While doing some reading about the marketing and advertising strategies of Febreze (I know, I’m such a nerd) I learned about a phenomenon called sensory adaptation. If you are exposed to a constant bad smell, your brain stops recognizing it as an offensive odor and stops identifying it. In other words, our brains and our noses adapt to our environment.
While this can be to your advantage if you, say, work at a garbage dump or a place that burns tires, it can really work against you if you have pets and are trying to sell your home. Even the most fervent animal lover doesn’t want to live in a house that smells like someone else’s pet.
If you’re trying to sell your home and you have a beloved pet, your goal is to make sure your house doesn’t smell like them. Here are some things you can do to help ensure that you’re not overwhelming potential home buyers with a pungent hello from your furry friends.
The first, but often least practical, step is to temporarily relocate your pets while you’re going through the home-selling process. However, if you’re as close to your pets as I am, chances are this is a step you’ll skip. At the very least, bathe your pets often and clean out litter boxes daily. Don’t forget to wash their beds at least once a week as well.
Once your pets are relocated (or squeaky clean), it’s time to let in the fresh air. If it’s spring or summer, or even a nice fall day, open some windows and let the air circulate through your home. Unless you live in a warm climate in the winter, opening windows in 32-degree weather to air out your home isn’t an option. So, instead, consider adding a scented air filter to your furnace. You can find these at any hardware or home improvement store.
Now that you have some fresh air coming in, you’re going to want to start deep cleaning your home. Pet odors find their way into places you wouldn’t even think of. Do you have fabric curtains? Chances are they’ve got some pet smells on them. Take those down and wash ‘em. Shampoo your carpets and wash your throw rugs. Pillows on the couch? Get ‘em cleaned! If you have a dog, and they’re anything like mine, chances are they sneak up onto the couch when you’re gone and make themselves at home. The light hair on the dark couch gives her away every time.
After all the cleaning and scrubbing and washing and airing-out you do, if you still can’t get the smells out of the house, it might be because the odor has seeped into the walls or subflooring. When we bought our house, there was a slight twinge of smell from the prior owner’s dog, but assumed it was from the old carpet that we planned on ripping up immediately anyway. Turns out, the smell had seeped through the carpet into the hardwood and baseboard. We had to sand and refinish the hardwood in one room before the smell went away completely. If you suspect the smell has penetrated the floor or wall, then you might need to cover it with a fresh coat of paint, or sealer to trap the odor in.
Now that you have tackled the major areas of pet odor, don’t forget the #1 trick that you’ll find in every “how to sell your home” manual: Make your house smell great. Some people say bake a bunch of cookies right before the open house. Some prefer air fresheners or scented candles (cookie flavor, perhaps?). Whatever your choice, make sure you light the candles about an hour prior to the scheduled walk-through or open house and keep the air fresheners fresh during the entire home-selling process.