As promised, this February we're bringing you staging and home prep tips to get your house ready for sale. Let’s kick things off with a little tough love...

Where To Begin...

Or, Does Your House Smell?

Before spending money on new cushions or painting your walls, you need to know that all the staging in the world won’t help if a prospective buyer walks into a funky-smelling house. So, before you book your first showing, step outside for a minute or two, then walk into your house and pay attention to the smells that greet you. Are there are piles of damp boots scattered around the entryway? Could that bin overflowing with sticky pop cans and beer bottles stand to be emptied and disinfected?  Is there a litter box in the vicinity, or does the smell of wet dog hang heavy in the air? These unpleasant things can start your showing off on the wrong foot.

Before you start staging your home in earnest, plan on deep-cleaning it from top to bottom. If there is an unfortunate smell in the house, you will most definitely want to eliminate it at the source. Here are a few things to look out for:

Pets

We know, we know. You can’t exactly store your pets in the garage until the house has been sold. But there are some steps you can take to keep pet odor down. If you have carpet, have it professionally cleaned (look for specials in your weekly coupon flyer, or check sites like Groupon for discounted services). At the very least, rent a carpet steamer and give everything a very thorough shampoo. If you’re cleaning carpets yourself, look for carpet shampoo made specifically for pet odors. (Sadly, if Boots or Bonesy had a “favorite” spot on the carpet and reapplied their infamous scent there on multiple occasions, you may not be able to get the smell out. Those areas may need to be replaced or refinished altogether.) If possible , give your upholstery a once-over with the appropriate steam cleaner attachment, especially if your dog is allowed to chill out on the furniture.

If you have a cat (or two or five - we don't judge!), the litter box(es) will need to be addressed. Start by scrubbing the empty litter pan with an enzyme-based cleaner, then top up with the best odor-trapping litter you can afford (there is a big difference between the cheap clay litters from the dollar store and the more effective options available at a reputable pet store or online). Try to place the litter box well away from the main areas of the house, and plan on scooping it out at least once daily.

Cooking/Food Odors

Hey, you have to eat, and many of us can’t afford to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner out. That means you can a) live on cereal and sandwiches until the house sells, or b) implement a plan to keep cooking odors under control while your house is on the market.

Plan on cleaning and disinfecting all the surfaces in the kitchen - yes, even the range hood, the oven, and inside all the cupboards - and then, make it a point not to cook anything with overbearing odors, unless you plan on scrubbing everything down all over again. Clean your fridge and freezer thoroughly, and toss anything past its prime. (We're looking at you, unopened tofu purchased during that late-spring health kick.) When you do cook, clean up as quickly as possible afterward. Don’t leave greasy pans or sticky dishes sitting on the stove or in the sink - wash the dishes right away and wipe the kitchen surfaces down with a disinfecting solution. Aside from cooking, your trash can must be disinfected and the bags frequently changed - a discarded package that once held raw meat can stink up the whole kitchen, if it sits in the trash for more than a day or two.

Check back next week for the Number One Smell Offender - and tips for dealing with it!