Listen to Your Nose
You are probably looking for your new home with your eyes and your heart, but when your nose tells you something, don’t ignore it; you could have a problem after you move in.
One young couple found the perfect two family; everything was in excellent condition and there was a backyard for their soon-to-arrive child. The home inspection went well but what the couple failed to note was the Chinese restaurant next door, on the corner. The husband disliked the odor of oriental spices. A few days later, his parents visited, and on that day, the wind shifted. The couple declined to purchase the house. Had they sniffed around prior to making an offer, they would have saved themselves time and money.
An engineer made a similar error when he made his offer on a home north of Boston. The property was situated at the bottom of a “bowl,” surrounded by hills. Many of the homes on the surrounding slopes were serviced by a sewer pumping station on a lot that abutted the property in question. On some days, the odor was intolerable.
In the spring, a couple purchased a relatively new home when there was a barely perceptible odor of mildew in the home. They proceeded to renovate the house, and during the summer, spent a few days in their new home. They were overwhelmed by the mildew odor. They discovered concealed mold and moisture problems in the basement; to eliminate the odor, they ended up tearing out the entire finished basement, which had consisted of several rooms and a bathroom.
I have no problem with pleasant aromas on a showing or a home inspection; these are certainly preferable to objectionable ones. Using fragrance, however, to cover up a problem is misleading. In one case, the seller’s intent became obvious during the inspection when the buyer opened the warm oven; the pleasant, cookie-like odor that permeated the home was coming from a slightly charred bowl of vanilla extract that the seller had forgotten to remove.
On one inspection, I observed that the seller had placed plug-in, electric fragrance emitters in every room at the lower level of the 30 year-old ranch. The carpeting was new but there were some stains and telltale signs of moisture in the closet that had not been repainted. I warned the buyers but they were convinced by their broker that the moisture issue had been addressed. I later heard that the new homeowners experienced wall water penetration and mildew.
Recently, one potential buyer did not want to make an offer until an odor problem was resolved, so she asked me to look at the property. The mold odor in the 100+ year old home was very noticeable even after the seller had opened all the doors and windows in anticipation of my arrival. I determined that the cause of the odor was a severely moldy couch in the children’s playroom in a partially finished portion of a damp basement. The unfortunate broker who dropped confidently on the couch and settled comfortably had unleased a cloud of dust from the contaminated cushion that contained hundreds of thousands of mold spores and dozens of dust mites.
For really tough odor problems, call in an odor removal company, if necessary, and get an estimate for the cost of eliminating the problem before you commit to making your offer. When looking for a home, use all your senses, even your sense of smell.