Admit it, you now have a little Lynyrd Skynyrd rattling around in your head—“Oo oo that smell. Can’t you smell that smell…” Not nearly as morbid as that tune, but houses have smells that can tell you a lot about the house. Most of them are harmless—what was cooked there recently, someone lives there that likes cheap perfume, the current owner has a preference for citrus cleaning products, a Scentsy distributor probably lives there, etc. But some of these smells mean you better pay attention. Here are just a few:
Mildew. This very distinct smell can sometimes be covered up, but not for long. The smell of mildew in a house can come from a leaking drain under the sink, a leaking roof, water underneath floor coverings—anywhere there has been moisture. When you smell mildew in a house, it’s not a deal breaker, but the source absolutely needs to be determined and corrected. Often times when the mildew source is discovered, mold is also present, and must be remediated.
Animal odor. Do I need to elaborate? We love our pets, but their bodily excretions don’t love the finishes in houses. From Fido’s potty training mishaps, to Patches’ litter box, to that downright uncivilized cat that sprayed the walls and furniture—it all makes “an impression.” If you’re trying to sell your house, it can leave potential buyers with a bad taste in their mouth (okay, maybe the wrong phrase to choose). If you’re potentially buying a house with animal odors, be fully aware of what it will take to get rid of them. I’ve yet to see a carpet treatment that works—especially if there are numerous spots. Most of the time carpet and pad need to be replaced, and the sub-flooring treated with Kilz to prevent the odor from coming right back up through the new pad and carpet. In the case of cat spray on walls, it also must be treated with Kilz and repainted. A good black light will show the source(s) of the odor.
Oil. Homes that have or have had an oil-burning furnace can sometimes smell like oil. When there is enough in the air that you can smell it, it can only mean two things—either the oil furnace has serious issues, or the oil tank has leaked. Both are expensive repairs, and need to be addressed.
Marijuana. Dope. Weed. Reefer. Pot. Whatever you want to call it, you can smell it. This is becoming a growing issue in Oregon and Washington real estate, with the legalization of marijuana growing and consumption. Honestly, unless someone was sparking a bowl 24/7, the smoke itself is no worse than if a cigarette smoker lived in the house. The problem comes from a grow operation—legal or otherwise. Due to temperature, moisture and duration of exposure during the growing and drying process, the smell permeates all of the “soft surfaces” of the areas where it has been grown—this INCLUDES drywall. Often times drywall will have to be removed, replaced, retextured and repainted. Carpet is also a lost cause. Electrical modifications are often made for a growing operation, so you also want to have the electrical system professionally inspected to make sure everything was done to code.
Cigar/Cigarette Smoke. Surprisingly, this is one of the least worrisome. Yes, it smells. Yes, you need to deal with it. However, a good scrubbing, a carpet cleaning, and a layer of new paint cures it most of the time. In the most severe cases the walls may need a coat of Kilz and the carpet & pad may need to be replaced, but this should only be necessary if there were one or more heavy smokers that regularly smoked in the house.
As a seller, you want to make sure you are making the best impression possible—deal with the smells in your house up front, and it will pay off with a sale. You are also used to the smells in your house—have someone else come in and ask them what they smell. If you’re a buyer, use the smells to your advantage—thoroughly investigate the cause and the extent, and use it to negotiate the lowest price possible, knowing that other potentially competing buyers were left with a bad taste in their mouth…or smell in their nose…and passed on the property all together.
Please pass my name and contact info along when anyone you know is “sniffing around” for a great real estate agent to represent them.