Are odors in your home, keeping your house from selling?

Are you nose blind to the stinky odors in your house? Your buyers aren’t and these stinky smells may be turning buyers away for your house. We look at 7 odors that turn off potential buyers and what you can do about them.

Pet odors

We love our pets, but we become used to the smell of our pets and soon don’t smell the odors they leave behind. I was recently in a friends house and when I walked into their living room, noticed the distinct smell. It was the smell of their pet dog. Their dog was not in the house currently, but the smells from their pet, had permeated the furniture in their house.

I’m sure my house smells like our pet cat. I don’t notice it when I walk in the house, but I’m guessing our guests notice it. I know when I go on vacation and come back home, somehow the house smells different. It’s because my nose isn’t accustomed to the smell of my house. It’s the same with your buyers. When prospective buyers come through your house, they smell your pet’s odors.

Pet bedding and litter boxes

We all all know to clean our pet’s litter box. If you can, put it in the garage or someplace out of the way where buyers won’t be smelling your cat’s business. Take the dog’s bedding and wash it. Better yet, remove it completely. They’ll survive sleeping on the floor.

Pet oils

Your pet may use the litter box, or always do their business outside. However, most pets have oils in their fur that rub off on your furniture. After just a few months, the oils can be be significant enough to be smelled by humans.

If your Fido doesn’t always go outside to do their business, the smells can be harder to locate. Often the smells are buried in the corners of the room, in the sheet rock, under the carpet in the carpet tack strips or in the padding. Cleaning the carpet doesn’t usually work. Unfortunately, most carpet cleaning just makes the odors stronger. Rather than removing the odors, water reactivates the odors buried underneath in the padding.

Treating pet odors

There are enzymes such as Anti Icky Poo you can purchase that will help neutralize these odors. However, these enzymes are expensive except for spot treatment. They typically run about $30 a gallon.

If you have several spots or have had pets for several years, you may also need to remove the carpet, tack strips and baseboard to be able to treat the problem areas.

Once treated, you may also need to seal the walls and floors with a shellac or an oil based primer such as Zinser Primer. In some cases, you may actually have to remove the wallboard or flooring. I remember seeing a house several years ago where the pet urine stains were so bad they had actually ran down under the house to the floor joists. When crawling under the house, you could see the yellow stains that had run down the boards. Needless to say, it was going to take a special cash buyer to buy that house.

Smells like a chimney

Non smokers can be very sensitive to the cigarette smoke. I can actually smell cigarette smoke from the cars next to me at stoplights. And it doesn’t have to be cigarettes. We bought a house where marijuana smoke permeated the house. It was so bad, you could actually smell it from outside the front door.

Solving smoke odors

Solving smoke odors can usually be cured by washing the walls with TSP and then repainting the walls. TSP is a great cleanser and will help the underlying paint to accept a fresh coat of paint. However, TSP is banned in several states for environmental and health reasons and should be used with care.

If TSP and painting the walls doesn’t do the trick, you may need to prime your walls with a shellac based primer like Zinser Primer mentioned above. Unfortunately, these products are very expensive and typically run around $45 a gallon and have a strong, almost caustic odor during application.


We all know it. We just don’t always want to admit it. Our teenagers’ bedrooms smell. Whether it’s their personal hygiene, dirty laundry, or bedding – it smells. They can try to hide it with candles, air fresheners or scented oils, but it still smells.

Since you can’t kick your teenagers out of the house, your best bet is a thorough washing of everything in the room, including the walls and carpet.

Air fresheners

The only cure for bad odors is to remove them. Adding air fresheners doesn’t remove them, it just creates another odor. More and more people are discovering that sensitive to perfumes and other strong smells. Be careful with overwhelming people with perfumy smells. One air freshener in the home may be okay, but don’t over do it.

If you are unsure if your home smells, ask an unbiased friend to come by your house and let you know what they smell as they walk through the house. If they smell anything but the fresh flowers on the table or homemade chocolate chip cookies, you should address the smell.


It’s not just bathroom business that smells. Maybe it’s your exhaust fan that needs cleaning and keeps foul odors lingering. Scrub your toilet inside and out, making sure to get under the lip, and all around the outside of the toilet. If the toilet seat is old, replace it. Toilet seats can be purchased at your local hardware store for around $20-$25. Your toilet cleaning brushes and plunger can also smell. If they have been used for awhile, buy new ones. They’ll not only smell better, but they’ll make your bathroom look nicer to potential buyers.

Your kitchen stinks

It’s not just the garbage that smells. It’s the grease that builds up. Your favorite foods may not be appetizing smells for everyone else. As you use your kitchen, oils blend with the spices you use and begin to coat the walls. Over time, your kitchen takes on the smells of your cooking.

Years ago I was with a friend in a local greasy dive restaurant. He was an exterminator and said he could smell the cockroaches. When I asked him what he meant he said, “I can smell the grease and cockroaches love grease.” Your prospective buyers however, do not.

Removing kitchen smells

In order to remove kitchen smells, wash your walls with a mild detergent. If there’s lots of grease on the walls, you will need to use a degreaser like TSP mentioned above. Keep in mind if you use TSP on your walls, you will need to repaint them when your done cleaning, as TSP removes more than just grease.

Also be sure to clean your exhaust fan filters as grease builds up in them. If you have an above stove microwave with an exhaust fan, be sure to clean the ventilation grill on the microwave of grease.

Mold and mildew

Mold and mildew have a very distinctive, musty smell. If your house smells damp and musty, you need to find the source and remove it.

Look under your sinks. Leaks under your sinks, destroy the cabinets and have the potential of causing mildew and causing foul odors.

Bathrooms, kitchens, basements and laundry rooms are all common locations for mold and mildew. Bathrooms with showers often lack good ventilation and mildew may begin to grow on the walls and ceilings. Window tracks also collect moisture from condensation, especially if they’re single pane windows.

Preventing mold and mildew

Mold and mildew grow where moisture doesn’t have a chance to dry out. Open the window in your bathroom after your shower if you don’t have a bath fan. If you have a bath fan, remove the cover and clean the blades to help ventilation. Finally, clean areas that are susceptible to mildew with a mild cleaning solution periodically.

Mold can be serious issue for some people. If your house has serious mold or mildew issues, you may need to hire a mold abatement company. You can expect the price for mold remediation to start around $1,000 and go up from there.

Create good smells in your house

We don’t want to leave you with just the bad smells in your home. You can add good smells to your home too. Fresh plants and flowers are a great way to add natural smells to your home. Putting a small potted, flowering plant in the kitchen can add a nice touch to your kitchen and a pleasant odor.

For years, real estate agents have said to bake chocolate chip cookies before having an open house. If you don’t have time, you can also add a drop of vanilla extract on a warm burner.

Take the time to remove the stinky odors in your house. Replace them with pleasant smells. Not only will your house smell better, but it will sell faster and for a higher price.

Get an Offer for Your Sacramento Area Home

Share it!