Funky Odors? Better Fix That Before You List

Looks can be deceiving. A home may look beautiful and stage perfectly in the pictures but the minute a buyer walks to the door and has a violation of their olfactory sense, they may walk right out, or even run. That old commercial where people have become "nose blind" to their home's own odors is definitely a thing. We live in a house for so long that we tend to completely disregard or ignore smells such as mold, BO, musty clothes, or even cigarette smoke. So how do you know if your home has bad odors? This may stop your home from selling if you plan on listing. There are several main culprits to home's bad odors. Here's what the most common ones are and how to get rid of them.


Obviously, if you have smoked in your house for any length of time, it probably smells like it. Fast-forward 20 or 30 years and the walls are now yellow, there's a film on the inside of bathroom vents and overhead hoods, and you could probably scrape the nicotine off of the windows. This needs a major renovation, and a good layer of Kilz may not do the trick. You may need to hire a professional that specializes in removing cigarette smoke odors from homes.

But cigarette smoke is not the only type of smoke you should be concerned about. If there is faulty electrical wiring, it can be an extreme fire hazard and the more it is misused, the more dangerous it can become. If you are unsure if your home has this odor, ask a trusted friend that doesn't live in the house if they can smell an electrical burning smell. If so, immediately turn off the breaker and call an electrician.

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Rotten eggs.

I'm not necessarily saying you've burnt the eggs or you have a stack of rotten eggs festering in your garbage can, but natural gas does not normally have its own smell so utility companies at the smell of rotten eggs to help notify homeowners when there's a gas leak. If you smell rotten eggs, leave your home immediately as well as any living thing because any contact with a spark or flame can cause an explosion.


If your smelling garbage, it probably is just garbage. Did something it trapped in your garbage disposal, stuck behind the fridge, or is there something mill doing behind the garbage can that never made it's aim? If so, this can cause serious nasty odors. It's time for a full cleaning of everyplace that garbage might accumulate or be missed.

Oily smell.

This is an unusual one and not one we get in the Pacific Northwest very often but a dirty, oily scent can often be associated with a cockroach infestation. This smell is emitted from the pheromones that cockroaches produce to attract a mate as well as inform others of a food source. So that garbage you may have caught may have led to other issues. Setting some traps can solve a minor cockroach issue but if you feel that it is well-established, call in a professional.

Animal excrement.

The ammonia from cats and other animals can be an alarming and conspicuous scent. But it doesn't necessarily mean it's coming from your domesticated animals. World, opossums, and raccoons of all the known to get into walls and attics and leave behind droppings. It may be time for a full evacuation.

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Mold, mildew, and must.

If the home or a specific room has a very musty smell, you could be smelling mold, which can grow just about anywhere moisture can get in. Basements and crawl spaces are the most common but if there's been a leak behind a faucet, in a bathroom, or the kitchen, this could go unnoticed for years. If you're having any respiratory problems even if you don't see mold, this could be something to investigate. The right safety equipment can remove the mold but it's usually best to be done by a professional.


If you all of a sudden smell raw sewage anywhere in the house, chances are it's from a drain that you either haven't used for a while or something got caught is backing up. This is a very distinct smell but if you have a septic tank buried in the backyard, depending on the weather and the precipitation, the smells can emanate from the ground even in the outside. There's not much you can do with the odor outside, but make sure that you're not getting these odors inside otherwise there could be a more dramatic cleanup.

Again, if you're unsure if your home has any of these odors have a trusted friend or neighbor come over and go through every room of your house. If you plan on listing your home, your real estate agent should be able to be honest with you and tell you that this room or that room has an odd smell and to try to locate the source of that before listing.

Ready to list your property? Contact My Office at any time to schedule a showing or to find to what your Portland or Vancouver home is worth.

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