Getting Your House Ready to Sell Series: What is that SMELL?

I cannot tell you how many times I have taken a client in to a house only to be told that it 'smells.' This can be a good smell or a bad smell, but anything that offends the senses will be noted.

The obvious offendors are cooking odors.  Some that come to mind are fish, anything that has burned, fried foods, curry, and even cookies and cakes (suspicious buyers think you are hiding something with a good smell). This is a great time to eat out or grill your food outside...anything that keeps the food odor out of the kitchen and the air circulation system.

Mildew is another odor that will cause a client to turn around and walk out of a house. Keep your house free from excess dampness and deal with issues that would cause the dampness in the first place.  Once a client can smell it, you are either losing a sale or losing money.

Pets, and their smells, can be a problem, too.  At the risk of stating the obvious, keep the litter boxes and cages clean so that there is no smell coming from them.  Damp dog can permeate the house, as well. Keeping your dog bathed and off the carpet when wet can help during the listing period. 

A surprise problem that many clients don't think about is the plug in air freshener. A good smell to you may set me off on a sneezing attack! The aroma of this type of air freshener  is too strong for many people, which can cause them to sneeze. Believe me, you are not inclined to buy a house if you are sneezing the whole time you are looking around. Further, these set of alarm bells for many people; if you have to use an air freshener, then your air must not be 'fresh.'  You would be better off dealing with the problem (if there is one) and skipping the plug in air freshener. Even if you are just using one because you enjoy the smell, remember that you are trying to market your might also like to throw your clothes on the floor, but at least while your house is on the market, you probably won't!

This is an area that your real estate agent can help you with.  Ask for honest feedback about how your house smells--and take it in the spirit with which it was intended.  Sometimes we become unable to smell things that we are around every day.  A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that nothing in your house should detract from the house itself.  This is true of the things that you can see, but the things that you can't see are often overlooked. You wouldn't want such a simple thing to be the reason that you miss out on a sale, would you?


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 Momentum Realty

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Comment balloon 9 commentsHolly Weatherwax • May 22 2008 11:34AM


Smells can be good or bad.  Usually when a client asks me what a smell is I generally assume they think it is a bad smell.

Posted by Gene Allen, Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate (Fathom Realty) over 10 years ago

Good points.

Posted by Amy Prouty (Home Staging) over 10 years ago

I like the "clean smell" the best.  Your right pet odors are a huge turnoff as so can be air fresheners.  At some point I am going to invest in an air purifier to rent out to clients  However, I have been lucky so far and have not had to address this subject, YET.

Posted by Sandra Hughes, Redesigned Spaces - Fairfax County, Virginia (Redesigned Spaces - Northern Virginia) over 10 years ago

You make some very good points here, musty smells and pet smells are the worst.

Posted by Patty Carroll over 10 years ago

I stopped at an open house once and the realtor was sitting in her car in the driveway.  As we walked into the house I mentioned that there was a bad smell and she said "I know, that is why I was in my car."  I couldn't believe it.  Hello, address the problem, don't hide from it.


Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) over 10 years ago

Hi Holly - So true about those artificial air fresheners.  It's usually just another layer over an underlying odor.

Posted by Margaret Mitchell, Seacoast Maine & NH Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty) over 10 years ago

This is something I talk about in my seller presentation.  So many sellers can not smell the odor anymore.  I try my hardest not to insult them.  I refer them to an article about a poll that was done by Royal LePage on odors.  The  poll says that while appearance and cleanliness are important, 53% of buyers say that strong odors such as pet and cigarette smells have a stronger impact on their impression of a home than overall tidiness and cleanliness, colors or outdated facade. 

Posted by Michelle Hall (Century 21 Hecht) over 10 years ago

So what do you all suggest to combat the smells?  Clean carpets, floors and upholstery, check.  Open windows when possible, check.  But what about the lingering smells?  I don't care for "room fresheners" because they are usually obvious.  But there are a couple plug-ins that have a "clean" or "rain" scent that's not too bad.


Posted by Laura Yazge - The Styled Interior LLC (The Styled Interior LLC) over 10 years ago

Laura, There are some great spray products that neutralize odors.  Of course some odors are so ingrained in the furniture, walls and flooring as to be almost impossible to remove. I have heard that you can rent a professional 'ionizer' similar to what they use in reconditioning cars. I don't have any personal experience with that, however.

A lot of the odors are cooking related. I tell my clients to give themselves a break when the house is on the market and eat out or 'picnic in' whenever possible.  This not only helps keep down cooking odors, but helps reduce the constant cleaning and straightening.  It is not always financially feasible to eat out, but sandwiches are relatively affordable!

I like to put out bowls with fresh smelling potpourri, also. It is usually more subtle than commercial air fresheners and can be decorative, too. Some of the new bottle scents with the sticks can also be subtle while providing a fresh scent in a listing.


Posted by Holly Weatherwax, A Great Real Estate Experience ( Associate Broker, Momentum Realty) over 10 years ago

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