Several years ago, as the owner of a property in Poland, my estate agent roped me into signing an umowa rezerwacyjna mieszkania (apartment reservation agreement) with a client of his who was apparently interested in buying my flat.
As I quickly discovered, this umowa rezerwacyjna mieszkania is the ultimate “trash” written agreement. I advise sellers to give it a wide berth.
Let’s dive in to find out why a property owner should avoid being duped into signing an apartment reservation agreement.
What is the umowa rezerwacyjna mieszkania?
Essentially, the apartment reservation agreement is a bilateral contract, whereby the seller of a property promises not to advertise a specific real estate on listing portals. This agreement may last for a period specified in the contract for the benefit of the potential buyer. Nevertheless, this kind of agreement does not compel a potential buyer to purchase a property for reasons which will become clear below.
Is the apartment reservation agreement only used on the secondary real estate market?
It’s actually very rare for a seller and buyer to agree on signing the apartment reservation agreement on the secondary real estate market.
Such a contract tends to be used on the primary real estate market. It is usually the developer who presents a draft reservation agreement.
What kinds of apartment reservation agreements exist in Poland?
It’s possible to distinguish between two kinds of apartment reservation agreements:
- Regular reservation contract
- Reservation contract with elements of a preliminary contract
As I experienced first-hand, the first option is nothing more than a way to hand potential buyers precious thinking time. It’s also common for a buyer to check their creditworthiness during the period of time specified on the agreement. If anything goes wrong, and it almost certainly will, the seller is left with nothing. Moreover, be aware of agencies who try to get you to sign this “regular” contract.
The reservation agreement with elements of the preliminary agreement comprises two key components:
- the reservation of real estate
- the obligation to conclude the promised agreement in the future on the terms specified in the preliminary agreement.
The second option is worth pursuing because a notarial deed is required to authorise such an agreement. This contract indicates the most essential elements of the full future contract for the transfer of property ownership.
For more information about the ins and outs of the preliminary agreement (Umowa przedwstępna sprzedaży), check out this step-by-step guide to buying an apartment in Poland.
You live and learn
We live in a world where friendly agreements and handshakes mean very little. I can’t blame the buyer for mysteriously withdrawing from our “regular reservation agreement”. It was my real estate agent who created the mess.
Frankly, I’m not sure what planet some of these real estate agents are on. Don’t they know the meaning of “repeat custom” and building a reputation? He’s lucky I didn’t sue the agency.
Breaking down my “trash” contract and recalling the key events
Obviously, I can’t name the agency involved, nor show parts of the contract here. However, here’s the gist of the nonsense:
1. The buyer had 20 days to check his creditworthiness
Comment: Apparently, the buyer couldn’t get a mortgage despite being the owner of a “respected” psychology clinic.
2. The reservation fee amounted to 55,000 PLN
Comment: It could have been 1,000,000 PLN. If the buyer withdraws from this trash contract, the seller won’t see any of this fee anyway.
3. The payment of the Reservation Fee must be credited to the [AGENCY NAME] bank account … within 3 working days from the date of signing this agreement – otherwise, this Agreement will be invalid
Comment: It’s a fruitless task. If a public notary is not involved, these agencies and buyers can do what they want with this meaningless fee.
4. The buyer authorises [AGENCY NAME] to transfer the Reservation Fee to the Seller if the Buyer withdraws from the conclusion of the sales agreement (appropriately preliminary sales agreement)
Comment: Again, only a preliminary sales agreement is legally binding. The buyer withdrew from the apartment reservation agreement meaning that I lost time, hope and, most vitally, trust in agencies.
Give the Umowa rezerwacyjna mieszkania a wide berth
Speaking with Marek Królikowski, a real estate consultant and professional photographer serving foreigners investing in and selling real estate in Poland, it only served to confirm my suspicions that the apartment reservation agreement can have sellers on tenterhooks in no time. As Mr Królikowski said:
“The reservation fee has not really been defined in any way by law. It is a creation invented by practitioners, real estate agencies and developers.
The regular apartment reservation agreement does not offer any protection to sellers. As Mr Królikowski continued:
“It [the apartment reservation agreement] does not prove anything. It’s just a statement of both parties’ will, a form of gentleman’s agreement.
As I mentioned earlier, we don’t live in a world where good will and handshakes can give one a semblance of peace of mind.
Hence, absolutely no clause in the regular apartment reservation agreement is legally binding. This nonsensical reservation agreement merely looks like a notary-backed preliminary agreement on paper.
Note – looks like.
A lesson well-learned.