Smelling Your Home


Oops….what I meant to say was – Selling Your Home and the Olfactory Sense – which really does amount to Smelling Your Home.  When you are selling your home and a buyer first steps into it, their senses are on high alert.   The visual sense – is the home aesthetically pleasing? The hearing sense – is the home in a noisy or quiet location? But just as important is the olfactory sense – how does the house smell?  You’d be surprised at what people can pick up and sense about a house just from walking in the door and breathing in through their nose.  For those buyers who tune in and are sensitive to their senses, they can often get a feel for the history of the house and several of its issues that might not be readily identifiable otherwise.

Here are some smell issues to consider when selling your home – but don’t despair as I’ve included some suggestions to remedy these yucky odors too (in the blue font):

  • An empty house – If the house has been empty for some time, buyers can smell this.  The house will smell a bit stale and lifeless.  People living in a house produce smells, the air circulates, and the home smells vital and alive.  Not to mention that when the house is empty and a mouse dies in it, for example, no one is there to remove the mouse and deal with the associated odors.  To remedy this situation, ask your Realtor to air out and visit your house on a regular basis. This way s/he can clean up any smelly messes that may have developed and take care of the potentially stale odor that has permeated your house.

  • Cooking – believe it or not, this can be a real turn-off to buyers.  If, as soon as you step foot into a house, you get overwhelmed by wafts and smells of garlic, fish and/or onions, for example, it can cause a negative reaction. Prior to showings or open houses, try to refrain from cooking meals or dishes that produce smells which linger for hours or days.

  • Lit scented candles – this can often throw off a red flag to buyers as they will often think that the candle is masking an odor.  Get Glade plug-ins or room diffusers – these are much more subtle than a candle that is lit during a showing.  In the case of the plug-ins, people don’t often see them as they do a lit candle.

  • Pets and kitty litter – the smell of pets, pet hair and kitty litter can cause negative reactions amongst buyers, and this can be further heightened if the buyer happens to have an allergy to pet dander.  Be diligent about vacuuming the pet hair and/or cleaning the kitty litter while your house is on the market.  And definitely use a plug-in near the area of the kitty litter.  It’s also probably a good idea to clean furniture and carpets, especially if your cats and dogs spend quite a bit of time on certain chairs or rugs. Also while your house is on the market, plan to have it cleaned more thoroughly and regularly – it will help alleviate the smells (and hair too) of your furry friends.

  • Trash – I have showed houses in which I have been struck by a foul odor in a particular part of the kitchen.  Upon further investigation, I traced the smell to a full, yucky trash receptacle.  Make a concerted effort to take out/clean your interior trash cans regularly when your home is on the market.  And if you think something may smell especially unpleasant, i.e. over-ripe bananas, fish bones, empty cat food cans, put it in a plastic bag, tie it up and take it to your outdoor trash receptacle so it is out of the house.

  • Fireplace/smoke – if you are someone who enjoys frequent wood-burning fires during the cold months of the year, be aware that sometimes a house holds on to the smell of the fires and takes on a smoky odor.  First, use a Glade plug-in, and if the smell doesn’t dissipate and seems to be lingering, you may need to call a chimney sweep or contractor to clean the fireplace and inspect it to make sure it’s ventilated correctly and that there aren’t other issues with its functioning.

  • Water – this is the big smell for which all buyers are on the lookout.  If the home has a water issue, people can smell it – either as they walk through certain areas or as they enter the basement.  How many times have you walked into a basement and been overpowered by a musty smell.  And this can be a big red flag for buyers; there aren’t many buyers who don’t feel nervous and get cold feet about the thought of water in the basement.  Get at least one de-humidifier for the basement, and you may need to use a Glad plug-in as well.  If the water/musty smell continues, you may want to have a contractor come to your house and inspect the area in which you are smelling the water to see if there has been any damage.

What are your thoughts on the Smelling of a Home?  As a seller, have you heard complaints from buyers of a particular smell?  And/or as a buyer, has your nose and sense of smell allowed you an insight into the lifestyle of the owners of a home or any issues that they house may have.  Do you remember how your home smelled when you first walked in the door?  I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (, 781-267-2844 or, to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.