What is that smell?

Real Estate Agent with Prudential Missoula Properties

I have not been in this business for too long, but I have been living in houses all my life. I know that all houses, and many people have distinct smells. Some houses have old carpet smell, cigarette smell, or lingering cooking smells.

While touring new listings during my office's weekly sales meeting, I really have something I need to get off my mind. The one smell that beats out all, except some we will not mention, has got to be the cat. More specifically, the male cat! I have a female cat and have had male cats in the past and by far, male cat odor is the worst. If the male cat is one of those artistic males that like to spray secret places, this is even worse!

On our office tour, we arrived at a nice looking house that had supposedly been through a fairly extensive interior remodel and should really wow us all. Like a punch in the face, the cat odor hit me as I entered the front door. I looked around at my fellow Realtors to see if anyone else's eyes were beginning to water. No one was talking about it, they were talking about the flooring, windows, appliances, but not EAU DE CHAT! I knew that was cat smell and soon enough, two very friendly, huge male cats came out from behind the couch.

There was a Seinfeld episode where Jerry valet parked his car and the valet's body odor took over his car. After trying everything known to man, Jerry ended up abandoning it, but not even a thief wanted his stank mobile. I feel this is the same with houses. I hope I do not offend any cat owners or even ferret owners, but I really think Realtors need to emphasize to their clients the importance of removing or at least masking unpleasant odors from the house. People know that smells are usually coming from deep in carpet padding, behind or under something. A few extra dollars spent in a higher end carpet cleaning will make potential buyers actually enter houses, and the sale may happen.

This is not a rant, but just an idea I had after entering this house. I was not into the cat odor, but was more shocked by the lack of reactions by my fellow agents. Realtors, listen to your nose!

 Thanks for you time

Mike Warren

Comments (22)

Michael La Fay
Meadow Lakes Supply Co. - Wasilla, AK

Oh yeah... smells! The aged mop in the hall closet that probably hasn't been changed in who knows how long and now smells like dead salmon?

Interesting though, that overwhelming cat pee smell is also indicative of a methlab... I know this was not the case in your showing, but I think it is great to know in a somewhat questionable house, and for your safety and the safety of your clients...

Smell of cat piddle can = old meth lab.... ;-)

Mar 26, 2008 04:41 PM
Tom Davis
Harrington ERA,DE Homes For Sale, $$ Save $$ Buy Today ! - Dover, DE
FREE Delaware Homes Search!, $$ Save $$ - Find Homes! Delaware Realtor
Yes I agree with the previous comment! Your house has to be presentable! You never get a second chance to make a great impression!
Mar 26, 2008 04:43 PM
John Ford
Security National Properties - Eureka, CA
I totally agree! I don't know why some of our peers don't have the guts to tell their clients the house stinks!
Mar 26, 2008 04:51 PM
Jim Dunlap
Roberts Realty - Yucca Valley, CA
When I hold an open house, i bring several bags of microwave popcorn and pop a bag about every 1/2 hour. I dispose of the "old" corn in the trash outside--there's always the smell of freshly popped corn in the house, and visiters have a snack to numch on. 
Mar 26, 2008 05:26 PM
Debra Gambill
Weichert Realtor's Southern Coast - North Myrtle Beach, SC
Realtor, N.C. / S.C
LOL- maybe it was not cat smell after all- did you read the joke about the divorcee that put the shrimp in the curtain rods--the smell lingered so long- they had to sell the house for almost nothing to get rid of it-- maybe it was the house! Ha
Mar 26, 2008 05:52 PM
Tony Fantis
Fantis Group Real Estate - Salt Lake City, UT
Realtor,Principal Broker - Salt Lake City
It always amazes me how clean homes with cats just don't smell like dirty homes with cats.  Granted, cats can do nasty things...but I've rarely gone into a clean, shiny home and smelled pets.  Just a thought.  
Mar 26, 2008 06:59 PM
Leesa Finley
RED Properties - Wake Forest, NC
RED Properties - Raleigh NC Real Estate
The WORST smell!  The cat!  Believe me, I have a cat, love her dearly - but, it is just a given - cats smell.  Now, not a cat smell but FOOD!  I had a house that I had previewed a few times  - gorgeous home and didn't smell.  I then had a buyer that the house would be great for!  Unfortunately, the seller had chinese food the night before for dinner - and, WOW - the smell was just awful!  Complete turn off......
Mar 26, 2008 10:37 PM
Mike Warren
Prudential Missoula Properties - Missoula, MT

We too have comment sheets, but obviously the agents were too involved with the price and recent upgrades and probablly left the sheets in their cars. Thanks and good luck,

Mike Warren

Mar 27, 2008 01:07 AM
Mike Warren
Prudential Missoula Properties - Missoula, MT

Very interesting about the old lab smells instead of cat odor. Something to remember. I will also check all the curtain rods from here on in. Sometimes in Montana,you here the story of the dead fish on the manifold of someone's engine. Thanks for the comments and good luck.

Mike Warren

Mar 27, 2008 01:11 AM
Sandra Workman
Coldwell Banker Realty - Bradley, IL
Cat pee is a smell that is very distinguishable and I can't believe they didn't react to it!  Was it listed by someone in the tour group you were with? 
Mar 27, 2008 01:13 AM
Harold "Hal" Place
A1 Connection Realty, Inc. - Sun City Center, FL

Good morning Mike,

Great post! My nose isn't an asset, size wise or otherwise! l always pick up the oder first. Sometimes it is just air freshener, other times it is that of a pet. Agents who do not address the issue to the seller are doing them an injustice. 

Mar 27, 2008 02:41 AM
Michelle Hall
Century 21 Hecht - Denver, NC

I came across an article that stated that the way a home smells can be the number one deterrent for a home buyer - not decorating, design, square footage, messiness, ect, .... but the scent of pet odors.  I try really hard to educate my clients this but it is hard for them to comprehend since they have become use to the smell and think the house smells fine.

May 14, 2008 07:10 AM
Clint Miller
Real Estate Pipeline, Inc. - Missoula, MT

OMG...Are you sure your not in my Mother-In-Law's old house????? 

May 15, 2008 01:19 AM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Mike:  I know that smell well.  And replacing the pad sometimes can not help if it has soaked into the wood beneath. 

May 15, 2008 01:21 AM
Pam Dent
Gayle Harvey Real Estate, Inc. - Charlottesville, VA
REALTOR® - Charlottesville Virginia Homes / Horse

Mike - The odor will make that home hard to sell.  Smells turn buyers off and in this market they have a lot of other choices.

Jul 05, 2008 04:05 AM
* Rate A Home
Rate A Home - Saugatuck, MI

Mike, I agree, cat odor can make it a tough sale and nothing worse to get out of the carpet and sub floor once they have done their duty.

Jul 05, 2008 04:20 AM
Valerie Somma
Dawson Ford Garbee - Lynchburg, VA

I know all too well how difficult it is to get the smell out of the sub floor after a cat has done it's damage.  We had an older cat that just destroyed my son's room.  After she passed, I ripped up the carpet & the padding.  The sub floor smelled HORRIBLE!  I sprayed Clorox Clean-Up over the spots in the wood & it didn't do a lot of good.  I finally just painted Killz primer over the spots & that finally did the trick.  It will do no good to replace the carpeting if you don't treat the damage done to the floor underneath.

Jul 05, 2008 04:32 AM
Chuck Willman UtahHomes.me
Utah Homes - Alpine, UT
New House Utah - Utah Hero Homes

It's amazing how much influence odor has on the buying decision... if people only realized- it can make a very big difference in the offer price.

Jul 10, 2008 09:05 AM
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

Odors from pet urine, or simply the unusual pet (ferrets, snakes, gerbils, rats, etc.) are just chemicals and, as with all chemicals, can be neutralized by other chemicals, but vacuuming the carpet when there is a thick padding underneath isn't going to get rid of all the smells forever. However, a good flooring service with experience and the latest technology can easily get rid of them. My partner, a Realtor with Century 21, uses such a service here because he has a tendency to list properties for Clients who have pets.

Aug 08, 2008 06:09 PM
Kent Anderson
Coldwell Banker Resort Realty, Sandpoint, Idaho - Sandpoint, ID
from Schweitzer to the Lake
Hi Mike, First, I cannot tolerate cat odors. This is from a guy who has 3 cats (my wife's). I challenge anyone to get the smell of cat odor out of existing carpet. I can smell it from across the street.

Second, I just want to say...I love Missoula. I went to college there, met my wife there and had my first child there. I live in Sandpoint now & REALLY love this place, but I will never lose my fond memories of the "ZOO".

Feb 09, 2009 10:49 AM