Real Estate Q&A for June 8, 2014
After months of house hunting, we have found one that is within our budget and which perfectly suits our needs. The problem is house odors. The sellers are an older couple who both smoke and who have a dog and two cats that stay indoors most of the time. We have mentioned our concern to the sellers, but they don’t share our concern. We assume that by replacing all the carpets and completely repainting, we could eliminate the odors. If so, we would make an offer that covered those expenses. Two questions. First, do you have any experience resolving odor problems and second, how could we included these expenses in our mortgage that will be incurred after the closing?
— Julie, Location Withheld
It is exciting that you finally found the perfect house, but with less than perfect odors I am sure you are feeling a bit disappointed! I will admit that odors, especially smoke and pet, are powerful value killers and there is little that saps the value right out of a property more than if a cat or dog have been acting as though the carpet was indoor grass or the home smells like an ashtray. The purchase of a new home very much involves the senses and if the odor is offensive, it is an immediate turn off, but often times the people who live there have no idea how bad it really is.
The seller does not share your concern because: One: they are no longer going to live there and it really won’t be their problem, once the new buyer moves in. Two, they do not have the funds to correct the problem and thus they deny there is a problem because they financially can not admit to it or afford to correct it. Three, they really do not care if they sell or not, thus only taking an offer from someone who is willing to either fix the problem on their dime or learn to live with the odor! Most of these are not options that buyers want to hear, but at times they are the reality. Fortunately there are a couple of options.
First, the option of replacing all the carpet and having the interior completely repainted will typically do the trick, depending on how bad the odors are. You must also consider if the pet odors are significant, you may have to paint the floors with Kilz or some kind of seal coat to cover up or seal any pet stains that have soaked into the sub floor underneath the carpet and pad, Yikes!
It sounds worse than it is, but remember this may need to be done.
If you are dealing with primarily smoke odors (as they do not work well on pet odors), an Ozonator air purifier may work. I have seen it do wonders with odors caused by smoking. Good Shepard Carpets here in Grand Junction have these units available for rent and are very cost effective. Generally speaking, ozone ionizers work at a molecular level and can remove smoke odors from homes, cars, boats etc… I will admit that I am no molecular scientist and thus have no “real” working knowledge of how they work, but I know from experience they can do an amazing job at removing smoke smells from a home or car. You MUST remove all living organisms, i.e. people, cats, dogs, fish, plant etc..(anything you want to remain alive), while the unit is in use and then you can all return home after the treatment and the home has been opened back up. I would highly recommend a professional be hired to help with their use — don’t just get the wise idea to go buy one off the internet.
Lastly you can do what is called a 203K loan which would allow you to escrow the funds for the needed repairs after closing. These loans can be more difficult to manage, so finding a lender who has experience with them will make things run much smoother during the purchase process and after close you will have the funds to make the needed repairs to the property. Keep in mind that the repair costs can not push the loan value needed over the appraised value. Ask your lending professional if they have experience working with 203k loans and their success rate. This can be a very viable option for repairs needed, even if the repairs or changes are just for taste and by this I mean, the carpet does not have to be stained to qualify for a 203K loan, you may just want a different color.
I hope these suggestions help and I am hopeful that you will find a solution.
The Kimbrough Team
REMAX 4000 Inc.