9 Smells to Avoid when Selling Your Home and How to Fix Them

Here are nine of the worst-offending smells to avoid when selling your home.
Photo Copyright : Elnur Amikishiyev / 123rf.com

Right now, the majority of home buyers are being introduced to your home online. Quality professional photos are showcasing your great open floor plan and custom home features. Video and 3D tours help buyers get a sense of the flow of the home.

But will buyers be turned off when they see—or more accurately, smell—your home in person?

Don’t send home buyers running away with their fingers clamped over their nostrils. Here are nine of the worst-offending smells to avoid when selling your home. And how to get rid of them.


The first item on our list is about more than just smell. Not only are mold and mildew a sign of neglect, but they’re a good indication of other health hazards or maintenance issues in a home. Home inspectors and appraisers will definitely take mold and mildew into account when assessing your home. Not only will it lower the appraised value of your home, but it’s likely to turn off many would-be buyers. And buyers who still make an offer may bid lower to take into account the cost to remove the mold or mildew once the property is theirs.


Pets make great companions. But they do not help you sell your home. From scratches on the door frame to lasting odors in the carpet, home buyers know that pets cause additional cleaning and repair costs. And many worry that those additional costs will only be fully realized after closing. To keep from being saddled with the bill, some buyers will skip your house entirely. Others will ask for credits to deep clean and make repairs themselves.

Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke is more than just a passing odor. Filmy cigarette smoke snakes its way across all your surfaces and builds up, microscopic layer by layer. And it takes a lot of work to eradicate it from your home. Any non-smokers looking at your home, buyers with allergies, or even buyers with young children are going to skip your home entirely rather than pay for that level of professional cleaning.

Cooking Meat

When strangers tour your house, they shouldn’t be able to immediately tell what you had for dinner last night. Greasy meats, like bacon and sausage, are some of the “wurst” offenders for home odors. And while the meal may have been delicious, it’s also not what buyers want to experience during their walk through. There’s a reason why Realtors stick with the tried-and-true fresh baked cookie smell instead.


The only worse smell in the kitchen than cooked food is rotten food. While your home is on the market, make sure the garbage is emptied regularly. If you’re no longer inhabiting the home, let your agent know if you think the garbage has been sitting too long so it can be removed before the next buyer comes to see the property. (Side note: It’s also a great idea to keep your outside garbage bins out of sight. Don’t let them linger at the curb, and tuck them away, even if that means finding a new spot for them while your home is on the market.)

Gym Clothes

Are you in the habit of tossing your smelly gym bag in the coat closet at the front door? You know, the first door a buyer will open when they view your home? Don’t. Don’t leave smelly clothes, shoes, or gym equipment laying around any area of your home. If you have a home gym, make sure all equipment is wiped down after it’s used every time. And if you have any teen boys in the house, make sure they’re on board with this plan, too.

Fresh Paint

A brand new coat of paint could be the key to selling your home for more money. That is, if buyers can see it but not smell it. If you’re making repairs, upgrades, or other remodels to your home, make sure they’re done by the time your home hits the market. Even “good smells” like fresh paint could turn off buyers with certain allergies or smell sensitivities.

Air Fresheners and Perfumes

Speaking of “good smells” gone bad—air fresheners and perfumes. It’s possible to have too much of a good thing, and when it comes to these scents, it happens all too often. Plus, many air fresheners mask odors without eliminating them (you’ve seen the commercials). If you need to rid your home of certain smells, do it the right way. Don’t just cover them up with more smells. You don’t want buyers too distracted by scents to enjoy your property.


It’s quite possible that no smell could make your home feel more out of date than mothballs. Culturally, they’re synonymous with old age, stagnation, and deterioration. Plus, their smell is overpowering in small spaces like closets. Consider effective natural alternatives to mothballs that aren’t made from coal tar byproducts. Your buyer will thank you, and so will your clothes.

How to Avoid a Smelly House in 3 Steps

There’s no shame in falling prey to any of the smells listed above. But if you want to escape them for good, you’ll need to put in a little elbow grease. Here’s how to eliminate smells in your home:

1. Get to the Root of the Problem

It’s easy to toss overpowering air fresheners and moth balls, and clean dirty grease traps. But for those deeper, set-in smells, you’re going to need to do a little sleuthing and put in a lot of effort. It’s especially important to find any source of mold or mildew in the house and eliminate it. Not only will that help you remove the smell, but it could expose larger issues that need to be addressed before your home hits the market. Scrub walls in smoky rooms, wash (or remove) all pet bedding and supplies, and steam clean any furniture that will be left for staging. Clean and deodorize carpets, too, as they could be the source of many lingering smells.

2. Clear the Air

Once the sources of the smells are gone, get the air circulating. If the weather is nice, open all the windows in your home and turn on as many fans as possible. If that’s not the best option, invest in an air purifier and let it run. A dehumidifier is also a great investment for areas of the home prone to damp and mildew. Add a fresh, open box of baking soda to your fridge. And tuck baking soda or cedar chips into the corners of closets, especially those known to house smelly shoes.

3. Reset Your Smells

Now that your home is fresh and clean, rethink the smells that you bring back inside. At least while your home is on the market, toss sweaty gym clothes directly into the wash. Relocate your pets, or limit their range around the house. And instead of heavy scented plugins, consider using lighter essential oils. Better yet, fill your home with fresh flowers—not only will it smell great, but it will make your home look beautiful, too. Tackle any new smells as soon as they arise, before you become noseblind. 

Does Your Home Smell Ready for a Buyer?

Preparing a well-lived-in home to sell can be a lot of work. Sometimes, it is impossible to hide all evidence of occupation, especially when that evidence is smelled and not seen. But rest assured, if a home is nicely cleaned and free of any strong odors, buyers will be more likely to picture themselves in the space. And a buyer who can picture themself in the space is more likely to take interest and make a quick offer.

If you’re ready to find a buyer for your home or property, we can help! Reach out to your Beverly-Hanks agent today.

All real estate is local. In order to make confident real estate decisions, it’s important to have timely and neighborhood-specific information. Contact us today to speak with a Beverly-Hanks real estate agent about selling homes and land in Western North Carolina.

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