What is the typical difference in value for a smoker vs. non-smoker's home?

Asked by Gabe Fitzhugh, Lake City, FL Thu Mar 15, 2012

I've often wondered why seller's will continue to smoke in their home when it is on the market. What is the best (most tactful) way to tell them they should stop? Should I tell them they are de-valuing their home?

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Scott Hulen’s answer
Scott Hulen, , 64068
Sat Mar 30, 2013
I think it depends on the extent of the smoke damage & smell when you enter (like cat urine). My guess is if it is barley noticeable & there is no smell then no effect on value. If the windows & ceilings are stained, and you need oxygen as soon as you walk in then value may be affected by as much as 20-40%. Bottom line if its noticeable it will affect value & shrink the pool of buyers no matter what the comps say. Too many Realtors® want to be “pleasers” and are afraid to share information which negatively affects a property for fear they will lose the listing or damage a relationship. You have an OBLIGATION to present your opinion about the market and things which affect the sale & value of a property; so yes you should be straightforward with your client about this issue.
1 vote
Melina Tomson, Agent, Salem, OR
Fri Mar 16, 2012
In my area, I'd say it is an easy 10-20% discount over comps. Often it is a complete interior washing of the walls, treating with Kilz, priming and painting. Then you often have to replace all the carpet, clean the ducts, and then rent one of those ion machines. I can smell it instantly.

The most tactful way is to just be upfront about it. Tell them what they have to do if they want to sell the house. Honestly, that is your job and you aren't going to sell a smoky house at market value because it isn't worth that. Why take a listing you can't sell?
4 votes
Kristian Ale…, Agent, Fort Myers, FL
Fri Mar 16, 2012
That is very interesting question. Can't imagine there would be a huge difference given that the smoker owned property was cleaned/painted properly before being listed?
3 votes
The Roskelly…, Agent, Gambrills, MD
Thu Jul 18, 2013
The home might not sell and that's a 100% loss.

When a seller hires you to sell their home they are also buying your expertise. Unless you find another heavy smoker a smoker's home won't sell. So the recommendation to STOP smoking and take corrective measures to remove the smell such as re-painting and carpet cleaning must be firm and up front. If the seller isn't in agreement I would not accept the listing.

As the old saying goes. "If you can smell it you can't sell it!"
1 vote
Annmarie Cri…, Agent, Oakland, NJ
Fri Mar 29, 2013
Thanks for this post. I visited a home like this last night and have been considering what it might take to rid the home of the smell of smoke. I did tell the homeowner that it is the first thing I smelled when I walked in the door. It is very heavy. At least there are hardwood floors throughout rather than carpet, but there is a lot of wall paper everywhere. I think it would all need to come down, the house would have to be aired out and professionally cleaned, and even then; there is no guarantee the smell would be gone. This is a shame. I do think it has a tremendous impact on value; maybe not from an appraiser standpoint but from a supply and demand standpoint. The buyer pool is much more limited which means less offers, less money. I see a damaged house.
1 vote
Jo Soss, , Bremerton, WA
Fri Mar 16, 2012
Of course smoking can devalue the property! Depending on the extent of damage and yes it is damage. Melina gave some great examples of what might have to take place to remove the odor. That is a chunk of chain a buyer would have to spend! You need to be honest and tell them they HAVE to stop smoking indoors. I wouldn't take a listing that smelled of smoke if I couldn't have the smell removed prior to listing.
1 vote
Annette Law…, Agent, Palm Harbor, FL
Fri Mar 16, 2012
Gabe, a good question,
Let me add another point element that may be of help. Keep in mind, this issue is a NEGOTIATION and should be approached as such. If these folks are truly wanting to sell. then that is the outcome they are seeking. Keep that at the top of everyone's goal.
Feedback for other real estate professionals is not worth the time or paper it appears on in the eyes of the seller. They already know the results will be...."REDUCE THE PRICE!" Using peer feedback may result in the doorway to negotiation being nailed tightly shut.
Consider one of the following:
1. Place a prominent display in home with the banner.."I NEED YOUR HELP' and ask the visiting buyer, not the agent, to anonymously provide feedback regarding the home. Items such as, curb appeal, condition, size, upgrades, and landscaping should be there. Then slip in OTHER: ________. By not steering the visitor into a specific comment, what is volunteered will possess true relevance.

2. Open House - use same tactic as in Number 1. This is a great time in query your Open House visitors regarding how they go about their home search.

Finally, advise the homeowner, "Investors LOVE stinky homes. Why? Buyers don't want them." Investors will discount their offer 40%. Be aware, the damage is already done, all you are doing is allowing the home owner to come to your side of the negotiation equation.
Best of success.
1 vote
Pacita Dimac…, Agent, Oakland, CA
Fri Mar 29, 2013
You may not be able to convince them to stop smoking, but you can ask them to stop smoking IN the house and in the immediate vicinity

You can ask agents and their buyers to provide feedback on one thing they found wrong with the house --- I'll bet they all come up with the same thing: smoke odor! Then give that feedback to the seller. If the seller won't listen to you, it's better that it come from the potential buyers.
0 votes
Cheryl Talbot, Agent, Virginia Beach, VA
Mon Mar 19, 2012
Perhaps you can show them some articles stating how difficult selling a home that has been smoked in vesus one that hasn't. If they had an idea of the cost to remove the odor they may think twice. It will certainly effect their profit. Facts and figures might do it. Use google. I bet you find all the stats there.
0 votes
Phyllis McAr…, Agent, San mateo, CA
Fri Mar 16, 2012
The most powerful sense potential buyers have is thier sense of smell, Just a reminder: if you're having an open house this Sunday caution your sellers NOT to boil cabbage on St Paddy's day, that stuff reeks for days!
0 votes
Nina Harris, Agent, Williston Park, NY
Fri Mar 16, 2012
I'm not sure it devalues the property but can tell you it can turn off a buyer who had a visual interest in the home.

Prior to listing a home, I attempt to explain to the seller that some people are allergic to cigarette smoke, therefore in order to get their home sold they need to consider smoking outside of the home.
0 votes
Christopher…, Agent, Tarrytown, NY
Fri Mar 16, 2012
Great question! I don't necessarily think it de-values (from say an appraisal standpoint) the home but it will absolutely scare non-smoking buyers right out the door. especially if the walls are yellow and everything in the home stinks like smoke. It means the buyer will have to paint, clean, and replace many things inside in order to get rid of the smell/stains. Tell you client that we need to engage the buyers senses when they walk through the door. We want them to stay as long as possible and envision themselves living there. This is done by pleasant,welcoming scents and visuals.

Christopher Pagli
Licensed Associate Broker
Accredited Buyer Representative
William Raveis Legends Realty Group
0 votes
Craig Ort, Agent, Clinton, NJ
Fri Mar 16, 2012
I find more and more of my customers make comments when they enter a home where the seller smokes. I recently had one listing completely fall apart before closing because of a smoke smell. The seller had not smoked in the home for over 10 years but there was still an oder. The sellers hired two companies to professionally clean and try to get rid of the smell. (deep cleaning by wiping down walls, cleaning all fabric, carpets, etc, etc) but the buyer still claimed it smelled and bothered her allergies.
0 votes
Bill Eckler, Agent, Venice, FL
Fri Mar 16, 2012
This is a most interesting question and one that merits serious consideration. The reality is that potential non-smokers as buyers are often offended by second hand smoke to the point of not giving the home the serious consideration that the property deserves.

With this said, the field of potential buyers for any similar property is seriously deminished because of the smoke issue.

As far as, how much to discount the property......that would be "guess work...." but a direction could be created by feedback provided by agents/buyers that have previewed the property.

Additionally, as an agent with this concern, I would arrange for a "caravan" of agents from my office to preview the property with this and other issues in mind. Their feedback should give you the fire power to generate a price based on the issues at hand.

There is safety( and often wisdom) in numbers.

Good luck,

0 votes
Michael Cheng, Agent, San Jose, CA
Fri Mar 16, 2012
If stopping a smoker from smoking were as simple as asking them, we wouldn't have a billion dollar industry to treat smoking addiction. For these sellers, you can only advise them on what you're seeing on the market. If they value their smoke more than money, that's really up to them. You can sell the house either way, just for different prices.
0 votes
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