Use Your Nose To Sniff Out Potential Home Problems

Homes tend to develop distinctive smells over time. While most scents are innocuous and nothing a good air freshener couldn't fix, some can indicate troubling conditions in the house. Here are a few smells you should get checked out before making an offer on the luxury home of your dreams.

Fishy or Urine Odor

A fishy or urine odor in a home can certainly be the result of a fishing hobby or pets with bladder control problems. However, it can also be an indicator of dangerous electrical problems. Most electrical shielding, wires, and plastic components are crafted using a chemical that makes them heat resistant, which prevents them from catching fire when electricity travels through them. When these components are exposed to high heat, though, they emit a fishy or urine odor.

Coming across this smell when doing a home walk through typically indicates something is burning somewhere in the house. This is generally an immediate problem that must be fixed; otherwise, the burning could result in damaged appliances and even a house fire that causes you to lose your investment.

Be sure to point out to the house inspector all the areas where you smelled the odor, so he or she can make a special effort to figure out what may be causing it.

Sewage and Rotten Eggs

Another telltale sign a home may be fraught with problems is the smell of sewage or rotten eggs. This can be caused by a couple of things. A rotten egg smell is the classic symptom of a natural gas or propane leak. If the home uses these energy sources, it's critical you notify the homeowner immediately and evacuate the premises before you fall ill.

On the other hand, if the home doesn't use gas, the rotten egg smell may be from the plumbing system. Typically, the smell will be accompanied by the scent of sewage. The simplest cause of this problem is a dirty p-trap that hasn't been used in awhile. These traps prevent sewer gases from flowing into the home, but water needs to be run through them every once in awhile to keep them working correctly.

Alternatively, the problem could be caused by deterioration in the plumbing pipes, a broken sewage tank, or damaged vent stack. If you notice this smell in bathrooms or near drainage areas (e.g. basement floor drain), you should have the home's plumbing inspected to determine the source and cost of repair.

For more information on things to look out for when doing a home tour, contact a real estate agent.