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Hitting the 80% stink rate

smelly homes don't sellI recently had the pleasure of previewing 5 homes in one day, 4 of them will be forever embedded in my olfactory memory. Yes, I will remember these homes and not for a good reason. They were in the 80th percentile for a stink rate.


First home hit me with a putrid smell of rotting garbage when I entered the door. The home appeared to be clean and neat, but OH MY. I persevered, making sure not to let the cats out as instructed. 3 cats, all rescue animals, how sweet and kind.  And oh my, I hope they enjoy those cats more than they want to sell their home! Upstairs smelled of cats that sprayed and peed from one end of the home to the other! I couldn't get out of there fast enough. 

Moving on...  Next was a very sweet home, really cute as a button, inside and out. Went down in the basement and YIKES! They must have been having 500 people over for cigar smoking parties! Although the basement was unfinished, there was a seating area, so I know it was being used. And this was a walk out basement, SO WALK OUTSIDE TO SMOKE! 

Next... A home recently vacated by the owners, it had been cleaned after leaving. I could tell they had cleaned the carpets upstairs. But they missed the mark on the carpet cleaning as the entire upstairs reeked of a very strong combination of wet, stinky dog and 15-year-old boy dirty socks and sneakers!

And finally, just to top off such a pleasant experience... The last home just smelled. It has been vacant for a while, so that explains it. Mildewy, musty, let me out of here in case it's the real "M" word. 

The only house I saw that didn't ring the bell on the smell-o-meter was a 204-year-old home. Interesting that after 204 years, you would think that somewhere in the home there might be a whiff of something. Not even in the basement! 

Yes indeed, I will remember 4 out of the 5 homes I saw. They were memorable. Olfactory speaking that is. 

If you are trying to sell your home and you rate high on the stink-o-meter, you really need to do something about it. And I don't mean you should cover up the offensive odor. You need to identify and treat the odor. There are good products out there to get rid of smells. 

For pet smells, I love a product called Nature's Miracle. They have a few different options for the pet lover, I have had personal experience with it and it works. They even have a skunk odor remover which my dog will attest to its effectiveness. 

For many other odors, there is always Zero Odor. I know it is a bit expensive, but it does seem to do the trick. 

Moldy, musty smells means there is an issue. Perhaps a dehumidifier along with a good cleaning?

If you can't get rid of the smells, call in a professional. If you aren't sure if your house smells or not, find the most critical and annoying person you know, invite them over and ask them to be brutally honest with you. Then ask the question.... "does my house smell?"

Because the old real estate adage is true, if you can smell it, you can't sell it! And I do prefer to sell homes rather than smell homes. 

After that experience, my nose needs a rest! 


Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County Real Estate

2017 President, Greater New Milford Board of Realtors

2017 Connecticut Magazine 5 Star Realtor


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Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Litchfield County Regional Office,375 Danbury Rd, New Milford, CT 06776


© Andrea Swiedler 2009 - 2017

 Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest. - Mark Twain

Comment balloon 16 commentsAndrea Swiedler • August 19 2016 03:14AM


It is important for listing agents with empty houses to keep on top of them - not just whether the doors are locked but how are they looking, how are they smelling! and it helps to flush all the toilets regularly 

Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC (Keller Williams Capital Properties) almost 4 years ago

Oh that is too bad.  Indeed, bad smells prevent most buyings from buying.  Good advice on how to solve some of these issues.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 4 years ago

Good morning Andrea Swiedler ,

I love your post! You are so right because I believe in the old adage " If you can smell it you can't sell it!

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) almost 4 years ago

Andrea Swiedler We do encounter similar homes and usually the visit is extremely brief. when feedback is asked, we are completely truthful regardless of the reaction. 

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) almost 4 years ago

Good morning Andrea. Oh my what an outting. Too bad. I have dogs and am very aware that smells are deadly. When my home was on the market I took the gang with me and no one knew.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) almost 4 years ago

Andrea I have been to a few houses like that and it is exit stage left as 

Posted by George Souto, Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert (George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages) almost 4 years ago


That's a pretty high % of stinky homes. Aren't you the lucky one?! I wonder if the sellers are even aware or maybe they just don't care? So how do you prepare buyers for their tour?


Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California) almost 4 years ago

I love your post.  Measuring the stink rate!  haha

Even febreeze and those plugins cannnot cover up some of those smells.   Ugh!

Posted by Kathryn J., Rentec Direct (Rentec Direct) almost 4 years ago

Hi Andrea - We're hard-wired to react to bad smells, and it's a huge deal killer. And we agree with your recommendation of Nature's Miracle - it works great when our guys have an accident, but you have to use a lot of it.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) almost 4 years ago

Andrea: You can bet those 4 stinkers will be on the market for awhile too. No one likes house odors!

Posted by Anita Clark, Realtor - Homes for Sale in Warner Robins GA (Coldwell Banker Access Realty ~ 478.960.8055) almost 4 years ago

There are few things that will turn off most homebuyers quicker than foul smells.  And, cat odors can be among the worst.

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) almost 4 years ago

Cigarette odor is one that can kill deals too.  I'm actually having a hard time finding a rental for a cigarette smoker now.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) almost 4 years ago

Hello Andrea

Great post and some home owners just don't get it do they and I totally agree with Chis Ann (above) 

Posted by Robert Vegas Bob Swetz almost 4 years ago

Hard to get past the welcome of a stinky home, certainly narrows down the list very quickly.

Posted by Bob Crane, Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671 (Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities) almost 4 years ago

Oh, I can't get past odor - and if I'm meeting someone for the first time to list their home, I will even tell them that they need to do something about x, y or z with regards.  The senses are critical when selling a home - including smell!

Posted by Debe Maxwell, CRS, The right Charlotte REALTOR! ( | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310) almost 4 years ago

Scent can be the strongest of our senses. 

Here are few steps one can take to keep smells at bay: 

  • change air filters regularly;
  • do laundry regularly;
  • use the fan over the stove when cooking or open windows.
  • clean refrigerators often;
  • walk dogs and bathe pets regularly, clean their beddings, toys, litter boxes. 


Posted by Inna Ivchenko, Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA (Barcode Properties) over 2 years ago