New Orleans Real Estate News: It Smells Like Old People In Here

It Smells Like Old People In Here

Real estate agents can be brutal in their assessment of homes for sale.  There's no better way for your agent to find out what others think of your listing (or its competition) than to hang out at a broker's open house and keep their ears open.

While out touring New Orleans listings this week, I managed to overhear the following (ok, so maybe I totally said one of these, but I'm not 'fessing up to which one):What's that smell?

It smells like old people in here...

They were right.  It did.  But it just as easily could have been cats, dogs or smoke that caused the negative reaction of people walking through the door.  When you put your house on the market, you are opening up your home to the critical eyes and noses of not just REALTORS® but some picky, picky buyers as well.  If they can't get past the odors that they find offensive, they are never going to write an offer.

Boy, they really like pink...

Or green or blue or purple or whatever other very personal color choices you've made in your home.  There's a reason that home stagers recommend neutrals.  Appealing to the largest number of buyers is the best strategy for getting your home sold quickly and a house painted pink from top to bottom is going to either languish waiting for another pink lover to find it or take a hit on pricing as buyers factor in the cost of repainting it themselves.

How much?  Not gonna happen...

I heard an agent explain that the sellers knew they were overpriced by about $30 per square foot, but they were counting on the kitchen to push up the price.  It was a very nice kitchen, but for what they added to the average sale price in their neighborhood, a buyer could do it all over again - twice.

Please, please, please...before you put your house on the market, ask your agent to put you in touch with a professional home stager.  They can give you the low down on the quickest, easiest, most cost effective ways to spruce up your house and keep it from being remembered as anything less than perfect.


Ready to sell?  Contact us to get your home listed today.


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Comment balloon 40 commentsLisa Heindel • July 04 2012 02:30PM


Great post.  Have to be careful what you say... it could hurt someone's feelings and that is not what we are about! Thanks for posting.

Posted by Rosemary Brooks, The Mother & Daughter Realty Team (BMC Real Estate - 209-910-3706) over 7 years ago

What language would you use to tell sellers that they need to reduce the smells? I think some clients' feelings might be hurt if I told them that prospective buyers said that their home smelled like old people.

Posted by Melissa Zavala, Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County (Broadpoint Properties) over 7 years ago

Great title.  Really caught my eye.  Sometimes houses DO smell like old people!

Posted by Jessica Holtzman, Real Estate Agent in Southern New Jersey, CDPE (Keller Williams Realty, Inc.) over 7 years ago

I am very curious. What does an old person smell like. Someone please explain.

If you are referring to household odors, OK. But what is specific to old people?

Posted by Erv Fleishman, Luxury Prop Specialist Realty Associates (Realty Associates) over 7 years ago

Yes, ehat does that smell like exactly???

Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) over 7 years ago

Rosemary, it's not meant to be offensive by any means.  More tongue in cheek to grab attention ;)

Melissa, how would you tell them there were any other odors in their house?  Whether it's food, animals, uncleanliness or something else, it needs to be addressed if that's the first thing someone notices when they enter the home.

Jessica, :)

Erv, have you never been in a house that you just knew belonged to a senior citizen?  There's a particular odor to some of the homes.  I don't know if it's because they don't have the energy to clean as much anymore or if they don't air the house out once in awhile, but it's real.

Laura, I can't describe it.  I just know it when it's there.

I'm not trying to offend anyone!  The real point is that there are turn offs that can be present in a home that a home stager can help a seller overcome.

Posted by Lisa Heindel, New Orleans Real Estate Broker (Crescent City Living LLC) over 7 years ago

Just so you know, there have actually been studies done on this:

Posted by Lisa Heindel, New Orleans Real Estate Broker (Crescent City Living LLC) over 7 years ago

Hi Lisa ~ I know exactly what you mean ... usually I think it's due to old "things" rather than the people themselves :-)   So glad to see that you recommend sellers to contact a professional stager before listing their home ... we can really help with good advice, for a very small cost.

Posted by Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging, "Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes" (Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR) over 7 years ago

Lisa - I know you don't mean to offend.  Let's be honest here.  There is definitely a specific odour when a house has been inhabited by a very old person.  The same odour is found in an old folks home.  It's just life.  But your point is well taken.  I once went to an open house where they'd cooked fish the night before!  Never a good idea when selling your home!

Thanks for supporting home staging. 

Posted by Sally Weatherley, Vancouver Home Staging, Home Stager Vancouver, B.C (EXIT STAGE RIGHT) over 7 years ago

I always think of the old person home smell as one of staleness.  I always assumed it was because the air wasn't circulating well around the room.  Basically it smells like a lack of movement.

Posted by Laura Murray, Search Montgomery Co., MD for homes (Weichert) over 7 years ago

Great advice, Lisa, and  have definitely smelled similar things in homes.  I'm always surprised when I walk into an overpriced home and it has striking bold colors.  I don't think a lot of sellers get it.  

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 7 years ago

I'm continually surprised by how unaware or uncaring some sellers are as to how their homes show.

Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 7 years ago

Eye catching title, for sure. Excellent advice because if the casual observer says things like that what will a serious buyer think? Likely the price is not worth it!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 7 years ago

If someone tries to sell their car they get it detailed before showing it but when it comes to their own home they think it is fine as it is.

Posted by Edward Gilmartin (CRE) over 7 years ago
The funny thing is you have to paint to sell it but then you do sell it with the fresh paint only to hear they want to change the neutral to something else. But it did sell!
Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge over 7 years ago

The older generations were very big fans of Mothballs and used them heavily !!! That is one of the old people smells I encounter.

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) over 7 years ago

LOL - Love the title and love the content as well. If only there was a hidden camera somewhere for each home that was on the market - I'm quite sure it would be an eye-opener. However, and as you point out, the easiest solution is to call in a professional home stager.


Posted by Kathy Nielsen, Atlanta Georgia Home Stager ( over 7 years ago

They sure do like pink...  

LOL!  I've heard this (and said this) too many times.  I agree with you, get a home stager in there!                                    

Posted by Amanda Christiansen, Christiansen Group Realty (Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843) over 7 years ago

Lisa, this is good advice. It is always good to get an objective third opinion.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 7 years ago

Mothballs. Whenever I smell mothballs I think of the elderly.

Posted by Lorrie Semler, REALTOR® in the Dallas area. Call/text 972-416-3417, Real Service. Real Results. Real Estate (United Real Estate) over 7 years ago

I have heard my buyers say that a couple times lately. Staging is low priority yet in our area.

Posted by Chuck Carstensen, Minnesota Real Estate Expert (RE/MAX Results) over 7 years ago

Maureen, I bet it is the old "things".  Smart assessment!

Sally, I'm a huge proponent of staging.  It lets someone else be the bad guy ;)

Laura, bingo!


Mike, in some homes, those colors are what gives it the appeal.  That's not the case in most, though.

Brian, I don't think that home owners are uncaring.  I just think that there's a lot of "well, it's worked fine for me" going on.

Gary, yep!


Edward, nice analogy.

Cheryl, I don't care if they paint it pink after they buy it ;)  LOL!

Michael, I've run into that as well.


Kathy, y'all are good at being the bad guys!


Hi Jared!


Michael, thanks.

Lorrie, me too.  It must be ingrained in us from our youth.

Posted by Lisa Heindel, New Orleans Real Estate Broker (Crescent City Living LLC) over 7 years ago


If I was the listing agent. . .

my response would be. .

"Are you sure is not you?"

Trying to figure out how old people smell. .Metamucil fragrance? 


Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 7 years ago

Ben Gay and musty smelling... not like a fresh pan of brownies just hoisted out of the oven. Just saying.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 7 years ago

This reminds me of when steam carpet cleaning first came out. It was a vacuum cleaner that flooded an area and then sucked up the water and dirt all the way from the padding and up up and away!...The other machines just spread the dirt around. The results were incredible and people stopped getting sick and dirt was actually removed...All homes before being lived in should be deep cleaned, scrubbed and disinfected and then maintainanced after that..most relevant post and good host

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 7 years ago

Thats a terrific idea, tell them to get a professional home stager.  I lost a $1+ listing because I told the customer NOT to paint the walls terra cotta and leave them neutral.  He liked terra Cotta because it looked good in his friends house.  If I had used a stager, maybe I would have gotten that listing.

Posted by Chris and Dick Dovorany, Broker/Associate at Premiere Plus Realty ( Homes for Sale in Naples, Bonita Springs and Estero, Florida) over 7 years ago

When we get older, we tend to need a little help. Having someone come in and pack up all the EXTRA stuff and professionally clean the home and carpets is alway a great start for the elderly. They have earned the right to a little help. Most of the time they have been helping everyone else for years!

Posted by Joni Bailey, Your Huntsville / Lake Livingston Area REALTOR® (101 Main St. Realty) over 7 years ago

Lisa, your title caught my eye because my buyers last week made that remark in a house. Very interesting link!

Posted by Mitch Muller - Charlotte NC Real Estate, Certified Residential Specialist (ProStead Realty Charlotte, NC CRS SRES over 7 years ago

I totally relate to this post. In my area the home owners use some "interesting" colors in their homes. There are times when I'll show homes to a buyer from out of town and they just can't get past the colors. And they are really bad. I always advise sellers to paint in neutral colors when they sell. It's a cheap fix and it makes a big difference.

Posted by Nathan Tutas, Your Central Florida Real Estate Expert (Tutas Towne Realty, Inc.) over 7 years ago

I saw that scientific report too, Lisa ... and as cruel as it may sound, it's an issue that must be delicately broached and resolved.  Sellers must be educated, just as Buyers must be.  Odor is just one hurdle that may have to be overcome in regards to staging a home for sale.  Hard to believe that in this day and age of HGTV and others media, that a Seller wouldn't be somewhat aware of the advantages of staging ... and that much can be accomplished with a few dollars expenditure ...


Posted by Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi, 708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience (NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656) over 7 years ago

LOL "It smells like old people". It is true and some items just can't be fixed with out rennovation.

Posted by Toby Barnett, Toby Barnett (KW North Sound) over 7 years ago

YES! Home staging is great and pays for itself. You only have one chance to make a first impression. 

Posted by Bruce McCallum, Homes In Victoria BC (DFH Real Estate, Victoria, BC 800-668-2272) over 7 years ago

Lisa, the house may be beautiful, but if it smells bad, the buyers won't even venture into the rest of the house.  I like your advice, pay a professional staging (AND CLEANING) company!  Our sellers have got to OUT-SHINE all the other homes on the block.

Posted by Regina P. Brown, M.B.A., Broker, Instructor (MBA Broker Consultants) over 7 years ago

Odoriferous? I myself have said exactly what those agents have said. Good post as it doesn't much matter what the smell is - it shouldn't be there.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 7 years ago

I saw the report also about "old people smell". Cleaning, painting, making repairs all help to prcoure a buyer. Thanks for your post,

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 7 years ago

I'm smelling impaired, it is a good problem to have on occasion.

I think I'll have the stager be my nose.

Posted by Pete Xavier, Outstanding Agent Referrals-Nationwide (Investments to Luxury) over 7 years ago

Lisa - It seems to me that having a home be remembered for the wrong reasons is worse than not being remembered.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 7 years ago

Christine, BINGO!

Posted by Lisa Heindel, New Orleans Real Estate Broker (Crescent City Living LLC) over 7 years ago

HI, Lisa: If I were buying a home, a stinky home would be at the bottom of my list.  My least favorite: Glade Plugins used to cover up the urine smell from litter boxes.  The house thing that smells worse than an unclean litter box is a house that smells like unclean litterbox and too much French Vanilla, or other plug in scent.

Happy Friday!


Posted by Michael Fontana, @ The Stage Coach (Round Rock Home Stager Austin Home Staging) over 7 years ago

Lisa-I have a very weak sense of smell. I'm going to get a smell assistant to check this out for me. I've heard of people being put off due to pet and food smells, but old people is a new one for me.

Posted by Wayne Johnson, San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale (Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS®) over 7 years ago