Have you ever come home to a foul odor and had to play the “What’s that smell?” game? You take out the trash, clean the sink, run the garbage disposal, start the dishwasher, change the kitty litter box… and continue to walk around the house sniffing trying to find the source of the odor? Come on, we all have done this at some point. In my house, the source of the smell could also be the dog or my son’s shoes. Bleh. Well, at least in my house, I can usually find and eliminate the source within a few minutes… and once eliminated, a little air freshener and POOF… all better.
But PROFESSIONALLY, it’s not so easy. I can not count the number of times I have walked into a property – either one I am listing or when working with a buyer – and thought “EEK! What is that smell?”
My personal favorite is when I walk into a home with buyers and I *sniff*sniff* and then say something like “I smell mold” and I usually head to the basement to see if I can find it. SO MANY TIMES the buyer will say “*Sniff*Sniff* I don’t smell mold. It smells like grandma’s house to me!” Hmm… Well, then, Grandma is baking you up some fragrant mold. Whenever I mention this, I think of Chris and Lisa. They were buyer clients a few years ago. They were relocating to the area, and had only a few days to get to know the area and find a home. I think we might have looked at 100 homes all over the region. And for some reason, we ended up looking at a lot of houses that had mold. It was when the market was filled with distress sales, and they chose to see quite a few older homes in moderate price ranges, and these two things increase the chance that you’ll run into mold in a house. Anyway, it got to the point where we would walk into a house, close the door, stop and smell…. and if we looked at each other and announced “Grandma’s House” we would just turn around and walk right back out. We made a game of it…. Hey ya gotta make fun in everything you do.
But the real message here is: Sellers, smell matters.
Always take out the trash, clean the sink, run the garbage disposal, start the dishwasher, change the kitty litter box, remove fido and the shoes of any boys that live in your house, before a scheduled showing. DO NOT overpower the house with air freshener. Why? People think you’re covering something up. Plus, some people are allergic or have different reactions to smells you might find pleasant… and that is not going to help sell your home either. There are a few “ionizers” out there that claim to “eliminate” odors not cover them up. Those are better than air fresheners, but you should also try to avoid using them if you can. Again, people have allergies and sensitivities, so we try to keep the smell clean and fresh by keeping the property clean and fresh… not by trying to hide the smells.
Also, be aware when your favorite foods are smelly… things like many Indian or Mexican dishes with strong smelling spices, fish, seafood, onions, cabbage… these can also be major turn offs to buyers. So, you’re probably better off avoiding those foods while your home is on the market. While you might think “Yum” when you smell it, the buyer may not. The worst kind of buyer? A pregnant one. Pregnant women have incredible sensitive noses. I know when I was pregnant, even smells I normally found pleasant would make me sick to my stomach.
It probably goes without saying, but should you have any “bigger” issues…if your house smells like grandma’s house (i.e. moldy) or you have smelly carpet or other such issues… In most cases (there are exceptions, like if the house is expected to be sold as a “tear down”) the source of those smells should probably be eliminated before your home goes on the market, even if it means a few thousand bucks to remedy the issue. And, if you’re not sure if something smells, invite someone over who will tell you the truth…. and please do not get upset with me if I mention a smell. I will try to be sensitive, but in the end, let’s face it: You’re hiring me to help you sell your house. I am trying to help. Remember, smell matters.