One of my professional groups recently had a thread about what to do about stinky homes when staging to sell. Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest and least discussed problems when staging. I have had experience with this, and it takes a little strategy. First, if you are putting your home on the market, ask a friend (but not one who is at your home all the time) to come and honestly help you assess smell. You don’t need tact here, you need candor. All homes smell like something. What you strive for is a neutral to slightly yummy odor. Anything less will be a turnoff to someone, and you want to get ahead of that problem.
First, do all the basic stuff. Vaccuum and clean, open the windows and air things out, take out the trash and wash linens. If you smoke, stop smoking. Ok, I know this is easier said than done, but I had to say it. Even smoking only outside will not fix the problem, as odors come in on your clothes and accessories. Make sure the cat box is cleaned more than daily, and sign the dog up for a weekly bath at the local pooch spa. Take off vent covers and vaccumm inside vents, and replace or clean filters. Have the carpets deep cleaned, and heavy drapes removed or professionally cleaned. Try adding a light fresh scent, like a single potpourri or lavender scent. Be careful, because the goal is to not actually have a scent, but just leave a positive “blink” impression. My favorite trick is to boil some cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg on the stove while I’m cleaning the day before an open house.
Next, get serious about really problem odors by tackling large surfaces that hold odors. If painting, you can seal the surfaces first with a primer, then paint the color. Just replacing carpets may not be enough if there is heavy smoke or pet damage. Again, you may need to seal plywood floors with primer before replacing both the carpet and padding. In the case of hardwood floors, if damage is extensive, you may need to sand and re-seal with polyurethane. If the odor is still pervasive, be sure to remove everything from closets and move off-site, if at all possible. Clothing will retain stale and smoke odors.
Then it is time to bring out the big guns. My tool of choice is an air purifier called Fresh Air by EcoQuest. This is a single unit, usually about the size of a small stereo, that treats the whole house by purifying the air and doing something with ozone to change the chemical composition of the environment. It sounds like hocus pocus, but if you’ve ever been in a house that has one of these, you recognize it because it has that fresh smell like after a rain storm. I bought a unit to use for my staging clients after I rented one for two weeks for a problem home. With two chain smokers, even a complete paint job and new pad/carpet AND having them completely remove all of their belongings didn’t improve the smell. Two weeks later…they had a completely fresh property with a sold sign in the yard! I now rent my unit to homeowners who stage with me. Here’s to success selling your lovely home!