Hitting the 80% stink rate

Real Estate Agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties Licensed in Connecticut

smelly homes don't sellI recently had the pleasure of previewing 5 homes in one day, 4 of them will be forever embedded in my olfactory memory. Yes, I will remember these homes and not for a good reason. They were in the 80th percentile for a stink rate.


First home hit me with a putrid smell of rotting garbage when I entered the door. The home appeared to be clean and neat, but OH MY. I persevered, making sure not to let the cats out as instructed. 3 cats, all rescue animals, how sweet and kind.  And oh my, I hope they enjoy those cats more than they want to sell their home! Upstairs smelled of cats that sprayed and peed from one end of the home to the other! I couldn't get out of there fast enough. 

Moving on...  Next was a very sweet home, really cute as a button, inside and out. Went down in the basement and YIKES! They must have been having 500 people over for cigar smoking parties! Although the basement was unfinished, there was a seating area, so I know it was being used. And this was a walk out basement, SO WALK OUTSIDE TO SMOKE! 

Next... A home recently vacated by the owners, it had been cleaned after leaving. I could tell they had cleaned the carpets upstairs. But they missed the mark on the carpet cleaning as the entire upstairs reeked of a very strong combination of wet, stinky dog and 15-year-old boy dirty socks and sneakers!

And finally, just to top off such a pleasant experience... The last home just smelled. It has been vacant for a while, so that explains it. Mildewy, musty, let me out of here in case it's the real "M" word. 

The only house I saw that didn't ring the bell on the smell-o-meter was a 204-year-old home. Interesting that after 204 years, you would think that somewhere in the home there might be a whiff of something. Not even in the basement! 

Yes indeed, I will remember 4 out of the 5 homes I saw. They were memorable. Olfactory speaking that is. 

If you are trying to sell your home and you rate high on the stink-o-meter, you really need to do something about it. And I don't mean you should cover up the offensive odor. You need to identify and treat the odor. There are good products out there to get rid of smells. 

For pet smells, I love a product called Nature's Miracle. They have a few different options for the pet lover, I have had personal experience with it and it works. They even have a skunk odor remover which my dog will attest to its effectiveness. 

For many other odors, there is always Zero Odor. I know it is a bit expensive, but it does seem to do the trick. 

Moldy, musty smells means there is an issue. Perhaps a dehumidifier along with a good cleaning?

If you can't get rid of the smells, call in a professional. If you aren't sure if your house smells or not, find the most critical and annoying person you know, invite them over and ask them to be brutally honest with you. Then ask the question.... "does my house smell?"

Because the old real estate adage is true, if you can smell it, you can't sell it! And I do prefer to sell homes rather than smell homes. 

After that experience, my nose needs a rest! 


Posted by

Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County Real Estate

2017 President, Greater New Milford Board of Realtors

2017 Connecticut Magazine 5 Star Realtor


 Search homes for sale in Litchfield County, CT.


Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Litchfield County Regional Office,375 Danbury Rd, New Milford, CT 06776


© Andrea Swiedler 2009 - 2017

 Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest. - Mark Twain

Comments (16)

Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

It is important for listing agents with empty houses to keep on top of them - not just whether the doors are locked but how are they looking, how are they smelling! and it helps to flush all the toilets regularly 

Aug 18, 2016 09:22 PM
Andrea Swiedler

Lise, good for you! We need to be honest with our sellers and vigilant on stink patrol!

Aug 18, 2016 09:26 PM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Oh that is too bad.  Indeed, bad smells prevent most buyings from buying.  Good advice on how to solve some of these issues.

Aug 18, 2016 09:41 PM
Andrea Swiedler

Debbie, at least I didn't have buyers with me. But now I know exactly what to prepare them for! If they want to see a stinky home that is. 

Aug 18, 2016 09:45 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Andrea Swiedler ,

I love your post! You are so right because I believe in the old adage " If you can smell it you can't sell it!

Aug 18, 2016 09:47 PM
Andrea Swiedler

Good morning Dorie, thank you! When I was out smelling these homes, I got a text from a friend/agent asking if I saw anything interesting. I told her it was "smelly house day". 

Aug 18, 2016 09:50 PM
Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI
HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc. - Carlsbad, CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance

Andrea Swiedler We do encounter similar homes and usually the visit is extremely brief. when feedback is asked, we are completely truthful regardless of the reaction. 

Aug 18, 2016 09:53 PM
Andrea Swiedler

Sandy & Norm, honesty is the best policy! I just have to wonder, I do know we can get used to our own stinks, but these were especially horrific!

Aug 18, 2016 09:57 PM
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Andrea. Oh my what an outting. Too bad. I have dogs and am very aware that smells are deadly. When my home was on the market I took the gang with me and no one knew.

Aug 18, 2016 11:21 PM
Andrea Swiedler

Sheila, and there are just some pooches who stink, no matter what! We still love them though, and the smell seems to disappear, at least to us. I guess the same is true for our kids! 

Aug 19, 2016 12:37 AM
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Andrea I have been to a few houses like that and it is exit stage left as 

Aug 18, 2016 11:42 PM
Andrea Swiedler

George, and how! Fast and furious!

Aug 19, 2016 12:37 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude


That's a pretty high % of stinky homes. Aren't you the lucky one?! I wonder if the sellers are even aware or maybe they just don't care? So how do you prepare buyers for their tour?


Aug 18, 2016 11:46 PM
Andrea Swiedler

Jeff, I am the lucky one! Hmmm... how to prepare the buyer for the tour...

Vicks Vaporub under the nose? 

Aug 19, 2016 12:38 AM
Kathryn J.
Rentec Direct - Grants Pass, OR
Rentec Direct

I love your post.  Measuring the stink rate!  haha

Even febreeze and those plugins cannnot cover up some of those smells.   Ugh!

Aug 19, 2016 12:08 AM
Andrea Swiedler

Kathryn, why thank you! Yes, you really need to get to the bottom of the stink tank and figure out what the cause is!

Aug 19, 2016 12:38 AM
Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC - Fort Collins, CO
Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate

Hi Andrea - We're hard-wired to react to bad smells, and it's a huge deal killer. And we agree with your recommendation of Nature's Miracle - it works great when our guys have an accident, but you have to use a lot of it.

Aug 19, 2016 03:43 AM
Andrea Swiedler

Dick, I suppose we are hard wired to react! And yes, you do have to use a bit of it, but in the end, it works. That is the ONLY product I know of to get rid of cat smells. At first it makes them worse, then you use it again. 

Aug 19, 2016 10:05 PM
Anita Clark
Coldwell Banker Access Realty ~ 478.960.8055 - Warner Robins, GA
Realtor - Homes for Sale in Warner Robins GA

Andrea: You can bet those 4 stinkers will be on the market for awhile too. No one likes house odors!

Aug 19, 2016 03:53 AM
Andrea Swiedler

 Anita, I am sure they will be. Unless the agents get a handle on the situation with the sellers. 

Aug 19, 2016 10:06 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

There are few things that will turn off most homebuyers quicker than foul smells.  And, cat odors can be among the worst.

Aug 19, 2016 04:29 AM
Andrea Swiedler

Myrl, oh that is so true. That and smoke. Funny, they often will forgive a dog smell, but if they find a house with no smell, they like that better!

And cat smells are hard to remove. 

Aug 19, 2016 10:07 PM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Cigarette odor is one that can kill deals too.  I'm actually having a hard time finding a rental for a cigarette smoker now.

Aug 19, 2016 06:37 AM
Andrea Swiedler

Chris Ann, recently I represented a landlord who had a no smoking policy. The tenant went outside to smoke, but the landlord had family in the same house. So.... he told him that no smoking extended to the entire property, of which there were quite a few acres. The landlord suggested an ecig when the tenant was at home. They worked it out. But yes, I know what you mean!

Aug 19, 2016 10:08 PM
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Las Vegas, NV

Hello Andrea

Great post and some home owners just don't get it do they and I totally agree with Chis Ann (above) 

Aug 19, 2016 02:09 PM
Andrea Swiedler

Thank you VB!

Aug 19, 2016 10:09 PM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, EXP - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Hard to get past the welcome of a stinky home, certainly narrows down the list very quickly.

Aug 19, 2016 03:59 PM
Andrea Swiedler

Bob, yes indeed it does narrow down the field! I sometimes wish I could bottle the smell to save the buyer an unpleasant experience. 

Aug 19, 2016 10:09 PM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
www.iCharlotteHomes.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

Oh, I can't get past odor - and if I'm meeting someone for the first time to list their home, I will even tell them that they need to do something about x, y or z with regards.  The senses are critical when selling a home - including smell!

Aug 21, 2016 01:03 AM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

Scent can be the strongest of our senses. 

Here are few steps one can take to keep smells at bay: 

  • change air filters regularly;
  • do laundry regularly;
  • use the fan over the stove when cooking or open windows.
  • clean refrigerators often;
  • walk dogs and bathe pets regularly, clean their beddings, toys, litter boxes. 


Jan 17, 2018 08:27 PM