Why You Should Start "Sniffing" Before You Sign The Contract...

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Compass, formerly RE/MAX WHP 0524642

Recently I helped a client rent a newer built home. Unbeknownst to the both of us, the water smelled like rotten eggs. A home inspection isn't part of the process when you're considering moving forward on a rental property. To say this could have been known before the contract was signed is hardly a fair statement. Conducting a "sniff" test of the water will now be a part of my showing routine, especially for rentals. 

After moving in the the tenant learned from the property manager (who also lives in the neighborhood) that the sulfuric content was "randomly high" and to expect the issue to be ongoing. Luckily my client/tenant didn't buy this listing. The small community is home to about 200 properties and according to most of them, their water smells like flatulence too.

A few thoughts to ponder...

1. Is the odor of the tap water an item that should be listed on a sellers disclosure? I see both sides of this. A home seller isn't in a position to provide a professional opinion on the chemical make-up of their tap water, but they certainly could be open and honest about any letters they have received from the water district. Is it simply an opinion issue, or bonafide "defect" of some kind? 

2. Should the Property Manager or Landlord have told us about the water issue beforehand? Keep in mind he lives in the same subdivision. 


What are your thoughts and why? 

Posted by


Greg Nino
, Houston area Realtor®.
Helping residential buyers, sellers and tenants 7 days a week.
Available @ 832-298-8555 

RE/MAX Compass (Formerly RE/MAX WHP)





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Randy Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645

We arer blessed in Hawaii with pretty good artisian water in most of our communities.

They definitely should have disclosed it.  It is a material fact.

Oct 26, 2015 01:16 PM #12
Vera Gonzalez
RE/MAX Suburban, Inc. - Sterling Heights, MI
Gonzo For Real Estate

Greg Nino ,


Good thing you were on top of your game. That just sound yucky.

Oct 26, 2015 01:23 PM #13
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Greg Nino there are quite a few restrictions on landlord in MA - and if this was known, it would be the responsibility of the owner/agent/property manager to disclose it.

It is very unlikely that any of us would even think of 'sniffing' test, and that too for rental! So you did nothing wrong, Greg.

Oct 26, 2015 03:18 PM #14
Jon Quist
Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996

Oh, wow. One reason I never go near rentals. No way to use all my 'teams' resources. Of which the home inspector is an integral part.

Oct 26, 2015 05:15 PM #15
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

I think if the landlord knew about the smell and the cause of it, that should have been disclosed. Maybe there's someone who likes the smell of rotten eggs in their water, but more likely the landlord would wind up fixing it.

Oct 26, 2015 08:28 PM #16
Sham Reddy CRS
H E R Realty, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

Thaks for sharing!!!

A home seller may not be in a position to provide a professional opinion on the chemical make-up of their tap water, but they certainly could be open and honest about any letters they have received from the water district. Is it simply an opinion issue, or bonafide "defect" of some kind? 

Oct 26, 2015 09:14 PM #17
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Any professional who takes the approach of...Lets see if the person finds out or speaks up...is a wolf in sheep's clothing. If the water is not good, there are easy remedies not to mention the good will of working together for the good to deal with it...Shame is in the air by anyone who practices deceit Greg Nino 

Oct 26, 2015 11:10 PM #18
Joshua Frederick
Home Inspector for ASPEC Residential Services, LLC - Defiance, OH
Home Inspector in Defiance & all of Northwest Ohio

As far as the water heater being the culprit, the OP said there was high sulphur, so that's not the issue. Disclosure? I hope that's a joke, because that's exactly what disclosures are, at least around here.  If I had a nickle for everything that should've been disclosed...you know the rest.  The smell is not the only effect from high sulphur. It is also very corrosive to metal components in the home, including electrical wiring.  Appliances often have to be replaced a lot sooner than normal. I've seen wiring that was literally so black/corroded it was disentegrating at outlet/switch connections.  I have seen some extremely bad cases! Homeowners with high sulphur get used to it after awhile and it doesn't bother them.  I walked into one where my eyes literally started burning/watering - I had to keep taking "breaks" every 5 minutes to go outside and get fresh air!

Oct 27, 2015 12:17 AM #19
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

I believe that running the tap is routine for folks considering buying OR renting.

In my experience, baring a dead skunk in a well, this condition is regional and would be well known to owners.  

Since it's a matter that can be cured by installation of the proper water filter, it's also a matter of disclosure. 

"NOTICE:  Water has a strong rotten egg odor".

Of course, disclosure means prior to renting or selling.


Oct 27, 2015 12:40 AM #20
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Ken.  Thanks.

Since potable water is a public health issue, seems to me that, as a listing agent, I'd want water tested for potability prior to listing.  

In my area, this testing can be done by the seller or buyer, but if it's well water, it must be done.


Oct 27, 2015 12:57 AM #22
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty ZionRealtyAZ.com

My brother's house in Michigan smells like that but not as strong. It's on a well but there's nothing he can do about it. 

Oct 27, 2015 01:05 AM #23
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Prado Real Estate South - St. George, UT
So Utah Residential, Referral & Relocation REALTOR

Yikes Greg! Some friends of mine bought a house years ago in a canyon. The water, they found out was extremely mineral heavy, not close to drinkable and they had to haul drinking and cooking water. They sold fairly soon after that.

Oct 27, 2015 01:41 AM #24
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Greg Nino I hope the landlord will put in a water filtration system for them.

Oct 27, 2015 02:20 AM #25
Bill Reddington
Re/max Southern Realty - Destin, FL
Destin Florida Real Estate

Must be well water. Around here when you smell sulphur or see rust on a home with a sprinkler system think the well is not deep enough. Should be filtered and disclosed.

Oct 27, 2015 04:12 AM #26
Olga Simoncelli
Veritas Prime, LLC dba Veritas Prime Real Estate - New Fairfield, CT
CONSULTANT, Real Estate Services & Risk Management

It sounds like it could be a health issue. Clearly, all is not well with the water. The smell alone could cause headaches and who knows what's in the water. A water test should be done and filters installed by the owner of the building if hazardous substances are found. Or, even better - the source of the problem should be discovered. Something is wrong.

Oct 27, 2015 12:14 PM #27
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

I sold a new construction home that had this same problem.  They installed a RO unit and that took care of the problem.

Oct 27, 2015 01:14 PM #28
Sussie Sutton
UTR Texas Realtors - Pearland, TX
UTR TEXAS Realtors - Rep for buyers and sellers.

I lived in a home with well water and in the summer it was killer. We moved on to having Ozarka water delivered to our home to cook and drink. Bathing was another issue hold your nose and bath quickly!

Oct 27, 2015 03:13 PM #29
DEANNA EARLY - - ( NMLS # 268590 )
American National Bank & Trust - Smith Mountain Lake, VA
Highest Ranked Mortgage Loan Originator Virginia

If the landlord knew, they should have disclosed the water problem.

Oct 28, 2015 03:31 AM #30
Mike Scher

That could cause major health problems. 

Mike Scher- Home Inspection All Star Austin

Oct 30, 2015 06:59 AM #31
Greg Nino
RE/MAX Compass, formerly RE/MAX WHP - Houston, TX
Houston, Texas

Thanks Deanna.

Oct 31, 2015 03:56 AM #32
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