John's Florida Real Estate Blog


Sellers, Don't "Gas" Buyers When They Tour Your Home By Filling It With Mothballs

Today another agent from our office showed one of my homes to a potential buyer. The buyer was very pleased with the home, its layout, the furnishings that were included, and the subdivision. However, she and the agent were practically driven out of the home. Why??

The home is vacant, and following an "old wives' tale" that spreads within many of the seasonal subdivisions, these owners had spread moth balls everywhere throughout the home. They did this thinking it would keep critters out of the home while they were away. The truth is it keeps more buyers away than it does cockroaches and moths. In a 90º home that has been shut up during a Florida summer the smell becomes overpowering. And if a person has breathing or eye problems, it can cause physical discomfort. Not really what you want potential buyers to experience in a home you want to sell badly.

In a past post I titled "Smell Your House, or Sell Your House" I expounded on the problems offensive smells can cause in a home. In this case, the owners would be better off cleaning up all food traces that could attract pests and spraying around the interior and exterior walls with a product like Home Devense by Ortho, or putting out bait traps for roaches and ants. You can also consider having a profession exterminator treat your home just before you leave. In reality, a couple of dead bugs on the floor do not put people off that much in a vacant home. Most people realize that one or two will get in and die there. Of course if you leave the home a mess and do no spraying, live bugs running all over the place will send the buyers out the door in a second. So DO clean and DO spray before you leave for the summer. But DO NOT put out potent mothballs. Instead of killing moths, you will kill potential deals.

For more information or questions about this topic please call me at: 813-783-4444 or e-mail me at:

John Elwell - REALTOR


Bill Nye Realty, Inc.


Licensed in Florida


Comment balloon 8 commentsJohn Elwell • September 13 2007 09:01PM




  Very informative post. Seriously.  I wouldn't have thought about this. 

My problem was my sellers fried some fish an hour before showing. I wasn't a very happy camper

when I talked to the other Realtor.

But hey, that's life. 

Posted by Joe Salcedo, Reno Real Estate (Chase International Real Estate) almost 13 years ago


   Yes, I can't imagine any smell that screams empty house louder than the fierce smell of mothballs!  It's right up there with a house I recently toured that wreaked of the obvious presence of what seemed like 500 cats!

Faith LaRosse

Posted by Faith LaRosse, Serving Berks, Chester & Montgomery Counties (Springer Realty Group) almost 13 years ago
John, what a catchy title. I read your last post on smell you house or sell your house too. LOL, you must be really sensitive to smell. Seriously, I have never heard of moth balls except in wool clothes so I did learn something.
Posted by Missy Caulk, Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate (Missy Caulk TEAM) almost 13 years ago
I am not as sensitive as my buyers are. I went in one mobile that had been built in the 70's when formaldehyde was still being used in the particle board, etc. I got all the way to the living room and something did not seem right. All of a sudden my eyes tingled like there were pins in them. I swear, tear gas could not have been worse. And I was tear gassed in Spain when I lived there so I know what I am talking about. I do not know how that agent ever sold that mobile. It would be impossible to live there and I am not sure if there is anyway to get rid of that formaldehyde smell. I was in another a couple of years ago where a raccoon had died under the mobile. That was "fun" too. At least the source and the smell were easily removed in that case.
Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 13 years ago
I am not particularly sensitve to things but I have been in homes that the air fresheners made me nautious they were so strong. I think over powering air fresheners are a sign to buyers to that they are trying to cover up other smells.
Posted by Jeff Fulgham, Broker E-Pro ABR (T.U.P. Realty) almost 13 years ago
Yep Jeff, especially those that either use heat or a little fan to spread the smell. If the scent is mild or the home is lived in so the doors open and close to let fresh air in from time-to-time they are okay. But if you choose the wrong smell and then close the house up tight it can be terrible. I prefer Oust for air freshening and Febreeze for carpets, furniture, and curtains. Of course, nothing does a better job than opening the doors and windows and letting in the fresh air, even if you lose a little heat or AC in the process. In my mind it is money well spent.
Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 13 years ago
I know how you feel about the mothballs.  I showed a home last mot\nth that had mothballs all in the front flower's was horrible smell while waiting to get into the lockbox.   
Posted by Christine Bohn, The Bohn Team, Gainesville FL (RE/MAX Professionals) almost 13 years ago
I have seen that too. At least the outside ones are easier to get rid of, along with their smell. Inside the carpets, upholstery, bedding, everything holds that smell. The only think I could do was spray with Febreeze and tell them to leave the doors open and let the air change inside over and over. Hopefully by Monday when the second showing will take place the smell will have diminished.
Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 13 years ago

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