Offensive Home Odors Can Mean No Sale

Offensive Home Odors Can Mean No Sale
Posted By Jeffrey Hogue @ Feb 14th 2020 7:25am In: Real Estate

Want to get that home moving? You may need to use your nose! Offensive home odors are one of the biggest turnoffs a home buyer can experience.

Autumn 1993, I was a new Realtor fresh out of real estate school. Eager to gain all the experience possible, I accepted virtually every opportunity that came my way. One day I received a call from a prospective home seller and was invited to preview their home. Before arriving, I studied everything I could get my hands on relating to the house. I was excited and ready to embark on a great journey into the high end and lucrative world of real estate sales.


On my way to the appointment, I thought about all I had learned about the real estate business thus far and was confident things would go well. All I had to do was be myself, share the information I had amassed as it related to this particular home and not say anything that may upset the homeowner. It was Go Time!


Upon arriving, I knocked on the door, and the owners gave me a warm greeting. Upon entering, I noticed an invisible inhabitant. Oh, no, it was the stench of something foul. I stayed true to my plan and hoped I would just get used to the smell, and it would go away.

Things were going great, I was starting to get used to the rancid smell, and then it happened. The owners asked if there was anything they could do to improve the home. Faced with a terrible dilemma, I pondered my next move. Should I say anything about the smell? NO, if I imply the home reeks, they may get offended and throw me out. I thought about my plan ~ Do NOT Offend the Owners! But how am I going to sell the home with this odor? No, no, I must be truthful, no matter what the result.


With a slightly worried look on my face, I told them there was an odor in the house I cannot make out. I said anything that may offend the senses of a prospective home buyer, like an odor, could negatively impact the property. They looked at each other and said, well, we did have a stray pet here for about three months. I asked if the pet could have urinated on the carpeted floors. They were not sure but told me they did notice a slight odor when they first entered their home but thought it would go away. They were grateful I was honest with them. I was elated but still had to figure out how to sell a home with such an unpleasant smell. At least I was going to get the chance.

It is now 27 years later. I am more educated and have learned to be more forthcoming with homeowners regarding issues that may hinder their Homes' ability to sell. What someone does not know about their home can significantly damage the prospect of a good sale. The odor discussion is never pleasant, yet needs to be addressed when preparing the home for public display. Telling a home seller to change the color of a wall is much easier than telling them about offensive home odors. 'Houseatosis' creates a negative impact on the prospective buyer that typically far exceeds the color of any wall. These days, even the slightest hint of cigarette smoke smell can end a home showing in the foyer. Yes, times have changed, and so has buyers' tolerance of a property that just does not appeal to their sense of smell.

List of common offensive home odors & some ideas on how to remediate or limit them:

Pets- Most common of foul home odors. Two issues here. First is the smell, and the second is pet allergies. More and more people are allergic to animal dander. Cat allergies may top the list. Today's homes are very tight and energy-efficient, which keeps the energy bills down but traps unwanted particulates in the house. Consider an air filtering solution for the heating system if you have forced air heat.


Smoking Tobacco- The whole cigarette thing has fallen out of favor. People who do not smoke have little tolerance for a home that smells like a cigarette, cigar, or pipe. If you smoke, try to do so outside. Prolonged exposure to smoke can dictate what type of remediation is necessary. Painting walls, changing material such as furniture, curtains & carpeting helps immensely. In some of the worst cases, you may want to call a remediation company like Berks Fire & Water. They have chemicals that can quickly remediate the smoke smell.

Cooking & Food- I once showed a home a day after the owners had an all-out sauerkraut fest. The buyer never made it past the kitchen area. Be aware of what you are preparing for dinner the night before a showing (especially if it is first thing in the morning). Fried fish is not the best choice. Make sure the trash is out of the house & garage area as it may contain garbage in some form. Run the garbage disposal, if you have one, and run water down the drain for about two minutes. Clean out the refrigerator. The prospective buyer may be interested in it (especially if it is built-in).

Moisture & Mold- This is more prevalent in the basement area. Even the smell of moisture in a basement (finished or not) is a red flag for home buyers. Consider sealing walls & floors in the basement with drylock. Run a dehumidifier if necessary. If you have forced air heating & cooling, you may be able to climatize the area with vents installed into the ducts. In severe cases, you may want to consider having an air quality test for mold spores.


Garage Items- Remove gas cans & all equipment that contains gas. If you have many items in the garage that are gas or other combustible fuel-powered, leave the garage door open before the showing. If you do gardening and use the garage as a staging area, make sure to remove any fertilized soil.


Miscellaneous- Don't use the bathroom just before a scheduled home showing. Don't forget to clean out the diaper genie. Take out the trash around the house (mentioned in the cooking section) and Limit dirty laundry before a showing.

A few good smell ideas:

Baking- Cookies, pies, bread, did I say cookies:) Time Release Air Fresheners- Many available. Candles- Something pleasant. Cleaning Products- Most, not all. Clean houses smell clean. Remodeling- Fresh Paint & Carpet.


In the world of home sales, it is often easier to sell a home that needs a cosmetic redo than a home that smells badly. It is sometimes difficult for a homeowner to sense offensive home odors they have been living with for an extended period. Invite friends, relatives, and your Realtor to be honest with you when it comes to this delicate issue. They will be doing you a favor by telling you the truth either way.


Knowledge is Power!

Jeffrey C. Hogue

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