Please pardon our pun. Seriously, though, when we ask our house stylists why some nicely presented houses sell quickly and other similar homes do not, they usually give us a list of possible problems with the sale. That list ranges from the home’s location to overly optimistic pricing. Inevitably, these professionals in the real estate world reveal that unpleasant odours can present a particularly thorny problem and are too often overlooked.

When we live in a house day after day, we get used to the smells within it. When you live with an odour, it becomes part of your natural world. If the smell were gone, you might even miss it.
One woman, whose spouse smokes a pipe, had occasion to learn this lesson while on a business trip. She checked into a non-smoking hotel room, unpacked her clothing, and then went out to dinner. When she returned, she was overwhelmed by the smell of tobacco smoke as she entered the room. Her husband’s smoke had stowed away in her clothing.

The house stylists we asked gave us a list of unpleasant odours that can throw a monkey wrench into an otherwise easy sale. We repeat them here along with a suggestion of how to correct the problem.
Decaying Food: On any given day the necessary elements of the smell of rotting food can be found in your kitchen, no matter how meticulously clean it is. In the garbage disposal unit, in and around the garbage bins, under the refrigerator — all are prime places for nasty smells to lurk.

• Put ice cubes and quartered lemons down your garbage disposal unit.

• Scrub the garbage bins inside and out – if your bins ‘live’ in pull-out cabinets, scrub them too.

• Pull out that refrigerator and check for food that’s rolled under the appliance. Also, check the drip pan underneath the fridge where spilled liquids, including the fluids from thawing meat, poultry, and fish, can gather to putrefy. Empty and clean it thoroughly. While you’re at it, clean the coil behind your refrigerator – it’s one of those out-of-sight, out-of-mind chores that most of us never do.

Pet Odours: We love our furry friends and our families love them totally. Other families, on the other paw, don’t necessarily share our affection for pets.

• Use a cleaner on the carpet that contains a special ingredient that acts on pet enzymes. (Check at a local pet supply store or ask your veterinarian.)

• Consider removing the carpeting and pad if odours persist. It may seem like a huge expense, but replacing the flooring will cost you less than having your home languish on the market for months.

• Put some baking soda in kitty’s litter box to absorb odours and keep it immaculately clean by scooping several times a day.

• Vanilla essence or vodka mixed with water will eliminate most odours and will not alarm potential buyers by making them think you are covering something up.

Musty Staleness: A general unpleasantness in the air may be caused by standing water in your air conditioning unit or be a signal that somewhere behind the walls wood is rotting.

• First clean the A/C unit. Water can linger in the unit and stagnate there. The easiest fix is to make sure this isn’t the problem.

• Check your bathrooms for places where water might collect. If it’s wood rot, it’s not going away without some serious remedial carpentry. Again, fixing the problem will cost less than a long wait on the market.

Finally, use caution when spraying or plugging in commercial deodorisers. Savvy buyers are immediately suspicious of heavy odours of any kind. You want your home to smell perfectly clean and not like a perfumery, according to our expert house stylists. Take it from the professionals, the nose really knows how clean your home is.

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