If you can smell it, you can't sell it.

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Carlson Properties 325-721-2429 0528582

Today I previewed a couple of open houses, both in very desirable Abilene neighborhoods. 

Both had something in common and it wasn't the nice neighborhood, they both smelled!  Now would you go on a listing preentation  without taking a shower?  Would you go out to dinner with a good friend without checking for body odor? Of course not. When your house is on the market need to check for odors.  If  you can't smell anything ask somebody who won't mind telling you.



The first was not so bad it was OLD HOUSE SMELL!  You know the smell that you have when an OLD person has lived there for at least 30 years.  Now I like old people.  I may even be starting to resemble one. Or it could be old carpet, old flooring, old something was damp once, could be the windows haven't been opened in ten  years, could be this, could be that.  The point is no one has said, there's an odor and I am going to neutralize it!



The second house smelled like kitty litter because guess what there was a litter box in the converted garage to living space room plus 2 cats were on the premises.  


  Cat Picture


Now, I'm a cat person, see previous blogging to attest to that but cats and houses for sale do not mix.  The kitties need to be away from the house or in a crate and litter box no where in sight during showings and open houses.


A house that smells won't sell.  A smelly house is easily remedied.  Fresh air works wonders.  When I lived in West Germany, the neighbors in the village I lived would open all the windows at least once a week didn't matter how cold it was outside! 

Recently I had a smoker who smoked inside, wasn't supposed to smoke inside, of course,  so I  opened every window all four of them turned on the fan on the Central Air Unit, turned on the bathroom exhaust fan, opened both doors and left it that way all day.  Fresh air takes care of lots of odors.

An easy, inexpensive way to get a nice fragrance in the home or apt is to to simmer some water on the stove with a couple of tsps of vanilla extract in the water.  

When you are selling your house, don't forget the tale of these two houses, old smelly house  and kitty litter smelly house..  A house that smells won't sell.  A house that doesn't announce it self will be more appealing to buyers.


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Beverly Carlson,  REALTOR, GRI, ASP, IAHSP, RESA


Carlson Properties           

Abilene, Texas


To See Abilene's Staged Homes, go to www.stagedhomes.com


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  1. Inez Meehan 12/07/2009 03:03 AM
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Tina Marie Campbell

Old fashion remedy for cooking odors:  Saucer (or small vase) filled with white vinegar on the kitchen counter or on top of the refrigerator will get rid of strong pungent orders like : cooking cabbage in a matter of time.  Works wonders.

Baking soda sprinkled on carpets also works!

Great topic!


Dec 07, 2009 07:15 AM #67
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate

I like your statement 'if you can smell it, you can't sell it'.  It always amazes me how some people don't open the windows for fresh air EVER.  On my website I've got alot of great suggestions on how to get rid of ALL smells, even the super bad ones.  I guess I'll have to repost that!

Dec 07, 2009 07:35 AM #68
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I agree - bad smells are a real turn-off, but be careful with those chemicals used to get rid of them - or cover them up.

Just this morning I saw an ad on TV for a Glade plug-in that keeps spraying smell into the house all day, and all I could think was that I sure wouldn't walk into that house!

Some people - like me - are allergic to chemicals, and those air fresheners are the worst. Knowing that I'd have a pounding headache within 45 seconds, I would never walk into a house if that smell greeted me at the door.

Something I learned from a Fannie Mae rep years ago was that little dishes of vinegar placed around the house will absorb and kill odors. But I also agree - fresh air works wonders! And if you're going to have a showing shortly after the dinner hour, the seller can simmer a little vinegar and water on the stove to drive away the cooking odors. (Funny how dinner smells good while it's cooking - but terrible an hour later!)

Dec 07, 2009 07:48 AM #69
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Very well put Beverly! Thanks!!

Dec 07, 2009 08:11 AM #70
Everard Korthals
Castellum Realty LLC. - International Real Estate Brokerage - Lititz, PA
Lancaster real estate

Am I the first to realize that most of you realtors have no problem to mask the  smell of cats,dogs,mold and other things during the selling process .

Don't you realize that the buyers  will get a major negative surprise once they move in and don't use their daily dose of Fabrize or fresh baked cookies.

I see at nearly as bad as quickly painting over black mold in a basement.

I propose that we work with the sellers ,maybe use some of our commission fees if there is no other way, to come to solutions that eliminates the problem.

Dec 07, 2009 11:28 AM #71
Melissa Brown
Helen Adams Realty - Charlotte, NC
Realtor - South Charlotte NC Homes for Sale

Great post, Beverly!  I know EXACTLY what you mean - old person smell.  My last listing was like that, but the owners never noticed it. 

Point is, sellers never should be remembered for something negative.  When I take buyers to a lot of houses, they inevitably name their houses "The cookie house,"  "the cat pee house,"  "the cess-pool house,"  the "Pottery Barn" house.  Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which one a seller should want to be!

Thanks for the great post!

Dec 07, 2009 02:30 PM #72
Deborah Grimaldi
Grimaldi Appraisal Services - Cranston, RI
(401) 837-9633

Beverly I came across this same situation the other day and you are exactly right, need to take care of it or it will not sell.

Dec 07, 2009 10:08 PM #73
Mark Watterson
Salt Lake City, UT
Utah Real Estate

We do want smells working for us and not against us.  Nice post and good comments.

Dec 07, 2009 10:45 PM #74
Vanessa Stalets
RE/MAX Elite - Brentwood, TN
REALTOR, Brentwood TN Homes, Real Estate

Amen! I have been into homes as a listing agent and as a buyers agent and thought, there is no way they don't smell that! Why would they not do something about it? One vacant home smelled so badly of cat urine that it knocked you over at the door! It had all new carpet, paint etc, but the smell was pervasive. In the crawl space we found multiple cat carriers...apparently they left behind their smell too.  Strong cooking odors are also a no no~

Dec 08, 2009 03:33 AM #75
Mary McNair, Realtor, Cortright & Co., Fairhope, Ala.

I keep an odor neutralizer in my purse to be able to use when I'm doing an open house, especially in a house that has been vacant and limited air circulating because of the heat & A/C units set not to run unless absolutely necessary. I spray it into the air and into the intake vents of the A/C or heater so that it can help to improve the scents that may be borderline offensive while also getting to the source of some of the potential odors that may be lingering in the air ducts.

Unfortunately, when going into someone else's listing with clients, it's impossible to do the pre-emptive attack on the odors.

Dec 08, 2009 02:50 PM #76
Ryan Windsor
Keller Williams Black Diamond Realty - Burnaby, BC

People wandering through my open houses seem to like the Glade Lavender & Vanilla plugins that I've been using lately. I recommend them for sure!


Dec 08, 2009 03:14 PM #77
Mary McNair, Realtor, Cortright & Co., Fairhope, Ala.

When doing my earlier post, I forgot to mention how wonderful dehumidifiers can be in dealing with the moisture that feeds stinky odors caused by molds and mildews.

My husband and I have a huge house with lots of windows that we use for operating a bed-and-breakfast inn. We are also sitting in Alabama's Gulf Coast, where humidity can get as high as 98%, especially during the summer. Because our A/C units are too high a tonage for the amount of space each is trying to cool, an A/C repair man explained that the air was getting cooled so quickly that the units weren't running long enough to do the necessary dehumification. So, we went out and bought six portable dehumidifiers. We use them in the mode whereby the moisture from the air fills removeable buckets, which then have to be emptied, sometimes twice a day. However, you can set the desired humidity level so the machine also knows when to stop taking moisture out of the air during the dryer winter months. (Most mold and mildew can't thrive if the humidity level is 45% or below.)

If you have homes that are occupied and you think the problem is moisture related, recommend that they get enough units to have each area of the house adequately covered (we have our units in the hallways and leave room doors open as much as possible for better air flow). If a location is near where the unit can empty directly into a drain or through a hole in the wall to the outside away from the house, this will allow the machine to run without stopping due to being full and needing to be emptied.

We are really amazed at how much moisture gets pulled from the air, which also makes things more comfortable physically because you can tolerate a higher temperature during the summer and a lower temperature during the winter. As a result, the A/Cs and heaters don't have to run as much to keep things comfortable.

Dec 08, 2009 03:20 PM #78
Pat Ogle
Long and Foster Real Estate - Annapolis, MD
Associate Broker,CRS,GRI,ePRO - SEMPER FI!

Nothing make your hart drop than wakling into THE house, and it smells!!

Dec 09, 2009 02:09 AM #79
Kathy Opatka
Serving Ocean City, MD, & The Delaware Beaches


Fresh air is the best air freshener on the market!  And it's free!  Here at the Beach, we get the I've-been-closed-up-for-months smell!  It's hard for Buyers to understand that the smell will leave once the doors and windows are opened!

I don't know how you got rid of the smoker's smell..... that tends to linger on the drapes, furniture, etc. and is a real turn-off to non-smokers!  I've already seen Buyers take one step into a unit and turn around and walk out because of the smoker's smell!

Dec 09, 2009 07:50 AM #80
Sonja Adams
Samson Proprties - Purcellville, VA

Great post...so many ideas to remove smells I had not thought of....sometimes removing cats from a house is not an option so the boiling water ideas with vanilla and cinnamon are great!  Thanks!

Dec 10, 2009 12:31 PM #81
Cecilia Nault
Professional One Real Estate - Novi, MI

The naked truth is many buyers name the houses we've seen on a tour by their features. "Old people house" is a generally agreed upon description of a house that has been closed up, has 2 or 3 layers of window coverings that have been hanging for a decade or two and has decorating that was lovely many years ago. Maybe someone can come up with a more politically correct term for this phenomenon.

No matter how well the showing goes on a house, if there's a weird odor it's almost always checked off of the list. Pet odor is the pits. I think the smell of air freshener/fragerences are a turn off too. Fresh air and a clean house is the ticket.

Dec 10, 2009 01:28 PM #82
Beverly of Bev & Bob Meaux
Keller Williams Suburban Realty - West Orange, NJ
Where Buying & Selling Works

Likethey say, people can't smell their own funk. When you're telling an owner of a smell, they look at you in such disbelief because they've gotten so use to it because they can't smell a thing.

Dec 11, 2009 02:38 PM #83
Balboa Real Estate San Diego, CA - San Diego, CA

Opened windows are the best way to cure smells, at least some of them. I live in a climate where I open my windows all day...almost every day. It is hard to tell owners their house stinks but it is a deal breaker.


Dec 14, 2009 12:16 PM #84

I just sold my home in 5 weeks in a tough market, an immaculate house with 3 cats and 4 litter boxes.

This is often the problem. People do not have enough litter boxes. Use Swheat Scoop if you have it in your area, a fabulous kitty litter made from wheat. The smell is terrific and it is scoopable.

Glade, Febreeze, all those plug-ins? They should all be taken off the market and why would you recommend that poison to anyone? Tell your sellers to open their windows.




Dec 22, 2009 07:33 AM #85
Dana Devine
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Apollo Beach, FL

i can not believe how many homes i have toured and the litter box is right there in the kitchen or in the bathroom next to the tolit...what is it with cat people that they just dont get it....cats do not help sell a listing

Dec 28, 2009 04:28 AM #86
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