Your home stinks.... No, really, it smells

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty 302690

Real Estate Professionals must share many difficult truths and insights with our clients in order to help them reach their goal of selling their homes efficiently and at a desired price.  We point out potential selling challenges, instruct them to depersonalize, suggest they repaint their favorite colors neutral – all potentially emotional or explosive conversations.  BUT, one of the hardest things to tell someone is that they stink…. well… that their home stinks.  I’m certain everyone agrees that THIS has to be done…. delicately to say the least.  Oh yeah, EVERYONE wants to have that conversation…. “Mr. and Mrs. Jones, may I be frank?....” NOT!  The sense of smell is very strongly tied not only to human beings memories but also to their emotions and reactions (there are plenty of scientific resources on this, such as: but for now let’s pretend like you take my word for it and we can get back to how this affects real estate).  There are several reasons a home may have offensive odors, several things that can be done to negate those, and there is also the idea that smell can be a POSITIVE part of marketing a home.

First, why may a home smell bad? There is always the dreaded possibility that the “M” words (mold & mildew) are lurking about somewhere unseen.  This may indicate a bigger problem like leaks, or a flooded basement etc.  These things will eventually be discovered during if not before a home inspection and bring with it a completely new set of consequences and reactions I won’t get into here.  Other reasons would be a lack of cleanliness and remnants of life in general.  These are the situations on which I am more focused.  As stated in other blogs, deep cleaning everything from wiping down and out cabinets to steam cleaning carpets and drapes should be an expectation of anyone hoping to sell for top dollar.  Honestly, clean is THE best smell and it can’t be faked.  Daily living brings more transient odors to homes like children returning sweaty from athletic practices, pets that come in after being caught in the rain or playing in the sprinklers or adults whose work involves physical labor or toil in so called “dirty jobs” – these are the kind of things that create smelly clothes and piles of laundry that emit a certain fragrance that if color coded would most certainly be that Mr. Yuk lime green (you know like in the old cartoons).  Another overlooked offender comes from the kitchen.  MANY of my favorite and I’m certain most people’s favorite dishes, especially spicy or traditionally ethnic foods, certainly elicit anticipatory salivation while we wait to indulge, but the scent that clings to the air later…. meh – a little like heartburn, certainly an unwanted and negative side effect.  So, what to do? Well, when sellers are in “showing” mode, they need to be diligent with maintenance cleaning and laundry, but they also may want to refrain from particularly fragrant meals – at least on days they KNOW the house is to be shown and certainly use the exhaust fan every time they cook.  So once we are cleaning and staying on top of the unavoidable, we can also go a step further and use smell to our advantage.  

“Smell has a greater impact on purchasing than everything else combined,” says Alan Hirsch, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment & Research Foundation in Chicago (see entire paper linked HERE).  Clearly, Dr. Hirsch has not read my blog on the importance of Real Estate Professionals but I’ll let that go…. So, without doubt, smells influence people’s moods and perceptions.  If the house stinks, people aren’t as gung ho to make it their own.  Beyond clean, there is also some science we can suggest our clients employ to help market the home positively.  Actually, many of us have been known to suggest the fresh baked cookies - right? (No, that was not just to fill my craving in down times during open houses. Well, mostly not.)  So there are apparently three main categories of fragrance: Lemon/Citrus, Floral, and Spicy/Earthy.  For our purposes of persuasion and to elicit generally positive reactions from the widest spectrum of potential buyers, we should probably stick with the first two categories (with the exception of the benign baked goods in the kitchen like bland rather than exotic versions of cookies or breads).  The Lemon/Citrus scent is consistently related to a perception of cleanliness.  Through candles or polish or diffuser this is a great scent for entry ways and bathrooms especially.  The floral scents like lavender or rose actually relax people and make them more open to buying.  A final thought that should trump all others in these recommendations is BE SUBTLE.  While the above scent categories are positive, even good things can become negative when overdone – Remember the great aunt with the cloud of rose scent that seemed to envelop and cover you like a blanket or the expensive cologne on the gentlemen that was pleasant from a distance but became a James Bond like weaponized gas when you were on the elevator together.  And… bringing it back: less is more.


To close, smell is something that should be considered when planning the presentation of a home.  Dusting entryway tables with lemon scented polish in an otherwise deeply cleaned home and lighting a honeysuckle candle in the Den added to the baking cookies in the kitchen will certainly set a positive tone for the showing.  So I wonder, could we add aroma-therapist to our other credentials?  Probably not, but we can certainly share this basic advice with our clients.

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Blake Rickels, Realtor

The Blake Rickels Group

Knoxville Realtor Blake Rickels 


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John McCormack, CRS
Albuquerque Homes Realty - Albuquerque, NM
Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me!

Just dealt with this yesterday.  Cigarette smoke stinks!

Jun 01, 2015 12:17 AM #1
Cassandra Vickers, MBA, MCNE
RE/MAX Prestige - Houston, TX

I love when I 'm showing a  home and there's a scented candle plugged into the wall, not to mask odors but to enhance the homes appeal. It makes the home memorable.

Jun 01, 2015 12:41 AM #2
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