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  • Mattie Sheppard, ASP, STRS, IAHSP

What's That Smell? It's Killing The Sale!

Updated: Jun 1

So you have everything lined up, freshly painted walls, new light fixtures, new hardware on the cabinets, carpets cleaned, house is styled with new curtains, couch covers and fresh towels in kitchen and bathroom. The house is showing in the very best light (figuratively and literally) possible right? Right!

It's show time! Open House has begun and there are a number of prospects admiring the house. However, as they finish the walk-thru, they state to the Realtor, "this is a beautiful house but I just can't past the smell." You and the Realtor noticed it previously and tried to cover it up with some spray and lit candles throughout the place, but it doesn't appear to work. The prospects move on and visit neighboring houses for sale. The smell is literally killing the sell of the house.


So now you're both left wondering, what the heck is that smell and where is it coming from? You looked high and low, steam-cleaned the carpets, and you have become a stock owner in Febreze. Nothing you tried seems to work. Below are some tips to help you make that million dollar discovery.

  1. Furnace/Air conditioning - Check the vents, filters and duct work. Considering cleaning them or better yet replace any filters, duct, hoses, etc. This could be the source of the problem.

  2. Kitchen Sink/Bathroom Drain - If your kitchen sink develops a foul smell, pour a cup of bleach down the drain. The bleach will take care of the stink.

  3. Floor Drain - Floor drains that are not used often, will dry and cause an odor. A dry trap can cause a room to fill with potentially harmful sewer gas from the septic tank or the city sewer system. Eliminate this problem by adding about a quart of fresh water keeping the trap hydrated is essential.

  4. What's Behind Those Walls (and Floors) Pt 1 - If you have any leaks that has not been addressed this could be a major factor in what's making your house smell - mold and mildew growth. Find out the cause of the leak, in some cases bleach and water will kill the growth. However, something more intense you will need to take down drywall and replace damage flooring (if applicable) after you have fixed the leak.

  5. Window Sills and Frames - simply clean the mold with a soap and water solution, vinegar or diluted bleach with water, then spray directly on the mold and clean up.

  6. What's Behind Those Walls (and in the Ceiling) Pt 2? Another thing that can cause the odor is that something has died in the walls or in the ceiling. In which you will need to remove walls (and what's left of the carcasses).

  7. Mattress and Other Furniture - If it is not new, then it may just be your furniture. Try using baking soda to wipe down these pieces. It's not just for cleaning out refrigerators. You can sprinkle it on carpet, work it in a bit and vacuum it up. For other items, like mattresses, cushions and clothing, dampen the fabric and gently rub with baking soda, then wipe off/rinse with cold water. Then you can stop asking why does my house smell.

  8. Refrigerator - If you've ever lost power for several days, you understand the definition of "pungent." Although you cleaned and disinfected the fridge, the smell of rotten food remains in the air long after cleaning. Try stuffing the fridge with crumpled newspapers and charcoal to get rid of a strange smell in the house. The odor will be gone within several days...before the next open house.

  9. Fish Fry Anyone? - Anything that has been fried will leave a unwanted smell for days after you have digested the food. To combat this smell, considering doing Lemons or Other Citrus: Cut up several lemons. Place the lemon pieces in a pan of water and allow them to simmer on the stove. If your fish recipe calls for lemons or lemon juice, simply use the discarded lemon rinds for this purpose. If you've eaten an orange or grapefruit that day, throw the peel into the pot along with the lemons, or perhaps even instead of the lemons. You can also try Vinegar: Place a small pan of vinegar on the stove. Warm the vinegar and allow it to simmer. Cinnamon and Spices: Simmer a pot of water with a few cinnamon sticks or other great-smelling spices, such as ground cloves or fresh rosemary.

  10. Stink Bug - Stink Bug Odor Stink bugs get their name from the unpleasant odor they produce when they are threatened. It is thought that this odor helps protect the bugs against predators. The stink bugs produce the smelly chemical in a gland on their abdomen. Some species can actually spray the chemical several inches. To get rid of them, you can vacuum them up. Dispose of the vacuum bag immediately to prevent odor from permeating the area, as dead stink bugs leave a residue inside the bag that can stink up your home. Another thing you could do is replace and repairStink bugs can enter the home through the smallest openings, so it's important to repair or replace damaged screens on windows or doors. Don't forget to check for torn weather-stripping and loose mortar. You can also install door sweeps if necessary.

Best of luck in the sell of your house. If you have any other ideas or suggestion, leave

them in the comments below.

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So. Portland, ME 04116

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Above & Beyond Home Stagers, LLC will strategically stage your home and commercial property to make them appealing for quick turnover and at the highest profitability margin. 

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