The photos look great. The stage is set. Pillows are perfectly fluffed and chopped. Showing requests pour in, and you anxiously await the first offer.

But then… crickets. Showings are frequent but seem to move fast, and the feedback is vague and unhelpful. What might be happening here?

It could be that a hidden smell is preventing buyers from bonding with your home. Bonding is an important first step toward considering an offer; and for buyers to bond with yours, you have to be sensitive to all of their senses, most importantly smell. If you do it right, they’ll linger longer and create a stronger bond. But if not, they may rush in and out of your house before it can win them over.

Sounds simple, but since most people can’t smell their own house, they don’t take steps to correct problem odors… and that can be a big problem. In fact, smell is the #1 way sellers self-sabotage what might otherwise be a sale. So whether you think your house smells or not, here are six hidden odor sources you should know about, because they often bother buyers – from cute little stinkers like babies and pets, to plug-ins, musty basements, and more:

1. Dogs & Dog Beds – Every dog has a favorite spot to lie down; and that spot is usually where the pet dander is the strongest. If your dog has a bed, we actually recommend taking both the dog and the bed out of the house during showings. This has worked great for many of our clients – with the added bonus that their pup can take a cozy snooze in the car. If their favorite spot is a carpet, rug, or piece of furniture, a professional cleaning and custom action plan for showings will likely be in order. Not sure if the smell is an issue or not? Ask a trusted non-pet owning friend (or ask me – I’ll tell you).

2. Cats & Litter Boxes – Cats sometimes present a problem for buyers who have allergies to cat dander, so be very diligent in keeping the home as free of these allergens as possible. Keep the litter box fresh and tucked away.

3. Babies & Diapers – Got a baby in the house? The diaper genie may be convenient and better than throwing diapers in your regular trash, but it usually still emits some odor. Empty it before a showing to be sure there isn’t anything lingering. You may also keep your home extra warm for your little one, but the higher heat will make odors stronger. So keep your home warm and inviting for a showing, but not too warm. In the summer, the humidity will bring out odors as well, so keep your home as cool as you can and run a fan to keep air circulating.

4. Lingering Smoke – Smoke smells are non-starters with a huge segment of potential buyers; and any trace of smoke odor can hurt your chances of a sale and/or make people unwilling to pay full price. That goes for all types of smoke, not just tobacco. Marijuana may be legal these days, but its unique smell can turn off potential buyers. To mitigate a smoke smell in your home, commit to diligent deep cleaning including washing of walls, no unwashed laundry anywhere when your house is shown, and (very likely) a professional rug shampooing prior to listing your home. If the odor is still there, you may need to take some extra steps (Bob Vila has some tips).

5. Basements – The basement is another often-overlooked source of smells that can sabotage a sale. It should be cleaned thoroughly, organized, and have a dehumidifier running to keep the mildew away. If your basement is finished and its carpet or other soft surfaces are holding a mildew smell, we may need to talk about additional steps.

6. Plug-ins, melts, etc. – These artificial aromas don’t fool buyers; and in fact, buyers usually view them as telltale signs of a cover-up. These “solutions” often make unpleasant smells worse, and some buyers even have allergic reactions to them. If you have an odor that you’re struggling with, a professional may help. Check out Kleen Sky for state of the art air cleaning.

Unfortunately, there are no easy buttons or shortcuts when it comes to presenting a home that smells fresh and inviting for every showing. It’ll probably take some elbow grease and daily diligence, but the outcome will be worth it. When shopping for a home, every buyer is looking for a fresh start… so make sure, in every sense of the word, that’s what they get when they step into in your home.

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