Friday, February 15, 2008

What's That Smell?

Oooh, that smell! Can you smell that smell?

Other than being a great song from Lynrd Skynrd, it’s not something we, in the Real Estate business, ever like to hear.

One of the things my parents taught me, from an early age, is that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. That said, can you imagine a worse first impression of any house than a bad smell when entering? Yuck!

The possible sources of bad odors in a house is endless – far more than I could ever list in this article. I’m reminded of the gist of a definition from the Supreme Court – You can’t really define it, but you know it when you see (smell) it! Here’s a “short list” of possible bad odors you can leave in your home, which will turn off most buyers:

1. Cooking odors – especially regional spices.
2. Animal odors – food, dander, litter box, you get the picture.
3. Smoking – both legal and illegal materials.
4. Mold – more on that later.

Let me relate some experiences (each of these with different buyers) I’ve had in my years in the business:

A. I recall showing a house in the country, which was occupied by tenants. Evidently they liked living in the country for law enforcement reasons, as the house reeked of freshly-smoked marijuana! They must have stubbed out the joint right before we got there. Wheeeeee!!!!

B. Another house smelled so terribly of dog (it must have been a “water” dog, like a retriever) that the buyer and I both coughed terribly upon entering. We tried to make it into the next room, hoping the odor would dissipate, but no luck. That house stunk so bad, even a dog lover wouldn’t touch it!

C. In another house, the buyers and I arrived soon after dinner. We coughed and sneezed at the spices in the air – throughout the whole house! It wasn’t just the kitchen. When I called the other agent to report what we had found, I was told that they had prepared their special (insert country name here) “death sauce”. Lovely! Right before you want to show your home to potential buyers? Brilliant!

D. You can never predict your pets. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve walked past a freshly-used litter box. It’s like the cats know that strangers are about to enter their home, so they like to leave a present for the guests. Yikes!

Earlier I mentioned mold. We’d all like to think that we don’t have mold in our homes, but the sad fact is that it’s everywhere. Given the increasing use of products like Tyvek in home construction these days, there is plenty of moisture available in most homes to breed a nice crop of mold.

I found a nice checklist from the government about problems with mold, and copy it here below:
Here are 10 things to consider regarding mold:

1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
3. If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
5. Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60% ) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and dehumidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dish washing, and cleaning.
6. Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
7. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
8. Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
9. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
10. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

For more information on mold, visit the EPA’s mold site.

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