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House: How to Un-Smelly Before You Sell-y

May 2, 2022

The effect of odor in the sale of real property can be subtle but persuasive.  The visual impression is one thing.  Most people can be pretty objective about that.  However, the smell of property can register a subconscious impression before any visual beautification efforts reach a potential seller’s conscious impression.

Any realtor will advise some level of staging before putting a house on the market.  Staging is the process of readying the property and house for sale to maximize appeal to potential buyers to give you the best chance with every prospective buyer.  Some people go to great lengths to de-personalize and update a home’s interior, as well as what is possible outside, to optimize curb appeal.  You don’t want to break the bank to do this, but you do want to prioritize and tackle some sore spots and take them on with minimal investment with ROI strongly in mind.

In some scenarios, sellers may be able to present to prepare for showings and regularly monitor and affect the environment.  In other scenarios, the seller may not and depend on the realtor to show the property.  If the latter is the case, and there is a concern about the smell, the seller will need to be more aggressive with some of the remedies below and discuss concerns with the realtor, who may want to minimize any negative impact.

Deep Cleaning.  This is advisable under any home sale.  Carpet shampoo, upholstery shampoo, cleaning, and sanitizing surfaces will have a good effect on primary sources of smells in the home. Don’t ignore the floors.

To Paint Or Not to Paint?  Well, this question goes hand in hand with the visual staging. Most professional stagers prefer neutral colors for presenting properties to buyers’ widest scope, but is the cost and effort worth it?  If the house has a serious smell issue, it may be if there is a room where there is a particularly heavy odor, perhaps where a lot of smoking occurred or animals resided. It’s affecting the space’s overall smell; it may be worth considering.  If the painting efforts can do some good to neutralize the smells and bump-up the space appearance, consider it.

Rugs, Drapes, and Fabrics.  Odors manifest in carpet and textiles, and barring a professional cleaning, won’t let go.  Depending on the age and use of these items, it may be wiser to remove any prominently smelly items before any showing.  This may also serve to declutter and depersonalize space as well.  Got an Archie Bunker’s chair in the primary area?  Out.  Animal smells, and smokers’ smells can be stubborn.  Rugs, drapes, and fabric furniture in these settings really need serious consideration for removal.  If there are rugs, drapes, and/or fabric furniture pieces with a scent, these issues can be magnified in a humid and hot environment.

Ozone Generators, et al.  These devices have been used in the past to output ozone to neutralize strong odors in spaces.  While these devices can be effective, their use is under scrutiny due to the effects of ozone production and the effects of breathing ozone.  Therefore we leave to your discretion the use of any air treatment or production equipment to tackle the odor problem. Research accordingly.

Consumer Products.  There are numerous products available to deal with an odor issue.  It is not in this article’s purview to recommend any single product over another.  While you don’t want a prospective buyer to be put off by a house’s odor, nor do you want a buyer to be overwhelmed by powerful chemicals, perfumes, and “product smells” either.

Flora.  With ROI in mind and what is possible over the timeframe, the property is on the market, establishing a few pleasant-smelling plants can do good.  Also, if you have multiple showings in a timeframe that makes this possible, placement of flowers about the home can quickly level-up the staging temporarily.  For a day or two, a couple of strategically placed containers of mint leaves or basil leaves can fill rooms with fresh smells everyone can relate to, even if they don’t realize it.  Smell is a powerful sense.

Ventilate.  Every sale and showing scenario is different.  If it is possible to ventilate the house in the timeframe before the realtor pops the key and opens the door to the space and its smells, you can cut down on that ‘olfactory first impression’ considerably.  A couple of open windows, weather permitting, helps too.

Time on Market.  If the property time on the market starts to get on the long side, you may want to revisit your attack on the smell staging as necessary.  Smells have a way of creeping back.

See Also: On our Facebook Page: Remodeling Projects with the Greatest Return


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