A Sellers Property Information Statement, or SPIS, is a standard format real estate document that contains information about renovations, features, or defects of a home and property. The purpose of this document is to protect buyers and sellers from any surprises that home inspections may have missed, but there are some things to watch out for should you decide to fill one out when selling your home. It is important to note that sellers are not obliged to complete a SPIS. However, if one is created, the listing real estate agent(s) are required to disclose its existence to any buyers (unless otherwise instructed by the seller).
When to Use It
An SPIS is a good idea if you are selling an older home or a home with obvious defects. An older home is more likely to have strange quirks from decades of renovations and changing building codes, so revealing them up front to a potential buyer can protect you from possible lawsuits after the deal has closed. Something seemingly benign like water pooling in the back yard during rainstorms can be enough to cause trouble, so if you have been living with small quirks that do not take away from the comfort of the home, take the time to list them and remove the risk. If a buyer is not happy with something they find in the SPIS, better they move on and buy another home than hit you with a lawsuit later. Your real estate agent can advise you on when it is appropriate to have one on hand, and will help you complete it correctly.
When Not to Use It
Whatever information goes into a SPIS is legally binding, and if the information is found to be false, either accidentally or through negligence, you will be the one that is held responsible. Because of this, if you don’t feel like you know all there is to know about your home or property, it is best avoid filling out this document. Because it is only really necessary if the buyer requests it (as a condition of sale), it can be a tossup between being up front with what you know about the property and the risk of something you didn’t know about becoming apparent after the sale. This will not always be the case however, so one must choose between declaring what they know and hoping for the best or declaring nothing and hoping for the best. The advice of your real estate agent will be your best bet when making this decision, as they usually have more information at their disposal about a property than most homeowners.
A Matter of Context
An SPIS is not meant to be an exhaustive list of every little thing about the home or property, but rather a broad statement of what the current owner has experienced while living there. It comes down to what might affect a buyer’s decision to purchase the property, and that can depend on a wide range of factors in itself. If the buyer plans to tear down the house and build a new one, leaky windows are not a concern. If they intend to rent it out, then knowing that having the microwave and hair dryer plugged in at the same time trips the breaker becomes pertinent. Prudent buyers should ask for a completed SPIS, and prudent sellers should avoid producing a SPIS unless asked for one.