“What’s That Smell?” – Prepare to Sell by Ridding Your Home of Odors

When preparing to sell your home, you’ll remove clutter, clean up messes, touch up paint and do everything possible to maximize the visual appeal for potential buyers. But be sure not to overlook a key factor in maximizing your home’s appeal because it’s something you’re so accustomed to you don’t even realize it’s there. Avoid scaring off potential buyers because their first impression of your home is, “Ew…what’s that smell?” No matter how great a home looks, if it smells like pets, smoke, fish, mildew, etc., buyers are going to be turned off.

The first step to removing unpleasant odors from a home is to identify which odors exist and pinpoint the source. Because our noses become desensitized to the smells we live with, it is important to get a third party to do a sniff test for you. Ask a friend or family member who does not live with you to walk through the house and tell you if anything smells. Once you know what your buyer’s nose might pick up, the next steps are to pinpoint the source and get rid of the odor. Keep in mind that efforts should be focused on removing the offensive smells from the home, and not on covering them up. Air fresheners do not get rid of odors, they only mask them, and often their smell is every bit as unpleasant as the original odor.

Common Household Odors & How to Neutralize them

Cooking odors -Whether it’s baked salmon or strong spices, smells from cooking can permeate a house. Try putting a small bowl of white vinegar near the stove while you’re cooking to help absorb the odor. This is also a great way to remove the smell of burned popcorn from a microwave.

Pets – From damp fur to a full litter box, pets can create a plethora of unpleasant smells. If the pets themselves are stinky, give a thorough bath and be sure to remove them from the home before showing (this should be done regardless of odor…buyers don’t want to see your animals). Buy clumping cat litter, scoop it daily and make sure the litter box is removed from the home before buyers arrive. You should also consider steam cleaning carpets and upholstery to remove lingering pet odors.

Smoke – Cigarette smoke can be very difficult to remove because it clings to walls, surfaces, upholstery and clothing. Some steps to take include cleaning all surfaces with vinegar, running drapery through the washing machine, steam clean carpets and upholstery, and open up the windows to let the home air out. In some cases it may also be helpful to repaint the walls to cover the smell of smoke that has found its way into the paint. And in extreme cases, you may need to call in a fire/smoke restoration firm to use an Ozone machine to remove smoke odor.

Common Hallway Smells – While the common areas in your building are technically not your responsibility, the odors that come from them are still problematic when it comes to selling your home. To minimize offensive odors from common areas, you should consider scheduling appointments and Open Houses at times when neighbors are not cooking. Also check your compactor/garbage rooms and make sure they are tidy, and if they are not, be sure to let your super or maintenance people know about it.

Garbage – In addition to emptying the household trash before a showing, it’s important to also clean out the cans, both inside the home and outside. Vinegar and water is a safe and effective cleaning solution to wipe down smelly garbage cans.

Damp basement – Due to their underground location, basements can be very damp and musty. To keep odors to a minimum, run a dehumidifier, and use a product like DampRid to help keep moisture out of the air.

Stinky garbage disposal – Garbage disposal units can be a great selling point – particularly in NYC where many apartments prohibit them, and the city only recently allowed them. But there is a dark side to these little miracle shredders – they can harbor food waste, which can emit a pungent decaying smell. Freshen up the disposal by running hot water down the drain and grinding citrus peels. As an added benefit, the citrus peel will also help give your home a fresh smell.

And finally, don’t be afraid to try the age old trick of baking chocolate chip cookies before your showings and place a batch on the table for buyers to munch on. Few people can resist, and the smell will be sure to leave a smile on most faces.

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