Have You Gone “Nose Blind”? 7 Stinky Reasons Your Home Isn’t Selling

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Have You Gone “Nose Blind”? 7 Stinky Reasons Your Home Isn’t Selling


Have you seen the commercial for Febreeze? It talks about smells you’ve gone “nose blind to.”  That’s a great description for what happens when you live with odors in your home that you just don’t notice any longer. Well if your home is listed for sale, your buyers are not “nose blind” to those unpleasant odors and it’s keeping you from getting those good offers. You need to take a critical eye…or in this case…a critical nose to your home and eliminate the smells that keep buyers from seeing your home as they should.

7 Stinky Problems and Tips To Fix Them

  1.      Cigarette Smoke: This is the worst offender and it’s very hard to sell a home that reeks of cigarette smoke. The smell permeates throughout the home and into the walls and paint. Even smokers who go outside to smoke can allow the trace to enter the home and linger.

    If you are serious about selling for top dollar, you have to address the smell of smoke. Often this is not easy, nor cheap. The first step might be to remove all the furnishing from the home. Cigarette smoke is not just in the house, it’s lodged in the furniture. Remove everything from the house and then clean thoroughly. The best option is to replace carpet and repaint, but if that’s not possible, then you need to bring in specialists. Mold remediation companies are adept at this type of work and can talk with you about your options. They can clean the air and scrub surfaces for you.

  2.      Pets: Pet smells are second in line to the most often heard complaints by buyers about a home. Urine odors caused by house training dogs or misbehaving cats are almost impossible to remove. Buyers will immediately realize that they have to replace the flooring and they think money.

    The best option to eliminate this objection is to make sure any affected areas have been treated. Carpet cleaners can help with mistakes on carpet and upholstery and a solid scrubbing of hard surfaces is a must before opening your home for showings. Keep the litter box clean and use a pet smell cleaner around the area for spills. Don’t neglect the garage either. A Closed garage becomes stuffy and if the pets have been allowed to use that area as their bathroom, the smell is liable to hit buyers as they enter the garage like a brick wall. Clean garage floors with a mixture of soap and baking soda and give it a good scrub and wash.

  3.      Last Night’s Dinner: That delicious salmon filet you made last night for dinner could be creating unpleasant scents the next day. Your chef’s kitchen should look inviting and clean, and this includes leftover smells. While you have the home for sale, it’s best to put away the strong spices and food: no more curry, garlic, fish or deep fryers.

    Feel free to make those delicious cookies that smell like grandma’s home. Leave a few out for your friendly agent and her buyers.

  4.      Did You Shower After That Workout? There is no easy way to say this….but your home has people smells. A dirty bathroom or a laundry hamper of dirty clothes can give off unpleasant smells. Buyers are often willing to overlook dirt in many areas of the home but disgusting bathrooms can really turn off a buyer’s interest. Closets are also big culprits of the body odors. Dirty clothes often live on the floor of a closet as do stinky shoes.

    The best solution is to clean. Clean often and thoroughly. If your home is listed for sale, consider a professional house cleaner to come in each week and keep the home sparkling. If that’s not reasonable, then you have to do it yourself. Don’t allow laundry to pile up and wash bathroom towels and bedding regularly. Use an odor absorber in the closet. These are beads which soak up smells with little to no fragrance. An old tip from grandma is to make shoe sachets by putting a small amount of baking soda into cheesecloth and then tying the ends to make a small bundle. Put into offending shoes to absorb odors.

  5.      Air Fresheners: Keep an editing nose for air fresheners and candles. One aromatic candle in the living room can be welcoming while one in each room can be nauseating. The scent choice is also important. The scent should be incidental to the home, not the star. In the summer months, a nice citrus smell is fresh and bright. For winter months you can go a little stronger with a cranberry or apple.

    Less is more with artificial fragrances. If you do need to use more than one candle to permeate the home, then use the same fragrance throughout. The buyers will become accustomed to the scent as they move through the home and it will become a nice extra bonus. When you vary the scents they notice the new scent in each room before the room itself, it’s distracting.

  6.      Garbage: Garbage can is found in many locations in the home. Waste cans in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and garage can all harbor unpleasant smells. The buyers might not even recognize the source, but the scent will reach them. The simple fix is to empty trash often and move any receptacles to an outdoor location if possible. Wash trash cans to remove any spills and stay on the process while your home is on the market. If you keep kitchen trash in a cupboard, move it if possible. If that’s not convenient, then look at some of the odor absorbing trash liners as a solution and empty often.

  7.      Mold and Mildew: Mold is a hot topic in real estate right now. While not all mold is dangerous, there is no way to tell without having a professional mold inspection. Certainly you do not want to hide any serious problems, but sometimes musty smells are simply due to lack of circulation or living near water.

    If you find actual mold growth in your home, you must act. Your buyers will not want to assume this kind of problem and even if it’s remediated in the escrow process, many buyers will just pass. Call in a professional mold inspector and get the facts. You might find that the remediation cost is covered by your home owner’s insurance, so do your homework. Do not use bleach to remove mold spores, this can cause them to enter the air stream and create a very dangerous living environment. If you see growth, contact a professional before doing anything.

    If the issue is simply a musty smell caused by normal moisture in the air, then using a dehumidifier could solve the issue. You can also find moisture absorbing pouches to hang in closets and other small spaces. Nothing substitutes for good air circulation, so wherever possible, open windows and doors and air out the area.

You never want potential home buyers to refer to your home as “That Stinky House.” Fortunately, most odors are easy to remove. Selling your home is a big financial transaction and even if the smells require professional attention, the effort could result in thousands of dollars in your pocket at the sale. Buyers know that not everyone will buy a stinky home. The savvy ones know that they can remove the smells but they will offer you far less than you might see otherwise. Remove all the negatives from your home so that the only thing your buyers see is the beautiful view and chef’s kitchen. 


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Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Good Morning Karen Fiddler,  Great picture to start with.  So many people do not believe that their house smells but I have seen buyers walk in and turn around and walk out.  Make it a great day!

Jul 06, 2016 12:46 AM #1
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co. Notary Services, retired Realtor

Great post Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner and I do like the commercial as well.

Jul 06, 2016 12:48 AM #2
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Karen

The issue of smells in a home can be a real tough one and it cannot be stressed enough how important they are to address. And that's not always easy. I thnk some buyers are even more turned off by smells than they are the clutter and mess they might see, and it's even worse if the home shows well but smells. I think it's a natural tendency to live with smells and not notice them...but you can bet anyone wallking in the door will.

This is feature-worthy!!


Jul 06, 2016 12:58 AM #3
Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate
John L Scott Market Center - Birkenfeld, OR
"Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905

Karen, this is SO well-written!! Mold is a big one out here, with cabins not being heated properly, closed up for months, living in the woods, moisture, yadayada. Mold specialists aren't easy to find anymore, for some reason. But, they are worth their weight in GOLD. 

Clean and fresh and consistent scents are such a smart idea. My hubby had a tendency to overdo in that department and with different ones in each room--drove me crazy! 

Jul 06, 2016 01:07 AM #4
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Karen,  I have not gone nose blind.  My nose is very sensitive to many different kinds of smells ... some will cause my eyes to water.  Clean and fresh is the best smell of all. 

Jul 06, 2016 03:28 AM #5
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

Can I add # 8.  Sink drains.  I have smelled some of the worst things ever down the drains of sinks in listed homes.  Yuck.

Jul 06, 2016 05:03 AM #6
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner These are excellent tips on why home is not selling.

Jul 06, 2016 05:54 AM #7
Karen Feltman
Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group - Cedar Rapids, IA
Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Smells are the worst!  And usually the easiest to get under control with the exception of cigarette and pet odors anyway...They definitely determine how long a buyer will look and whether or not the home stays on the list.  Great post.

Jul 15, 2016 01:12 PM #8
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Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner

Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395
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