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Pursuant to section 311b of the German Civil Code (§ 311 BGB), an offer to purchase real estate needs to be notarized in order to become valid and binding. A respective offer that has not been notarized is null and void. The prospective buyer can withdraw at anytime without any legal consequences.
It is possible to enter into a pre-contract (so-called Vorvertrag) in order to make a legally binding undertaking towards purchasing real estate. However, such a pre-contract requires notarization as well in order to be valid. Otherwise, the pre-contract will also be null and void.
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That is absolutely correct.
Any offer or contract that has not been notarized is null and void due to § 311b BGB.
The "Vorvertrag" is not the transfer of ownership but an agreement in which the parties undertake to enter into a sales agreement at a later stage. The parties will have to compensate each other for any damages due to the breach of contract. The party claiming compensation must proof that there is a damage. Any financial damage must be compensated. A contractual penalty can also apply.
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