4. Offer and Acceptance
If you receive an offer from a buyer, in whatever form (verbal or written), strictly speaking, a binding contract arises between you and the buyer if you accept it. Without a full written contract it might be difficult for anyone to enforce such an agreement, but a clear informal agreement creates a binding contract.
You can read more about a legal case in which the issue arose at Offer and Acceptance on French Property.
Once the formal contract is signed, the buyer has a ten-day cooling off period, but this is not available to the seller, who is bound by the terms of the contract.
The law strictly forbids the seller asking for a deposit prior to formal signing of the written contract. So if you accept an offer, you are not permitted to then ask for any kind of deposit. This must only take place when the formal contract is signed, and handed over to the notaire or agent who undertakes the contractual formalities.
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