Eun Young Lee
Phew! Your house smells. What now?
One of the quickest ways to lose a sale is to ignore odors in your home. Of course, you don't always smell them, so it's best if you have someone else come in with, ahem, a fresh nose, to point out issues. But, what if you’re the one that bought the house … you assumed the odors would leave with the sellers, but on they linger, long after you’ve moved in.
First things first
Start by removing the cause of smells. Of course, if it’s your spouse, that might not work, but old furniture, pet beds, trash cans and the like should go. Some smells are part of you or your family’s lifestyle. These include certain foods and spices, pet odors and smoke.
If you're a smoker, know that your home smells like stale nicotine, so unless you're ready to give up smoking to sell your home, you might need to move out first.
When you’re ready to get rid of the odors, try these methods:
Pet odor—long-term pet owners can’t always smell their furry friends, but as long as there is pet hair, a litter box, or pet urine and feces left over from puppy training, there are odors. Vacuum up as much hair as possible. You may have to vacuum in the ductwork too since pet hair tends to get sucked up into the HVAC system. Use a baking-soda based cleaner on the carpets and any upholstery in the house.
Nicotine and smoke—long-term smoking can leave stains on the walls, so first, consider washing those walls. You'll need a heavy-duty cleaner, such as trisodium phosphate or an organic cleaner to clean the walls, woodwork and cabinet faces.
If odor persists, you may need to have a professional carpet cleaner that specializes in odor removal come in. Or, consider removing the carpet if it is older and needs replacing anyway.
Dry-clean upholstery and drapes. Wash windows and blinds too.
Clean the ducts yourself or hire a service to do it for you. Otherwise, you risk bringing back odors when the season changes and you go from heat to air conditioning or vice versa.
Use some tried and true remedies:
- vinegar (white for windows and fixtures)
- apple cider for smells in the drain or garbage disposal
- a cut up lemon to run through the disposal
- baking soda for the refrigerator and near where smells originate
- coffee grounds in bowls around the living areas to absorb smells
- or use commercial odor neutralizers in a neutral fragrance.
If you’re selling your home, ask your agent to give you an honest assessment of how your home’s odors might affect a sale.