Oh, That Smell!

Often overlooked by the current owner, the odor of a home can make or break a sale. Buyers who are allergic may turn and walk right out if they catch so much as a whiff of something off. Buyers instinctively place a higher value on a clean, fresh-smelling listing, often associating this with a well-maintained home that's move-in ready.

This applies particularly to properties that are in use. Below are tips you can share with your sellers to help maximize the offers for your listings.

1. Nix body odor.

Yes, I said it. Before any showing, make sure that there are clean sheets on all the beds and fresh towels in all bathrooms and the kitchen. Your seller needs to keep up with the laundry: no sweaty workout clothes or dirty socks.

2. Eliminate pet smells.

It's critical to eliminate the source of pet odor. If a pet has marked its territory, choose an enzyme cleaner that is safe for animals. When cleaning, pay particular attention to the areas where a pet eats, naps, and sleeps. Buyers who are allergic to animals will quickly detect any lingering pet smells.

3. Eradicate smoke.

A home that smells like cigarette or cigar smoke will be tough to sell. Worse, this is a difficult odor to remove, as smoke permeates all soft surfaces such as curtains, upholstery, and even drywall. The fix here is more expensive: professional cleaning of all window treatments and curtains, upholstered furniture, and rugs; the use of a specialty paint for walls and even ceilings; and all new pillows and accent pieces.

4. Clean the kitchen.

We've all walked into a kitchen that smells of particular foods or spices, or worse yet, kitchen garbage. Every buyer is different, and every buyer is sensitive to different smells. This might be the right time for your sellers to treat themselves to a few meals out. As for garbage, a good point is to make sure that all trash is removed from the kitchen (and all other rooms!) before a showing.

5. Attack any mold.

Mold is an immediate turnoff to most buyers, and rightly so. Buyers are quick to detect and reject a home that smells musty. Mold requires professional removal. What is less costly: prevention. Proper ventilation and dehumidifiers can prevent this from becoming a problem.

I'm often asked about air fresheners and my answer is always no. An air freshener indicates a potential odor problem to buyers. The goal is to remove odors - not cover them up - so that buyers can focus on what you really want them to see: the unique features of your beautiful listing.

This can be a hard conversation to bring up with your sellers. Please contact me if you need help broaching the topic.