Smokers’ homes don’t sell — or sell for less (and what you can do)

Smoking won’t just kill you — it can also kill a sale. So says a survey of Ontario real estate agents, who found that more than 80% of potential buyers would be either “unlikely” or entirely unwilling to buy a home where smokers had lived.

And when the house does sell? The study found that a house could see a 30 percent price drop (!) if it smelled of cigarettes.

All right, so what’s to be done if you’re trying to sell a smoker’s home? After reviewing far too many pages of tips, these seem to be your best bets for removing as much of the odor as possible.

Ugh. Just... ugh.And remember: The goal is to remove the odor, not cover it up. Covering it will actually make it worse, so forget baking brownies, stuffing potpourri, or burning candles.

0. If the smokers are still living there, tell them to take it outside. That way you won’t be making things worse.

1. Open the windows and keep them open as much as possible. A window fan in an upstairs room — blowing out — will help a lot.

2. Clean curtains, rugs, and anything else that fits in a washing machine (or can go to a dry cleaner). If you’re washing them yourself, add a cup of vinegar to the water — it will help remove odors.

3. Sprinkle lots of baking soda on carpets and upholstery (don’t forget under the pillows) and let it sit overnight.

4. Clean those carpets and upholstery using a solution of half water, half vinegar. Yes, you might need to buy a carpet cleaner. But a couple of hundreds bucks for that will be well worth it.

4a. If you hire a professional carpet cleaner, make sure to be clear that it’s tobacco odors you’re fighting.

5. Wash walls and floors with a solution of 3/4 water and 1/4 vinegar.

(Will that make the whole house smell like a pickle factory? Briefly, yes, but that smell will dissipate after an hour or two. You do have the windows open, right?)

6. Replace any furnace and air conditioner filters.

7. Spray the carpet and upholstery with Vamoose! Fresh Scent. Forget any of that Glade or Airwick stuff — this stuff is made specifically for tobacco odors.

8. Keep those windows open, and keep any smoking outside.

All this won’t necessarily make the house entirely tobacco-odor-free, but it will go a long way to clearing the air, and hopefully making the sale a little easier. (And all these tips — except for the Vamoose — will also help remove pet and other odors, too.)

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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2 Responses to Smokers’ homes don’t sell — or sell for less (and what you can do)

  1. Matthew says:

    I work in the carpet cleaning business, and I see this all the time—people smoke and the smell is almost impossible to get out of the carpet. What’s worse is that the carcinogenic chemicals get trapped in the carpet fibers and everybody who enters the house breathes them in. So don’t smoke—back for your carpet, bad for selling the house, bad for you and your family!

    And, by the way—you’re right on the money with Vamoose! Fresh scent. We use that stuff frequently.

    Excellent post! Thanks for writing!

  2. I have a Scented Candle Business and I have a lot of real estate friends and we talk about the smells left over all the time.

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