I’m buying a home and saw one of the listings has a SPIS form. What is it?

The seller’s property information statement (SPIS) is a form some sellers choose to complete, with the advice of their real-estate professional, to provide additional information about their property. Sometimes this form is completed at the request of a prospective buyer. The SPIS provides information about defects, renovations and other pertinent property information, based on the seller’s knowledge and experience.

The SPIS is not mandatory. Similar to having a pre-listing home-inspection report available for prospective buyers, some sellers may choose to complete a SPIS to document the condition and features of their home. The decision about whether to complete a SPIS can sometimes factor in, among other things, how long the seller has owned or occupied the property.

Sellers who choose to complete a SPIS should know that buyers will rely on the information supplied on the form. Some of the form’s questions are technical in nature, so it’s a smart idea to complete the SPIS with the guidance of a real-estate professional and a real-estate lawyer, to ensure accuracy. Sellers should be aware there may be implications for providing inaccurate or incomplete information on a SPIS, and they could find themselves open to future litigation. If in doubt, seek advice before completing the form.

If a seller has completed a SPIS, the listing representative must disclose to all buyers who express an interest in the property that the SPIS form has been completed. The representative must also make the SPIS available to any buyer who requests a copy, unless the seller specifically instructs his or her representative not to share it.

As a buyer, the SPIS can be a good starting point to learn more about the home you are interested in purchasing. You should ask to see the SPIS, if one is available. But, it should be used in combination with other sources of information. If you have signed a buyer representation agreement with a brokerage, you can expect your representative to take reasonable steps to determine and disclose to you material facts relating to the transaction. What’s material may be described as anything that would affect a reasonable buyer’s decision to proceed with a purchase.

Beyond that, your representative has an obligation to inquire about issues you have communicated are important. So if there are certain factors you would consider to be deal-breakers, be sure to communicate them to your representative. Depending on the answer your representative receives, which may or may not be conclusive because the seller is not required to answer the question, you can then decide whether or not the property meets your needs.

Even with a completed SPIS, an inspection with a qualified home inspector, engineer or contractor is still something to consider. Not only can a visual inspection potentially uncover issues with the home, but it will also give you a better idea of how the home operates and what regular maintenance will need to be done. It can also give you a sense of certain expenses you might expect in the coming years.

There are many factors that go into determining whether a property is the right one for you. Consider all sources of information and make use of all the professionals available to you so you can make a well-informed decision.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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