Smell Makes Cents



Springtime in Montana always awakens my senses, especially the smell of the dormant plants and grass. Our sense of smell is indeed powerful enough to evoke emotions and memories of past experiences.

What does this have to do with real estate? Well, spring is also selling season! Realtors are gearing up for the busiest time of the year. Buyers are smelling out the best of deals in a tight market, and sellers are ready to take their offers. Smell, believe it or not, plays a big role in the whole process.

Let your nose guide you in preparing your house for sale, or when viewing potential homes. Here are some common sense ideas for common scents!

We all know that the benefits of spring in Montana also come with some stinky chores. Specifically, let’s talk poop. Yes, I have one very old and friendly black lab, and the when the snow melts I dread what is hiding under the piles. Or I dread the piles. You know what I mean!

Cody, the stinky Main Street dog. Photo by Jen Slayden.

If you are a pet owner, be sure and clean up after Fido. There is nothing worse than going to show a house, even if it is spotless inside, when getting to the front door or looking at the yard requires acrobats to dodge the dog poo. Not to mention that sense of smell. As you know, first impressions are everything. It’s a no brainer, but you would be amazed at how many folks procrastinate on that chore. Do it before you list, and daily thereafter or at least before showings. If this is job is too crappy for you, then hire out! There are some local folks who will do the dirty job for you!

Inside the home, smell can really overwhelm. If you are a homeowner and are getting ready to list, do a thorough cleaning. Open the windows on a sunny day, and let that fresh spring air clean out the stagnant air from the winter. If you detect any unusual smell, such as a musty smell, make sure you get to the root of the problem. Sometimes smell can be a red flag for mildew or moisture that could be a larger issue.

When using cleaning supplies, a little goes a long way. Natural cleaners without chemicals are best, and don’t leave your house smelling like a hospital. They don’t have to cost a lot of money to be effective. I keep on hand vinegar, lemons, and baking soda. You can mix essential oil into a base of vinegar and water for a better smell and a deep clean many different surfaces.

If you choose to hire out, here are a few Missoula companies that use natural cleaning products:

  1. Fresh Natural Cleaners
  2. Earth Care Cleaning

Many homeowners make the mistake of masking smell by burning a plug in candle warmer or an air freshener. Some of the scents are brutally strong. More and more people have allergies to certain smells these days, and many of the plug in air fresheners are loaded with chemicals that can be harmful! Please do your research about these products.

I once showed a house to a potential buyer where we walked into a house that assaulted us immediately with a powerful, perfumy smell. After a few minutes, my client couldn’t take it anymore. Despite the house having some good features that were on her wish list, she was completely turned off by the smell, and ultimately the powerful smell overrode the positive aspects of the home.

Baking cookies is a tactic that is frequently used by owners or agents hosting open houses. Who doesn’t like the smell of cookies? But be very careful with strong smells. Everybody likes flowers, but there are some that are much more pungent than others. For instance, my husband brought me a beautiful Easter Lily. Once it was in full bloom, the scent became so strong we eventually put the poor plant outside! There is too much of a good thing, when it comes to scents.

Buttercups in bloom, Missoula North Hills. Photo by Jen Slayden.

Back to pets and pests. If you have a cat, make sure the litter box is fresh and clean. Pet urine can be an assault to the senses inside your home as well. It can sink into carpet and even wood and cause major damage. I suggest addressing pet damage issues before listing a house.

Finally, we all get used to the smells in our own home. It is called olfactory adaptation, and there is science behind it! So ask a friend, or your agent if anything smells awry. Don’t be offended, be proactive! And if you are viewing a house, don’t be afraid to use your sense of smell and ask questions if you sniff something out that seems out of the ordinary. Of course, it is highly recommended that all buyers have a professional home inspection prior to buying. But by using your sense of smell, both sellers and buyers alike could save some cents before a buy/sell agreement, and save a lot of hassle in the long run. Can you smell the money?


Happy Nesting,


Jennifer Slayden bioJen Slayden wears many hats: Mother, Real Estate Agent with Main Street Realty, teacher for the non profit music program Center for Music, UM alumni, runner, and supporter of all things local. Her RealChange program dedicates a generous amount of her Real Estate commissions to be given back locally to organizations of her client’s choice. You can find her on Facebook, or give her a call at 406-370-0300.