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Want to get that home moving? You may need to use your nose! Offensive home odors are one of the biggest turnoffs there is.

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 appointment, I thought about all I had learned about the real estate business so far and felt confident things would go well. 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 homeowner. 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 foul. I stayed true to my training and simply hoped I would just get used to the smell and it would go away.


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 the golden rule: 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. home seller, there is something I noticed when I came into the home. There was an odor I just cannot make out and it may have an adverse impact on prospective buyers” (understatement).


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 the home but thought it would go away.


They weren’t mad and 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.


It is now 24 years later, and 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 needs to be addressed in preparations for preparing a home for sale. While 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 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.


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

Pets- Most common offensive home odors. Two issues here. First is the odor and second are allergies. More and more people are becoming allergic to animal dander. The number one allergy is cats. Today's homes are very tight and energy efficient which keeps the energy bills down but traps unwanted particulates in the home. Consider a good 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. The length of time a home is 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, 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. 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 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).


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 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- 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.


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.

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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 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