Afraid Of Buying That New House Because Of The Lingering Odor? Fear No More

What do you do when your dream house smells more like a nightmare? Should unpleasant odors keep you from putting in an offer? Let’s get to the bottom of bad odors in good houses.

What’s That Smell?

When house hunting, your realtor might give you some advice on odors: namely, that you should not totally ignore them – especially women, who tend to have more sensitive (i.e. refined and discriminating) senses of smell.

People with finely-tuned sniffers can often detect mold or mildew, or, at least discern that something is “off.” Pay attention to both the odors and the feeling. There may well be mold growth, gas leaks, or other issues that go far beyond smell. These problems could become quite costly or even dangerous.

Always have a certified professional conduct a thorough inspection before signing on any dotted line. He or she can figure out the cause of any foul odors and tell you whether they are cause for concern – or simply cause for some heavy-duty cleaning.

Two of the biggest, and most stubborn, culprits are:

  • Pet urine.
  • Cigarette smoke.

Don’t Let Bad Smells Derail Your Home Purchase

If the inspector finds that everything is in order and the house is structurally sound, then unpleasant scents don’t have to detract you from buying a home. Here are a few tips for removing pet urine and cigarette smoke. And if you can remove them, you can remove anything.

    • Remove carpeting, furniture, and other fabrics. Pet urine and cigarette smoke cling tenaciously to the fibers on these types of surfaces. It’s often not worth trying to save these items. Better start with a clean slate – or a cleaner slate anyway.


These cleaners have enzymes which digest stains. And not just the visible components. They work to completely eliminate messes from pets, smoke, and other organic sources. In addition, the Ordenone traps malodors. This renders them powerless as the enzymes get to work on the smells too.

Note: If you do opt to keep carpets or upholstered items, find an enzymatic cleaner with Ordenone designed for those surfaces. You can work the powder in with a soft bristled brush to treat stains, or simply sprinkle it on and vacuum for an all-over clean.

To attack smoke:

  • Clean the walls and floors. These surfaces are most affected by smoke. Painting over it will not clean them. In fact, tar and nicotine will break through, creating a “streaking” effect, and the smell will come back to haunt you.Spray enzymatic cleaner on the walls and floors and leave for up to 30 minutes. Wipe down. It does take some time, but it will help eliminate both the stains and the smells left behind by smoking.
  • Prime the walls and other paintable surfaces. Combined with enzymatic cleaners, the right primer is a one-two punch against stains and odor. Options like Killz help ensure your house smells as though no one ever lit up in it.

To eliminate pet smells:

    • Attack visible stains. Your inspector can tell you if pet urine has gone through carpeting or flooring and damaged subflooring. If this is the case, you have to replace the entire floor (which should play a role in your decision to purchase the house). If the stain is not indicative of deeper damage, saturate the area with enzymatic cleaner. Let it sit for up to 30 minutes and wipe clean.


    • Clean all floors and baseboards. Use the cleaner as an all-purpose floor solution and get to work.


  • Prime the walls. It should look and smell much better by now, but why not have fresh surfaces while you’re at it?

Smells don’t need to keep you from the house of your dreams. They do require some time and patience to clean properly, but if there is no underlying damage – and you get a great deal – then they don’t need to keep you from making a house into your home.