Our homes were made to be lived in. I’m not saying this because I believe there’s something wrong with going on a two week vacation with your family, in fact, take me with you. You just need to make sure your home is in proper form before leaving especially if it is in the process of being marketed for sale. Also be prepared to make certain adjustments immediately upon return.
I had a listing years ago that was shown many times. The house was kept in tip top shape and every time I walked in for a showing the house smelled like fresh laundry. When the last weeks of summer arrived the family left on vacation, and, since they trusted me with alarm codes et al, allowed me to continue showing the house during their absence. A week after they left I emailed them that I scheduled a showing. What a surprise when we opened the front door. “What is that smell” asked the potential buyer? I walked a few steps behind only to realize something was wrong. I expressed my surprise and tried to explain that the sellers were away and that this home always smelled great. To my chagrin, describing the scent of fresh laundry is not easy when the house has a “funky” odor and the buyer was unconvinced.
There are many things that can happen while you are away which change the normal smell in your home. The number one mistake homeowners or sellers make when leaving on a summer vacation is to completely turn off their air conditioning instead of raising the temperature to a range of 78 to 82 degrees. Without air conditioning the home will get stale and damp. You don’t want to know how fast air will become moldy without any circulation combined with humidity and darkness.
Another issue when a house is unattended occurs when the water dries out of the plumbing traps that keep the smell of the sewer out. The showers and sinks have a trap; the curved piece under all of our sinks which keep a few inches of water sitting in the pipe to block the smell/gasses coming up from the sewer below. After enough time has passed with no use, the water will begin to evaporate out of the trap and eventually allow the putrid smell of gas from the sewer line to enter. This is not just a problem when people go on vacation. If you live in a home where not all the bathrooms are used on a regular basis, it is very important to run the water in every fixture including sinks, showers, etc if even for a few moments every 2-3 weeks to refill the trap with water and prevent any unwanted odors from coming up.
The incident with my unfortunate smelling home and a buyer who could not be convinced otherwise taught me a valuable lesson. Just a couple of days ago I went to show a listing where I knew the homeowners were away for an extended period of time. Protocol for me now is to show up a day earlier, turn on the lights and air conditioning, open some windows and get the circulation of the home going. What I did not anticipate this time was the dead rodent I found by the front door upon my arrival! Arming myself with a plastic bag I’m sure you heard me screaming last Wednesday as I lobbed the scoundrel into the bushes! The house was now ready to be shown!
Nechama Polak is the Broker of Record and Owner of V&N Group LLC located at 1401 Palisade Avenue in Teaneck, New Jersey. Send your thoughts and comments to [email protected] or call 201 826 8809.