36 REALTOR® MARCH/APRIL 2015 REALTORMAG.REALTOR.ORG
What If Your Listing Stinks?
Sellers may be in denial about home odors. Here’s how you
can help them address smells that are driving buyers away.
Week after week, buyers turned up
their noses during showings of the tidy
single-story home in the hot San Jose,
Calif., market. Their resistance was
easy to pinpoint, but harder to address:
the aroma from years of heavy cooking
with curry was turning off buyers, and
the sellers didn’t care. Kathleen Daniels, broker-owner with KD Realty, tried
delicately to explain to the sellers that
buyers found the scent—which permeated the walls, floors, and furnishings—
overwhelming. Still, the sellers refused
to undertake a deep cleaning or change
their cooking habits.
Their resistance cost the sellers time
and money at the bargaining table. In an
area where time on market was typically
just 10 days and bidding wars were the
norm, the $629,000 home sat on the market for 35 days. The sellers dropped their
listing price several times until it eventually
sold for $575,000 in a short sale.
It’s not just food odors that turn buyers off. A 2013 study of Canadian home
owners sponsored by Pfizer Canada
found that smoking in a home could reduce the resale value by up to 29 percent.
Daniels views it as a fiduciary duty to talk
Don’t Mask. Treat
with sellers about the effect odors can
have on a home sale. In many cases, sell-
ers simply don’t realize the impact, and
most will be open to your suggestions
about how to address the stench. Stager
Tori Toth, owner of Stylish Stagers Inc. in
New York, offers ideas about how to dis-
cuss this sensitive subject with clients as
part of the overall strategy for prepping
a home for sale. “Scent can be the stron-
gest of our senses,” Toth says. “It can
make you form an instant impression.”
Here are ideas for countering offensive
smells in your listings.
Odor is caused by bacteria that attaches
to ceilings, walls, carpets, and draperies.
Common household offenders include
pets, food, dirty laundry, mold, smoking
residue, and air vents. Identify the source
of the smell and eliminate it. The remedy
is likely a professional deep cleaning
or do-it-yourself nontoxic fogger like
DynoFresh that neutralizes odors. “If you
temporarily treat the air with sprays or
plug-ins, the odor will resurface by your
next showing,” Toth says.
Add New Smells Sparingly
While air fresheners in large doses may
Tell Sellers: Live Meticulously
send a red flag that the seller is trying to
mask something, they may be useful in
moderation. After eliminating the source
of smells, Toth will sometimes advise
clients to introduce subtle, simple scents.
This may include laying fabric softener
sheets between clothes stacked on
closet shelves, placing lemon peels in the
kitchen garbage disposal, or adding plug-
ins near bathroom doors.
Let clients know of steps they can take to
keep smells at bay. Toth recommends:
b Take out the trash after every meal.
b Clean refrigerators often.
b Change air filters regularly.
b Do laundry regularly to avoid dirty
b Use the fan over the stove when
b Avoid cooking strong-smelling foods
like fish, broccoli, and garlic before
b Bathe pets regularly and clean bed-
ding, toys, and litter boxes often.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey