From offer to contract: avoid these errors

Keytrade Bank logo

Keytrade Bank

1. An offer that has been accepted is a binding offer

The purchase of a home is only confirmed when the buyer, the vendor and a notary have all added their signatures to the deed. Contrary to what is often assumed, this is not the case. The deal is confirmed as soon as the vendor accepts your offer.

If you make an offer, you need to have thought it through. Once an offer has been accepted, it is difficult to back out. If your offer is accepted, and you do not honour your commitment, the vendor may demand that you buy the property at the price you offered or else pay them compensation. Contract law stipulates that once you have made an offer and the vendor has accepted it, you are bound to this. The amount of damages that the vendor may claim is not fixed. Ten per cent of the purchase price is a widespread practice, but it is not a legal rule.

Once your offer has been accepted, there are still some escape routes if you want to walk away. If you are lucky the vendor may let you off, meaning you will not have to pay any damages. Another approach you can take is that by the time you submit your offer, you should have received sufficient information to be able to make an informed decision. If, for example, it turns out afterwards that building regulation infringements were committed, but you, as the buyer, did not know this in advance, you can use this to justify the withdrawal of your offer. Of course, this can also turn into a game of "yes I did - no you didn't".


Until your offer is accepted, you can withdraw it at any time. If you make an offer , you should also be aware that the vendor may wait and only accept your offer weeks or even months later. Even so, you are still bound by this offer. This is why it is always a good idea to put a cut-off date on your offer. Otherwise, your offer remains valid indefinitely.

You can submit an offer in different ways: by letter, e-mail, text message, etc. An oral offer is also binding, though a written offer is obviously easier to prove. Your offer must include not only the price, but also the address, your name, the period of validity, any comments and conditions precedent (building permits, obtaining a mortgage loan, etc.), the date, and preferably your signature. Once your offer has been accepted, ask for written confirmation. Did you make an offer online on Biddit? Please note that even if you are not the first winner of the draw, your offer will remain valid for 10 working days after the close of the bidding period, in case the winner of the offer is unable to buy the property for any reason.

It is worth knowing that before you make an offer, you can ask for a "purchase option" for a fixed period of time. If the vendor agrees to this, they may not sell the property to anyone else during the agreed period. Unlike an offer, this purchase option does not commit you to buying the property.

2. Even if it isn't required: have your notary read the sales contract

Did the vendor accept your offer? The details of the deal will now be set out in a contract of purchase / sale. In the heat of a bidding war, either the buyer, the vendor or both may start worrying whether the deal may yet slip through their fingers...causing them to rush into signing the contract.

From a legal point of view, either the vendor or the buyer can draw up and sign the document without involving their notary. However, we strongly discourage you from doing so.

It is in your best interests to stay calm, even if you may have to wait a while before the notary can check the contract. There is always a risk that you may overlook things (for example, conditions precedent) or that legally required elements may be missing. You don't need to worry about the cost: if you have your notary check the contract and you also have them execute the deed later, your notary will not charge you anything for checking the contract.

Good to know is that if you sign the sales contract in a notary's office, then you, as the buyer, also benefit from free accidental death insurance. This policy (subject to conditions) provides protection in the event that you die as a result of an accident before the final deed is signed. In fact, in the event of the death of the buyer, their heirs are obliged to continue with the purchase agreement. Thanks to this insurance, the heirs can recover a part of the purchase price up to a maximum of EUR 250,000.

3. Make a note of any defects, and also state if there are no defects

The purchase-sales contract is usually a standard document. However, you are free to amend it and add to it as desired. For example, it may be a good idea to include any defects and describe them in the agreement, and it may be a smart idea to note that everything is in good order. In this way, you are protected in the event of something breaking down between the signing of the contract and the issue of the deed, e.g. if the vendor accidentally damages a door or wall when they move out.

In the event of a sale, it is normal for you to be able to review all the legal documents, such as the soil certificate, the title deed, the post-intervention file, the electrical inspection certificate and the EPC. Check that these documents exist and they are still valid. If any documents are missing, this must be stated in the conditions precedent.

5. Don't pay anything "under the table"

An envelope under the table or an envelope over the table while the notary goes to the photocopier for a moment? In the past, this was not unusual, but today it is. Sometimes buyers and sellers sound each other out when signing the contract to see if a part can be settled "off the books". At first sight, this may seem tempting, because as a buyer you avoid registration fees and costs on that amount. Remember, though, that the tax authorities today have better information than ever before about the value of a home. The moment the agreed price seems a little too different from the "norm", they will be alerted and you will risk incurring a hefty fine.

Already thinking about your loan?

Simulate your home loan in a couple of minutes

This article does not contain any investment advice or recommendation, nor a financial analysis. Nothing in this article may be construed as information with a contractual value of any sort whatsoever. This article is intended for information only and does not constitute in any way a commercialization of financial products. Keytrade Bank cannot be held liable for any decision made based on the information contained in this article, nor for its use by third parties. Every investment entails risks such as a possible loss of capital. Before investing in financial instruments, please inform yourself properly and read carefully the document "Overview of the principal characteristics and risks of financial instruments" that you can find in the Document centre.

Other articles that might interest you