Ode to Odors

Home Stager with GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography

When I do Pre-Market Home Selling Consultations as a Calgary, Alberta Home Stager, I often see -- and smell -- a variety of scented products throughout the home. There's the plug-in variety, the spray variety, the stash-in-a-corner-and-please-absorb-the-smell-in-here variety.

Diffuser SticksI often ask about their presence . . . is there an issue in this room? Are you worried about an odor problem? Most home owners shrug and say that they think it's just prudent. You know . . . just in case.

The problem is that these products designed to "add a pleasant scent", are themselves usually way too strong and generally unpleasant. I mean, I'm pretty sure "mountain breezes" don't usually smell like eau de toilet in real life! And I don't really want every cell in my olafactory glands hyper-stimulated with "Freesia Fantasy", thank you very much. (Plus, I have to wonder about the health implications of all these chemicals floating around in the air I breathe).

Worse yet, the presence of these products often alert a potential buyer that there may in fact be an odor causing issue that you are trying to hide. And besides, no product out there is going to hide wet dog. It'll just make for a hideous . . . and I believe, probably toxic . . . combination of scent molecules.

Okay, I exaggerate (slightly), but according to About.com, the number one turn off for a potential buyer is strong odors in the home. Um, so think pets, smoking, cooking, mold, mildew and anything basically musty, soggy, and otherwise stale or disgusting.

So instead of masking your home's odors, embrace them! Tell yourself -- as the home owner -- there isCigarette in Ashtray no such thing as a bad smell. It is your friend, and very useful information, telling you to take action!

First of all, get an objective opinion about your home and it's inherent smell (that you are totally incapable of detecting . . . trust me). And please, don't kill the messenger or kick this gift-horse in the mouth! Thank them for their honesty, because it will allow you to make your home more marketable.

Secondly, find the source of the smell and deal with it. By "deal with it", I mean, obliterate it. Spraying Febreeze on the sofa isn't going to do it. If this means calling in the professionals, or replacing carpet, you just have to do it. The cost before you go on the market will be far less than the discount a buyer will demand to remedy your smelly problem--if they are even willing to take it on.

And lastly, go on the market with confidence. Once you've addressed this huge deal breaker, not only will buyers respond much more favorably to your home, maybe . . . just maybe . . . you'll enjoy living there a little bit more yourself.




Posted by

Deena Cottingham

GreenApple Staging & Images
Serving Calgary and Okotoks, Alberta

©GreenApple Staging & Images, 2010
All information is copyrighted and may not be used, borrowed or copied without written permission.


Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Cindy Bryant 02/05/2010 03:43 PM
  2. Sharon Tara 02/06/2010 04:05 AM
  3. Shirin Sarikhani 02/08/2010 02:37 PM
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Amy Jones Group
South East Valley - www.AmyJonesGroup.com - Chandler, AZ

I do reommend an plug in if the house is vacant or I notice a stale smell.  I think buyers would rather smell anything over musty.

Feb 06, 2010 05:44 AM #71
Jo-Anne Smith
Oakville, ON


Such great advice...nothing worse than all of those scented gadgets...they give me a headache due to allergies and I'm sure they bother a lot of other people too. Banana bread is still the best scent to sell by...


Feb 06, 2010 05:57 AM #72
Erica Ramus
Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA - Pottsville, PA
MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate

But I'll take a scented gadget any day over frying fish and freshly opened can of catfood!

Feb 06, 2010 06:33 AM #73
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

I too am a fan of essential oils.  They are very yummy to smell and it's aafe as well. Thanks for the post today I enjoyed the read.

Patricia/Seacoast NH

Feb 06, 2010 06:34 AM #74
John Mulkey
TheHousingGuru.com - Waleska, GA
Housing Guru

Deena - The sense of smell is a powerful emotional "trigger" and can turn off buyers who fail to realize why.  It's best to avoid the artificial smells and go for clean and natural.

Feb 06, 2010 07:17 AM #75
Ted Tyndall
Davidson Realty Inc. - Saint Augustine, FL
FL Homes for Sale-Palencia, World Golf Village,Nocatee,St. Augustine

Deena, A very good article. I agree with Lenn on the cat odor. Cat urine is tough to hide.

Feb 06, 2010 08:30 AM #76
Rebecca Gaujot, RealtorĀ®
Perry Wellington Realty, Adam Conrad, Broker - Lewisburg, WV
Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate

Deena, a good article for sellers and I will pass this on to my coworkers.

Feb 06, 2010 11:43 AM #77
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M
I agree that masking odors doesn't work. I like scented candles though I don't if they present any dangers other than fire.
Feb 06, 2010 02:37 PM #78
Sharyn & Victoria Crown MBA,MSRE
Pacific Sothebys International Realty - San Diego, CA
Broker Associates

I showed a home recently where the seller was in the midst of cooking goat.  It definitely had a unique sale.  Needless to say my buyers passed on this particular home.

Feb 06, 2010 02:58 PM #79
Loreena and Michael Yeo
3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Frisco TX Real Estate Co. - Frisco, TX
Real Estate Agents

Try telling sellers not to cook their favorite foods, that's almost like pulling teeth. We come in such a diversed culture. It's almost impossible.

I recently found an ozone service for the home that completely eliminates odor from the home. It's smells fresh. Then, don't go around lighting candles after the fact. That in itself has turn off lots of buyers too.

Feb 06, 2010 03:26 PM #80
Glen Fisher
National Property Inspections of Southern New Jersey, LLC - Oaklyn, NJ

Hi Deena.  As a home inspector, I see air fresheners as a big red flag

Several years ago, I counted over twenty air fresheners in a home.  Sure enough, the crawl space was found to be flooded with a major mold problem present.

Just last Thursday, the home I inspected had several air fresheners in place.  The listing agent stated that the cleaning lady had placed the air fresheners.  Sure enough, the wood stove contained a dead animal. 



Feb 07, 2010 12:58 AM #81
Not In Real Estate Any Longer
Autaugaville, AL

Hi Deena,

I just wrote a blog about the commercial with the real estate agent stating that she uses Febreze in all her listings to freshen up the homes before open houses. I called it: I Truly HATE That Commercial.

Have you seen that commercial? This woman actually tells the free world that she's a real estate agent and she sprays her client's homes with that stuff! OMG!!!!

You are absolutely right. Get to the root of the problem and fix it.




Feb 07, 2010 02:04 AM #82
Marc Iafrate
Capital City Real Estate Group, Inc. - Raleigh, NC
MBA - Wake County Real Estate Search

Good advice - we as agents need to deal with the all the potential issues of a home including offensive odors.

Feb 07, 2010 02:06 AM #83
Joetta Fort
The DiGiorgio Group - Arvada, CO
Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder

I'll be linking to your post in one of my posts, it was just so perfect.

Feb 07, 2010 04:46 AM #84
Aaron Silverman
SuccessfulRental.com, Bluewater Property Management, LLC and Lowcountry Turnkey Properties, LLC - Charleston, SC
Improving Real Estate Experience through Education

Multiple people have recommended baking chocolate cookie smell to give the home a warm and fuzzy feeling.  What do you think?

Feb 07, 2010 06:40 AM #85
William James Walton Sr.
WEICHERT, REALTORSĀ® - Briotti Group - Waterbury, CT
Greater Waterbury Real Estate

Deena - your recommendations make perfect sense. People should identify what's causing the odor first, then eliminate...not mask...

Although I have heard that heating cinnamon can eliminate some odors...I wonder...

Feb 07, 2010 09:43 AM #86
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Thanks again for all your comments!

Erica - no way . . . frying fish?? Do people not understand that if you want your house to sell, you might have to make some choices and sacrifices for awhile?

Amy - yes, I agree with you that I'd rather smell a scented gadget over musty -- if those are my only choices. But I'd rather buy a house that doesn't have smell issues in the first place.

Jo - I loooove banana bread! That's a smell worth buying for!

Patricia - I am with you on the essential oils. Put a little in some vinegar water for cleaning, and you've got an effective environmentally friendly product, too!

Thanks John, Ted & Rebecca!

Christine - there are some soy based candles that are considered safe.

Sharyn & Victoria - a goat?? Yes, that'd be something to talk about afterwards!

Loreena - excellent point about ozone cleaners. I hear that they absolutely do work, there is just some controversy over the health implications. Definitely not recommended for people with respiratory issues.

Glen - so glad you weighed in and shared your stories! Sure enough, truth proves to be stranger than fiction!

Pam - no I haven't seen that commerical. I think I'd feel the same as you about it, though!

Thanks Marc and Joetta for your visit. And thanks for the link!

Aaron - great question. Well, I'd take baking smells over just about any artificial smell, that's for sure. I know this tactic works for a lot of people and they swear by it. As for me, I don't know . . . does it seem like you're trying too hard? I personally haven't done this when selling a property . . . I try to go for the truly fresh and clean. However, in some situations, maybe this would help a lingering odor even if the problem has been dealt with.

William - there are a few comments that would indicate so. I'd have to try it myself to see if it would eliminate an odor. I suppose if the source is gone (frying fish, or something), then perhaps it would certainly help clear the air!


Feb 07, 2010 11:18 AM #87
Valerie Sagheddu
Apostle Art Home Staging & Design - Stroudsburg, PA
~Home Staging Professional, Poconos, PA

Deena...you bring up a good point about buyers questioning whether or not you are hiding something. I used to use the plug ins but have laid off and tend to agree that it should not be necessay if the "bad" odors are eliminated!

Feb 08, 2010 01:27 AM #88
Shirin Sarikhani
Seattle Staged To Sell www.seattlestagedtosell.com - Seattle, WA

Hi Deena. Personally, I can't stay in "scented", since I am allergic to most of the scents. 


Three weeks ago, an agent called me to checkout one of his listings, that was not selling after being on the market for six months. 

The home was a modern one with beautiful views of the Puget Sound. First of all, the house was not staged and in addition, he had three plugins in the living room. I could only stay for couple of minutes inside of the house. He got the message!

Thanks for the blog - a very important topic.

Feb 08, 2010 02:34 PM #89
Sharon Paxson
Arbor Real Estate - Newport Beach, CA
Newport Beach Real Estate - Arbor Real Estate
Great title - ode to odors is oh so important! When there are floral odors, they are probably hiding something. My guess is animal something!
Feb 13, 2010 10:24 AM #91
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Deena Cottingham

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