Home Sellers – Are You Making Potential Buyers Sick?

by Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Inc. on March 1, 2011

The clients have seen the pictures of your home online. It looks right for them in so many ways. They’re very excited. The Realtor opens the door and….the smells of perfumed air fresheners hit them immediately. Quickly, the clients turn and head back to the car, deflated and no longer interested.

This reaction is becoming more prevalent, but the reasons for the reaction vary.

A growing number of people are finding that exposure to fragrances, including perfumes and scented products, adversely affects their health. Many of the fragrance chemicals consist of volatile organic compounds that are known to be respiratory irritants. For some people, the reaction is immediate and dramatic – bringing on migraines, nausea, fatigue, and/or allergy-like symptoms.

Results from a study by Drs. Stanley M. Caress and Anne Steinemann found that 30.5% of the general population reported they found scented products on others irritating, 19% reported adverse health effects from air fresheners, and 10.9% reported irritation by scented laundry products vented outside.

There are also those buyers who are not adversely affected by scents, but will be thinking, “what are they hiding?” Some buyers believe where there is smoke there is fire, and scents sometimes signal other problems.

In any market, but especially a buyer’s market, you don’t want to lose a potential buyer over something so easy to correct. So now you’re saying, “Wait a minute, I want my home to smell pleasant for showings; what can I do?”

First and foremost, clean your house – thoroughly. This is a good time to spend a little money on having a professional house cleaner come in and clean from top to bottom. Oftentimes, they will pick up on things that need attention, things you might not have noticed. (Think about the lengths you go to clean your car to sell it; you get out the toothbrush to scrub the wheels, vacuum in every crevice, wax the car, steam-clean the engine – why when selling your house would you assume a routine cleaning is all that’s necessary?)

Also, there are many options to freshen the air that are natural and non-toxic. Baking soda is known for its ability to absorb odor. Use it in your sink drains, in garbage cans, and sprinkle it on carpets before vacuuming. To rid closets or powder rooms of musty, stale odors, you can shake some baking soda into decorative containers and leave it out in the room to absorb odors.

Vinegar is another natural way to clear odors. Mix one part white vinegar with five parts water in a spray bottle, and spritz into a room to freshen the air. Another option is to pour full strength vinegar into one or two bowls in the room that has strong odors, and leave it there overnight. And for, no kidding, “all-out war”, simmer apple cider vinegar (full strength) on the stove for about a half-hour, making sure it doesn’t burn. You may want to clear out of the house for a time after that, but it will neutralize the heavy odors.

And after you have cleaned the air, you can add in pleasant or homey smells. When possible, open windows and let fresh air in; bake cookies (yes, it really works); heat some vanilla in the microwave or oven; simmer some apple cider with a couple of sticks of cinnamon; or simmer some citrus peels (lime/orange/lemon) in water.

Your home will be cleaner, fresher, and less toxic — your family will be healthier, you will capture more prospective buyers, and the next owner of your home will thank you.

Guest Blog Post by Lou Ann Dunlap, a Real Estate Broker with Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty. She can be reached at 360-701-2085, or e-mail at louann.dunlap@cbolympia.com. You can view her website at http://www.louanndunlap.com/.

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