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Real estate risk: Poor indoor air quality

Posted by Julia G on

We’ve all seen these homes: They stay on the market forever because potential buyers turn up their noses at the bad for sale sign

Poor indoor air quality is a major sales blocker in the real estate market. Especially with first-time home buyers, bad smells are a warning sign there might be underlying and costly issues.

No smell is the best smell, but clean and neutral also work.

The causes of poor indoor air quality

When a house smells bad, agents, sellers and potential buyers need to look into the possible causes.

Did a heavy smoker live there? Did the previous owner have many pets? Could there be hidden mold? Was it a grow-op or a hoarder’s home? How old is the house? What is the humidity level?

In many cases, the causes of offensive odors may be varied, and not easy to fix.

Tip: Do not try to cover up a bad smell with scented candles or sprays
These chemical-laden products will simply mask the smell for a very limited time, and many people experience adverse reactions to these products. They also act as another red flag for potential buyers.

Many pervasive smells are adsorbed into carpet padding, draperies, floors and soft furniture, which means that they won’t disappear with a simple cleaning job or airing out of the premises.

However, there are ways for sellers and agents to improve IAQ, even if extensive renovations are off the table.


Tips to improve indoor air quality in “smelly” homes

Get rid of clutter

A clutter-free home always does better on the market, as potential home buyers can easily imagine their own belongings in the space. Some items, including old toys and used shoes, can contribute to poor indoor air quality, so either get rid of them or store them in a box with a lid.
Cat litter boxes and any items belonging to pets should be moved out of the living without clutter

Spick and span

A major cleaning session before an open house is a must - just don’t use harsh cleaning agents with obvious scents (such as bleach or ammonia) right before the doors open. If you must use these cleaners, make sure to air out the home extensively during and after the cleaning session. Take special care with carpets and other fabrics. Once done, reassess if these words apply: Neutral, clean, light.

Humidity control and air purification

A quiet dehumidifier in the basement and the right air purifier in the living areas can make all the difference in improving the indoor air quality and making it odor-neutral. The best odor-fighting air filter is granular activated carbon, which binds chemicals, gases and mold mycotoxins to the surface area of the filter media, while a HEPA filter takes on particles and mold spores.

Avoid complex smells

Many real estate agents think the smell of freshly baked cookies will help potential home buyers to feel more at home in the house, but a retailing study has shown that visitors may be confused by too many complex smells and preoccupied with trying to figure out what it is they are smelling. Even potpourri is too much, experts say.

Try a simple scent

lemons in a bowl

The study did show that simple and easily recognizable scents do help to sell more. These include lemon, orange, basil, pine, cedar, vanilla and cinnamon.

Again, choose only one of these scents and keep it as light as possible.

These tips apply not only to homes on the market, but any house or building that needs to make a good impression on visitors.

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