Home odors that will scare off buyers
Sniff, sniff — that smell is buyers walking away from your odorous abode. Here's how to identify and fix what makes buyers hold their noses.
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Homebuyers don't want houses that stink. Sellers must identify and remediate odors that make prospective purchasers hold their noses and run for the exits.
A buyers market is a tough challenge for sellers, says Patti Ketcham, owner of Ketcham Realty Group in Tallahassee, Fla.
"If you're selling," she says, "your house has to look a little better, smell a little better and be priced a little better than the other houses the buyer will look at that same day."
Unfortunately, it's not always easy for sellers to identify familiar smells that might be problematic, says Neeraj Gupta, director of product research and development at ServiceMaster Clean, which performs major cleanups and post-disaster restorations of residential and commercial properties.
"There is no 'odor meter,'" Gupta says. "People get used to the odor of their house and may not notice that something is not pleasant."
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The best way to find out whether a house smells OK is to "ask someone who doesn't live there to come inside and give an opinion," Gupta says.
The obvious "someone" would be the real-estate broker hired to sell the home. But not all brokers will point out that a house smells bad, even if they're willing to offer other helpful suggestions.
Ketcham, for one, says she's not outspoken about odor issues. Instead, she offers to pass along any unfiltered "brutal truth" comments she hears from her colleagues who bring buyers to see the property. That way, the message gets delivered with less risk to her cordial relationship with the sellers.
"I will never be the kind that will come out and tell you that your house smells like cat litter or mothballs," she says. "I would rip my tongue out first."
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The two most common sources of difficult and offensive odors are pets and cigarettes, neither of which, Gupta says, is easy to remediate.
The point might seem obvious, but the first line of defense in any smelly situation is to remove the source of the problem, even if that means a beloved pet must board elsewhere for a while.
"It's kind of cruel," Gupta says, "but if the pet is in the house, you're introducing new odor every day. For people who have pets, over time, it's a losing battle to get rid of the odor."
Cat urine, among the worst of the bad odors, can seep into carpet fibers, carpet padding, concrete and wood floors, upholstery fabrics, and furniture cushions and pillows.
"Oftentimes," he says, "you have to remove the carpet, remove the pad and seal the floor, and then replace the carpet and the pad."
Cleaning the carpet might help. But Gupta warns that any humidity will raise the odor from the padding or floor beneath.
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Cigarette smoke can cling to furnishings, drapes and other window coverings and work its way inside walls. Some topically applied solutions can help to reduce the stench, but an ozone generator, hydroxyl generator or air scrubber should be more effective, Gupta says. These approaches are "very effective in absorbing odors," he says, though there is no guarantee that an odor can be eliminated.
One more tip: If someone suffers a long illness or dies in a home, a good airing may be adequate to remove any odors. In the case of a violent death, however, professionals who handle what's known as "trauma cleanup" should be called to do the job. The cost might range from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or more depending on the type of remediation and the square footage.
"It's not like buying glass cleaner in a store and cleaning your windows," Gupta says. "If you have that type of situation, it's probably best to call a professional. It may be traumatic for you to do it yourself."
Our investor group is involved in buying and restoring foreclosure homes; most of the properties have sat empty for a year or more. Stale air, smoking and pet odors can get pretty bad. Selling a house with odor problems takes longer and affects the resale value. Painting the interior does not remove all odors as the odors are embedded in the carpets, carpet pads and drapes. A painting contractor mentioned a product called air-renu a paint additive. If it did work, we would save money by not having to replace the carpet and carpet pads. It took several days before all the odors were removed; now we use it for very house that we have to repaint. If you are having an odor problem, you might consider. www.air-renu.com
"I spray all my dogs and cats with Febreze just to be safe"
It is not safe for them, not talking about totally unpleasant, as it stinks for them terribly. Cruel think to do. Remember that cats have also no way to process stuff through their livers, also cats lick themselves. This is terrible idea to do so. And since when cats furs stink?
Total nonsense about pet odors, like loosing battle when pet is in the home. People should open windows more often for fresh air (Germans air their houses so often, never was in one with pet odors), cleaning carpets often, etc. Smoking is of course terrible.
What was omitted are kitchen smells, specially those which come from frying. Not talking about ethnic cuisine here: it is typical fry ups, meat, fat etc. Difficult to get rid off, and often people mistake them for dog smells. Also don't forget air refreshners, those can stink terribly too, it depends. Also dust smells, terrible.
Running HEPA filter is good, for smell and health. Hang something fragrant close to the entrance, or spray a nice perfume mist (not stinky type) directly on the wall if possible, not too much though. And air, air, air. And children smelling, as one poster wrote? Give me a break, if someone is neglecting children, than yes, they can smell, but this is an issue with child protection agency, not really real estate market issue.
I find it amusing how people who live in their cat's/dog's houses couldn't smell poop if it was bubbling knee deep in a crock pot.
"Oh yeah, my cat licks itself all day so it has to be clean", while it rubs it's rear end on the carpet and sofa.
And, "Oh, no, my dog doesn't scratch his fleas and drool all over the place, not much. He likes that chair, DON"T SET THERE!"
And, "my darling cat washes his paws every time he burries his wet mess in the litter box too, licks the stuff off his paws you know". So sanitary.
"Sure my dog sweats like a pig on a stairmaster, no problemo, we hose him down once a month. Go ahead, scratch him, dig your fingers around in his fur, he likes that. If he licks you it's ok, his spit is cleaner than yours." Yuck.
Love all the shedding too, really enjoy picking it off my clothes when I visit, picking it out of my nose, out of my salad, sure glad I can cough up fur balls.
"What's this nasty half chewed bone doing here? "Oh, Rover's saving that for later".
Selling your house, try this. Instead of baking cookies, smear canned cat food in your heater vents and turn the heater on. That should seal the deal, if you find someone who enjoys kennel aroma.
Charming. Someone light up a cigar to clear the air.
Grammar Is Important - yes, grammar ~is~ important, but when you say "(you're for the grammatically stupid)" you are actually incorrect. I've taken numerous college level English courses. The use of the term "you're" is grammatically acceptable!
I also find your statement that if kids are in the house, it will smell, rather offensive. Most children I know bathe regularly, wear antiperspirant, brush their teeth, and wear clean clothing. Having a child in a home deosn't mean the home will stink! I'm half surprised you don't object to the elderly and wheelchair bound, as well!
When selling a house I always invest in lots of Febreeze before showing. When I view a house, one sniff of pet odor, cat or dog. I move on immediately!!
Way to put it mscarrie68! Cats are very clean animals. They spend over a 1/4 of their day cleaning themselves. What humans do that?! I also agree that most houses do have a scent. It doesn't always mean that they are bad, it's just that we are not used to them, because we are used to our own scents.
Many of these people are talking about renters in this forum too. I own and don't rent, but what can you expect when you rent or are a landlord? You can not always hope for the best, because you don't have as much control over things.
Kurt - You are right. Using the delicious smell of apple pie or cookies to cover odors would be a bad thing. The odors must be dispensed with first! Then, the delicious smells can be used to get the attention of buyers. Marketing, marketing, marketing...
Wow, can you believe what some other people are writing? Comments like yours are perfect for a meaningful discussion, but there are some really odd people making comments. I even read one comment that made this issue political.... LOL
Whenever I go out for vacation and the house has been closed for a while - I can get a whiff of the spices when I come back and open the doors. Now it doesn't bother me, but i can see it might bother some people.
However, it is not permanent. When I get the carpet cleaned and leave the windows opened for a couple of days - it goes away. Another source of spice smell is the kitchen cabinets.
As for odereater - just ignore his comment. Whatever you say - it will not stop him from being bigot and a racist.
I agree - cats are very clean creatures. They expect no less from us than we expect from ourselves in many ways.
Having said that, I clean houses for a lot of pet owners as well. Keeping your house CLEAN (including floors and carpets) on a regular basis then pet odors shouldn't be an issue in your home. Clean and sanitize regularly, don't cover up with sprays and such.
My husband and I recently sold a house in a very high end neighborhood; not one prospective buyer said anything about pet smells in my house! We took the cat with us when we had a showing so that she wouldn't be underfoot, but always left the litterbox uncovered...I'm proud of the way I keep my cats toilet! We got an offer on our house within 2 weeks and when we filled out the disclosure on the property and listed that a cat had been living there, the buyer was actually surprised.
Cats and pets in general do not just 'put off' odors that stick to your house, those odors only stick if you don't attend to them.