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Q:  We are getting ready to sell our home. We have been working with our Realtor and following her directions, putting a lot of time, energy, and money into the preparation. Now she tells us that our pets are causing the house to smell, and that we need to eliminate the pet odors. We’ve had two cats and two dogs for years, and no one has ever mentioned an odor. We believe she is being too picky and going overboard. Besides, right now, it’s a strong seller’s market. What difference does a possible pet smell make?

A:  No one’s ever mentioned it? Then I will. Your house reeks of Fido and Fluffy and that is not a selling point. The fact that you are no longer aware of the stench is not surprising. You have grown acclimatized to the odor. The fact your friends don’t tell you speaks highly of your friends’ politeness. Yes, it is a seller’s market and your home will no doubt sell quickly. But how much money are you leaving on the table because people are turned off by the horrible odor? You are not paying your Realtor to be your friend; you are paying her to sell your home. She is telling you the truth. Your animal companions can cost you lots of money, in any market, when selling your home. 

The odor of a home is a subtle yet important aspect of staging the home for sale. When there are neutral or — even better — pleasant smells in a home, visitors feel comfortable, calm, and receptive. If a less-than-pleasant odor assaults a potential buyer’s sense of smell, they will run gasping for the door. 

You don’t want buyers to walk into your beautiful home and have their noses yell, “Back out, back out!” This can happen for any number of odiferous reasons. Let’s start with the worse. The number-one offensive odor is cigarettes and tobacco. This is a difficult odor to remove. Smoke penetrates so deeply it even discolors the walls. The only way to remove severe smoke odor is to take away all carpeting and drapes and have painters work their magic to eliminate the stink. 

Next on the list of smells to avoid are pet odors, followed by dirty laundry, fried foods, rotting food, incense, and even the chemicals meant to cover up bad odors. Luckily, these aromas can be cleaned up without too much work. 

Our basic reaction to smells is primordial and emotional. We experience the odor and react. Engaging smells can evoke a pleasant feeling of peace and nostalgia, but we’ll gag at a horrible stench. It’s only after that primordial reaction that we intellectually analyze the bad stink. “Oh, they have a kitty box, two furry dogs, rabbits, and a teenage boy! Get me out of here!”

Listen to your Realtor when she gives you the nasal appraisal and go the extra mile to make the staging of your home perfect. Your pocketbook will thank you. 

Marsha Gray, DRE #012102130, NMLS#1982164, has been a real estate broker in Santa Barbara for more than 20 years. She works at Allyn & Associates, real estate services, and lending. To read more Q&A articles, visit She will research and answer all questions submitted. Contact Marsha at (805) 252-7093 or

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