When my parents came for a week in May, they found the apartment, paid a refundable deposit for which a receipt was issued, and the money held by the estate agent ( they offered a deposit to show good will, because they didn't want to lose the apartment).
The estate agent knew they were going to arrive a couple of days before their furniture was due, so he sent them a few details and photos of a few vacant furnished apartments (I think they were holiday lets) from which to choose, and gave them a very good rate for the two days.
They also got the agent to email a copy of the contract to them (which was one used by this particular landlord), which they went through. Emailing back questions about things of which they were not certain, and suggesting a few amendments, they also added their own clauses, which they wanted inserted etc.
I can remember my mum going through the contract and rewriting it to her (and dad's) satisfaction. When they all met at the solicitors office, she read out the amendments and additions and everything was agreed to everyone's satisfaction. Mind you I can remember her doing the same with our present contract which was a generic one from another agent.