There’s really nothing less inviting than going into a home and finding a really gross aroma. Last week I took a youngish couple through several homes that were bank-owned, and with all due respect to the cat owners out there, they smelled of cat urine—which as you probably know is about 100% ammonia. The smell was so strong it actually hurt your sinuses. I’d like to say Fabrize to the rescue, but I don’t know if even that would make much of a difference.
Back in the old days people didn’t keep cats in the house—for exactly that reason. Cats lived in the barn and had a job. They kept the population of mice and rats to a minimum. They were fuzzy and didn’t need much food, and frankly they found a place to make their smells that was acceptable to all, so long as there weren’t any rodents around.
About the mid part of the last century, kitty litter replaced sand as the potty of choice for cats and cat lovers. And with that invention, having a “house cat” became much more acceptable, as the “litter” curtailed the aroma, and so the population of cats skyrocketed. Thus giving the American family a second choice in the home pet department. Fido began to lose his standing as Fluffy grew in popularity.
But in a slow real estate market, when money is scarce, kitty litter can be one more expense that just can’t be met. And after a family or tenant moves away and takes their possessions with them, sometimes the cat stays on in the old house—and that’s a real issue. Recently a study was done on aromas, and it seems that some aromas can have a direct impact on people's tendencies to spend. Of 402 people browsing in a home-decor store in Switzerland over a nearly 20-day period, when an aroma consisting simply of orange filled the store, shoppers spent 31.8 percent more. But add scents like green tea, basil, and complex blends of orange and the shopping spree decreased. (Obviously they didn’t try the cat stink, but the results are interesting.)
The study makes the argument that fragrances may affect cognitive functions in the same areas of the brain that are responsible for decision-making. And that while complex scents may be pleasant, they can still be a distraction. It seems they have an effect on some people that causes them to subconsciously spend time trying to identify the aroma.
Smells that are subtle go, more or less, unnoticed. So people don't actually concentrate on what they smell. They don't ask their significant other, "Can you smell that?" Whether it's in a store or a home for sale, some aromas are distracting—just as other influences can interrupt a train of thought.
This principle applies to many things in and around a home that's listed for sale. For instance, if you have lots of personal pictures displayed, it's likely they will distract potential buyers. They'll get a little curious and start exploring your photos and commenting on them to the agent or whoever they are with while viewing your home.
Yet another no-no is to have many medications out cluttering the bathroom--or even in your prescription cabinet. Like the home's aroma and the photos on your counter, this can be a distraction. When buyers pass through a home, they open closets, cabinets, and sometimes-even drawers. It's what they're supposed to do. They're thinking of putting their own "stuff" where your stuff currently is. So they need to check out all the spaces available. Any distraction will interrupt their decision making regarding the home, so it’s a good idea not to have personal items out and around.
The best policy when preparing a home for sale, is to stage it as if you don't live in it. Give your home the “look” of a model home. Of course you can’t bring in all new furniture for the period of time the house will be for sale, but you can rid the rooms of personal items, make the whole house smell good, and clean the finger prints and smudges off the woodwork and the appliances. Tone down the scent--especially of pets. And find a way to clear the clutter, because it may mean a faster sale of your home and for more money.