time they may feel they need. In some cases, the law provides for a specific cooling-off period. When a consumer and a professional enter into a real estate sale agreement, the consumer generally has to be provided with the draft sale agreement two weeks before the date of authentication. This gives the consumer sufficient time to take legal advice. Thus, s/he can ask the notary about the meaning and scope of the proposed clauses. In the case of a real estate sale, the law does not provide for any specific cooling-off time for consumers, but the parties may, as the case may be, request for one to be included in the sale agreement.
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