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Odious Odors - The Olfactory Factor


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I was recently showing a home, and the couple viewing it found the home's smell quite unpleasant, so much so that I think it greatly influenced their decision not to consider the home for purchase even though it met all their criteria. The home itself was nice, although a bit older. However there was an overall aroma of dog, and each room seemed to have its own unique, and unpleasant, smell. The kitchen area smelled of stale grease. The “sunroom" smelled like it had been used for smoking cigarettes. The teenagers room had a particularly sour smell that could have been partly caused by old socks, but the psychedelic posters on the wall confirmed our suspicions that it wasn't cigarettes being smoked in that room.

While everyone's house is their own private oasis, and they are free to do what they please there, when it comes time to sell, we might need to clean up a few of our bad habits in order to make our home's smell more appealing to buyers. Here's a few tips.

Cleaning the carpets and drapes goes a long way towards removing stale smells. As a bonus, it also makes your home cleaner and brighter, so it's a win win situation and worth the minimal investment of time and money.

Wash any pet beds, and consider having Fido stay with a neighbor when your home is being shown. If this isn't possible, keeping their bedding and your carpets clean, and giving your dog a regular bath should keep their unpleasant odors to a minimum.

Baking soda is a great natural scent absorber. Sprinkle it on carpets to absorb unpleasant smells before vacuuming. Keep an open box in the refrigerator, or in any room that tends to accumulate smells.

Be sure to keep any litter boxes immaculately clean to prevent their smell from permeating your home. Also, if you have an indoor compost container, be sure to empty it daily.

If you smoke, take it outside. Tobacco, and any other, smoke can really be absorbed by the fabrics in a home. While smokers might not notice the smell, non-smokers can be quite turned off by the smell. An acquaintance of mine had to get rid of a couch she inherited from a smoking relative because every time she sat in it she got a headache from the stinking couch. Chemically sensitive people can have allergic reactions even when the smoke smell is quite old. If you have smoked in the house, washing the carpets and upholstery, airing the home out, and stopping all indoor smoking should make it less noticeable. However, you may even need to go as far as washing or painting the walls and ceiling. I've seen ceilings yellow from nicotine stains.

Be sure to keep up with your laundry when showing your home, especially if you have teens, or if anyone in your home suffers from foot fungus. This may be too personal, but it is true that the smell of sour socks can be a definite turn-off.

While it is important to have your home smelling fresh, keep in mind that air fresheners, incense or other such products can be just as irritating to sensitive people. Further, it may make them wonder what you are trying to hide. Some people recommend having a pot of cinnamon sticks simmering in water on the stove. This may help to make your home smell fresh, but then again, just cleaning it and eliminating the cause of further odors is probably the best bet.

Branden Schroeder is Maryland's first “EcoBroker" designated real estate agent. To search for Severna Park real estate or for more information on Maryland Real Estate and Property, visit Branden online at


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