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Are Bad Smells Turning Buyers Away?

How does your house smell? It might be worth an extra sniff because buyers certainly will take notice.


Sensory research shows that the smell of a home can affect a person’s mood, according to Terry Molnar, executive director of The Sense of Smell Institute, a New York–based organization that focuses on the importance of smell to human psychology, behavior, and quality of life.

A light floral fragrance can put people in a more pleasant mood, while citrus scents, such as lemon and grapefruit, tend to have an energizing effect, he says. “Vanilla is one scent that’s universal around the globe,” Molnar says. “People find it comforting and relaxing.”

But be careful: When you add smells to a home, it can be viewed as an attempt to cover up a bad odor. And if that’s the intent, it can make the problem worse. Sometimes a thorough deep clean will bring about a better smell, as it will be fresher, so if you need to clean your rugs and carpets then do not just spray random cleaning products, contact a Rug Cleaning Melbourne company or one similar and get that fresh smell that will bring people in.

So what if you do need to get rid of a bad smell? Here are some ideas from staging professionals:

– Take the trash out. It’s simple, but it can make a big difference. When the home is being shown, advise sellers to empty the garbage often.

– Snuff out the smoke. Encourage sellers to eliminate all smoking inside and even outside, particularly when the doors or windows are open. An ionizer can help remove smoke smells.

– Watch the cooking. The smell of lamb, broccoli, garlic, fish, and eggs can stick around long after the food has been eaten. If that’s the case, you might want to check if there are any problems with the chimney or if there are any blockages in the ducts. A good way to do that would be to hire an air duct cleaning company that can inspect for blockages and if necessary, can clean them thoroughly.

– Wash Fido. Pets can be a big source of smells. Limit the pet to an outdoor area or a certain room in the house that can be regularly cleaned, says staging professional Kellie Frooninckx, owner of Virtual Enriching Homes in Phoenix. However, if this option is not available, for reasons like not having the space to limit them to a certain area you could look at some alternatives. One such option would be to stop the dirt from coming into the house. As dirt from the outside can be hard to clean and add bad smells to the home, finding a way to limit this may be beneficial to you. A way to do this is to make sure your dog’s paws are thoroughly cleaned after each adventure outside. Or if you wanted to be perhaps more thorough you could look into paw coverings like dog boots for when they go outside. You might find some suitable options such as Walkee Paws best dog boots that stay on, for example, or in other dog boot providers. Also, clean the pet’s bedding regularly to stop bad odors coming from within the home.

Ideas for Creating Pleasing Scents:

Real estate professionals from across the country share with us their favorite home scents that are sure to please buyers.

“I recommend using lemon or citrus scented candles for showings and running a few lemon wedges through the garbage disposal.” −Christine Spitale, Sunflower Staging, Highland Mills, N.Y.

“Covering up the smell is not the answer. Sometimes it takes a thorough cleaning of carpets, drapes, and upholstery. It also helps to open windows to get air flowing and to clean out the air ducts.” −Barbara Linick, ERA Troy, REALTORS , San Antonio

“I think that cinnamon and vanilla are the best smells when trying to sell a home. I love to walk into a home and breathe in the fresh scent of cinnamon sticks on the stove or smell a burning vanilla candle.” −Fran Hughes, Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Perimeter, Atlanta

“I always use an electric ceramic crock that can hold small or large glass candles, like from Yankee Candle Co. There’s no risk of fire because there’s no flame; the ceramic crock warms the candle to melt the wax. I’ve used several of these in different places throughout the house, so as you walk through you get different fragrances.” −Linda C. Hardt, Homelynx Home Loans, Fort Myers, Fla.

“I use an odor eliminator called PureAyre that smells like mint. The product can be ‘injected’ into furniture or carpets. It can also be sprayed into the air. When buyers come into a home, many are turned off by the smell of air fresheners or candles. Smart buyers know these are old tricks used to cover up smells, not eliminate them.” −Carol Smith, Creative Home Stagers, Charlotte, N.C.

“Put a beer in the oven on low and it will smell like you’re baking fresh bread.” −Elizabeth Lord, Carolina Farms & Estates, York, S.C.

“When you introduce any pleasant smelling items to a home, try to stick to basic scents such as vanilla, apple, cinnamon, and lemon. In small doses, these often appeal to the most buyers. A small reed diffuser in a bathroom can keep a clean smell, while not overwhelming the space.” −Kellie Frooninckx, Virtual Enriching Homes, Phoenix

“Heat up some water and throw fresh cinnamon into it. Turn it off just before the buyers come. They’ll think that you baked cookies for them.” −April M. Newland, Newland Real Estate, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

“If the sellers have a basement they may need to get a dehumidifier. Basements are in the ground, a damp environment by nature. So many times we open the basement door and get smacked with a musty odor. Bye-bye good offer.” −Colette O’Mara, Weichert, REALTORS , North Syracuse, N.Y.

Reprinted from REALTOR Magazine Online April 2010 with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS . Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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