I remember when I first started my real estate career. It was autumn 1993. I was eager to gain all the information and experience I could. I took every opportunity that came my way.
One day I received a call from a prospective home seller. He invited me over to preview his home. I studied everything I could get my hands on relating to the home. I was about to embark on a great journey. I was excited and ready.
On my way to the home I thought about all I had learned about homes in Berks County. I was ready. All I had to do was be myself, share information I had amassed as it related to this particular home and not say anything that may upset the home owner. It was go time!
I knocked on the door and was greeted by the owners. Upon entering the home I was also greeted by an invisible inhabitant. Oh no….It was the stench of something fowl. I stayed true to my training and simply hoped I would just get used to the smell, or it would simply leave.
Things were going great. Then it happened… The owners asked if there was anything they could do to improve the home. 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 rule #3: 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 said the following; “Mr. & Mrs. Berks County home seller, there is something I noticed when I came into the home. There was an odor I just cannot make out but it may have a negative impact on prospective buyers” (understatement).
They looked at each other and said well, we did have a stray pet here for about 3 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 the home but thought it would go away.
They weren’t mad. They did not throw me out. I was elated! I still had to figure out how to sell a home with such unpleasant smell in it, but at least I had the chance. Even more amazing than me getting the listing was how the sellers could ever get used to that smell no matter how long they were in the home.
It is 19 years later. I am much more educated and forthcoming regarding issues that may hinder a Berks County Homes ability to sell.
The odor discussion is never pleasant, yet should always be addressed in preparations for staging your home to sell. While telling a home seller to change the color of a wall is much easier than telling them the home has an offensive odor, ‘houseatosis’ creates a negative impact on the prospective buyer that typically far exceeds the color of a wall.
These days, even the slightest hint of cigarette smoke smell in a can end a home showing in the foyer, leaving the home seller dismayed. Yes, times have changed and so has many buyers’ tolerance of a property that just does not appeal to their sense of smell. Take a look at some of the methods to apply for staging your home to sell and prepare it for a successful showing.
Following is a list of common Berks County Home buyer smell offenders & some ideas on how to re-mediate or limit them:
- Pets- This can have two issues. First is obvious, the odor. Second is more sinister, allergies. Most people have pets. I have pets. It is important that they are well trained and kept. This is one that can turn out to be very expensive. Either getting rid of the smell or the home (at a lower price). More and more people are becoming allergic to animal dander. The number one allergy is cats. This could simply be a product of how tight homes have become over the years. They are more air tight and insulated better. This keeps the energy bills down but traps unwanted particulates in the home. Consider a good filtering solution for the heating system. This is especially useful when you have forced air.
- Smoking Tobacco- The whole cigarette thing has really 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 quit. If you will not or cannot, try to smoke outside. This becomes more difficult in the winter months. Even though you smoke outside your clothes may still smell of smoke. When a prospective buyer looks in the closet they will get more than storage space. The length of time a home has been exposed to tobacco smoke often dictates what type of remediation is necessary. Painting walls, changing material such as furniture, curtains & carpeting helps immensely. In some of the worst cases it may be necessary to call 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. We never made it past the kitchen area. Be aware of what you are making for dinner the day before a showing (especially if it is first thing in the morning). Fried fish is not a good 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 for about 2 minutes into the drain. Clean out the refrigerator. The prospective buyer may be interested in it (especially if it is built-in). If you do cook aggressive dishes consider a strong exterior vented range hood.
- Moisture & Mold- This is something that is more prevalent in the basement area. Even the smell of moisture in a basement (finished or not) is a huge red flag for home buyers. Consider dry locking walls & floors in basement. 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 serious cases you may want to consider having an air quality test for mold spores. If the test is positive there are several ways to remediate this, including a good Clorox wipe down. If water is infiltrating from the exterior it may be time for a professional in the field
- Ventilation System- One never knows what you may find here. Consider a duct cleaning. Never a bad choice.
- Garage- Remove gas cans & all equipment that contains gas. It is best not to have cars in a garage simply to present the space properly. If you have many items in the garage that are gas or other combustible fuel powered, leave the garage door open prior to the showing.
- Miscellaneous- Don’t use the bathroom just before the scheduled showing. Don’t throw a keg party the night before a showing. Don’t forget to clean out the diaper genie. Take out the trash around the home (mentioned in the cooking section). Limit unclean laundry prior to a showing.
- Baking- Cookies, pies, bread, did I say cookies:)
- Time Release Air Freshners- Many available.
- Candles- Something nice and pleasant.
- Cleaning Products- Most, not all. Clean houses smell clean.
- Remodeling- Fresh paint & Carpet.
In the world of Berks County real estate, it is easier to sell a home that needs a cosmetic redo than a home that smells badly. It is sometimes difficult for a Berks County home owner who lives in a home day after day to smell something that has become a mainstay. This is very evident with our sense of smell. 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.
There is nothing that smells as good as the cash you will get from selling a great smelling home!
Read on for more insights and home staging tips.
Jeffrey C. Hogue