House hunting? Use this five-point sniff test to detect potential problems in prospective homes
Have you ever had a smell that triggered a happy feeling? Maybe the smell of a peppermint candy or a hot cup of coffee. It seems like we can work better and feel better when we smell familiar, pleasant scents. Studies have shown that our sense of smell really does affects our behavior and decisions.
This isn’t news to real estate agents who’ve long known the power of baking cookies or brewing a pot of coffee in a home just before showing it to a potential buyer. Those familiar smells pack an emotional punch that can drastically affect the perception of our surroundings.
So, if freshly made chocolate chip cookies can elicit positive feelings about a potential new home, it stands to reason that unpleasant smells can, in turn, tip us off to potential problems. Heads up, potential home buyers: these scents are your cue to probe before you purchase.
1. Air freshener—Take a deep breath when you step inside a home. If you get a hefty whiff of air freshener, it could be masking something, like pet odors or cigarette smoke. A hint of air freshener obviously shouldn’t be cause for concern, of course. But if the overwhelming smell of floral bouquets or scented candles are prominent in every room, you may want to ask about it.
2. Sawdust—It may not be as obvious as the scent of fresh-cut wood, but keep an eye out for do-it-yourself renovations or repairs. Look at the craftsmanship to ensure they were done properly and that they’re complete and up to code. This can be particularly important in flipped houses—where someone buys the place and fixes it up quickly with the intent to sell it right away and turn a profit.
3. Paint—Plenty of new homes have fresh paint on the walls, and that can be a good thing. But if you notice that one room or spot in particular reeks of that signature smell, it should pique your attention. That fresh coat could be covering ceiling stains or other moisture-related issues, like roof leaks or water damage.
4. Mildew—Some people love the smell of a musty basement. However, the smell of mildew can point to a potential mold problem, so it’s best to keep your sniffer on high alert when in basements, attics, garages, and other storage spaces.
5. Sewage—Gross, we know. A hint of that sour, sewage-like smell in the kitchen can mean a backed-up drain just waiting to blow. That smell outside the home could highlight drainage issues or even a poorly maintained septic system. Trust me, you don’t want to gamble with a poorly maintained septic system; disgusting and costly repairs are not a good way to start a relationship with a new home … or new neighbors.
Enlisting the help of your olfactory system can potentially help you save big—on time, money, and maintenance—when buying a new home. A good homeowners policy program can help, too. If you’re house hunting, and find a home that passes all these sniff tests, contact a Colonial agent to help find you home insurance to protect your new investment.