How to deal with smelly houses before sale

A house for sale by owner.

Make smelly houses sellable with these no longer smelly tips. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Images_of_Money/Flickr)

Who wants to live in a home that smells bad? Certainly not someone looking to invest in prime real estate. The current buyer’s market makes it tough for sellers to begin with, and simply whipping out the Febreze and fresh-baked cookies won’t cut it. Make smelly houses a thing of the past with these simple tips for deodorizing a property.

Down with smelly houses step No. 1 – From whence the odor?

It is often difficult for sellers to identify exactly where those moldy, musty, gag-inducing smells originate. Neeraj Gupta of ServiceMaster Clean notes that there is no specific device or gauge to point the seller in the right direction. It may even be a scent to which the owner has become desensitized.

“People get used to the odor of their house and may not notice that something is not pleasant,” Gupta said.

Down with smelly houses step No. 2 – Bring in a nose

Since the owner may not even be aware of an odor, it becomes important to bring in an outside sniffer. Ideally, it should be someone without a stake in the sale whose opinion the seller trusts and has spent little or no time at the property, Gupta advises.

While it might seem logical to bring in the real estate broker you’ve hired to sell the home, not all brokers are going to point out that the house has an odor, as they don’t want to risk their relationship with the seller. The agent may use the “I heard a comment from a colleague” method to protect themselves, so why not use someone with expertise who doesn’t have a connection to the sale?

Down with smelly houses step No. 3 – Blame the pets

One of the most common sources of rancid odors in a for sale home is pets, particularly dogs and cats. While there are plenty of products on the market for dealing with pet odors, the truth is that it simply isn’t going to be easy to eliminate entirely. If you’re selling a property, you may need to get rid of or board your animal off-site.

“It’s kind of cruel,” Gupta said, “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 is the worst pet odor in real estate. It seeps into carpet fibers and padding, as well as concrete, wood, upholstery and pillows. A simple deep cleaning may not be enough, particularly if the property exists in a humid climate.

“Oftentimes,” Gupta said, “you have to remove the carpet, remove the pad and seal the floor, and then replace the carpet and the pad.”

Down with smelly houses step No. 4 – Blame the smoker

What odor clings to furnishings, drapes, window coverings and even the insides of walls? Yes, it’s cigarette and related odors. Topically applied cleansers help reduce the stench, but an ozone generator, hydroxyl generator or air scrubber may be necessary. Even then, there are no guarantees. Never allowing smokers into the home is the best way to avoid this odor.

Down with smelly houses step No. 5 – Bring out your dead and infirmed

If someone dies or suffers from a long-term illness in the home, a good airing and thorough cleaning of the common incapacitation areas will be necessary to get the smells out. However, if a violet death of a person or animal has occurred, professionals who specialize in trauma cleanup are probably best for the job. Be prepared to pay $1,000 or more, depending upon the trauma scenario and square footage involved.



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