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Strange smell when entering a home

I am very interested in a property in Ellicot city. It was built in 1978. The property seems to be in excellent condition and well maintained without pets. But when I enter the home, there was a strange smell. Not sure what the smell was. Old house smell or mold etc. Funny thing is that the smell only comes when we enter the home from outside. Once we are in after a few minutes the smell is not there anymore. Also the smell was there only at the entrance. Can anybody shed some light on what it could be. Can we find out before puting an offer. I do not want to do that if there is any mold or serious issues related to smell. Also can anyone tell if 1978 built home will have lead?

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November 05 2011 - Ellicott City
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Answers (7)

I would simply ask the seller. If you aren't comfortable with asking, you can make you offer on the home contingent on them or you determining what the smell is. Be certain to state if you are not satisfied with the results that you reserve the right to withdraw your contract and will have your earnest money refunded, in full, to you. Let me suggest getting a Realtor. If not, get an attorney. They can certainly guide you through the process. You need someone in your corner. Get representation.
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November 07 2011
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November 05 2011
You'd only notice the smell coming in because that's where the contrast is--from the outside (no odor) to the inside (odor). Your nose adjusts very quickly. It's highly likely that the rest of the house smells the same. If there's a back door or some other way in, try that. You'll very likely notice the same smell.

My first guess would have been pets, particularly cat urine. You say it's been well maintained "without pets." Without pets for how long? Cat urine (or other smells) can get into carpet padding and stay there forever. Seriously.

Or it could be mold, as you suggest. One problem with some types of mold is that you don't see it. For instance, it's not uncommon for there to be mold on the backside of drywall. It's dark, it's relatively warm, etc. Ideal conditions for mold. You might try taking a switchplate off, or an outlet cover, and sniffing. If it's something on the backside of the drywall, you'll get a stronger odor then.

It also could be contamination in the air ducts. Either mold or something else.

A home inspector might be able to help you identify the odor and how to correct it. There are also kits on the market that can help you figure out if there's mold and, if so, what type.

Hope that helps.
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November 05 2011
Profile picture for wetdawgs
I recollect one house that I visited frequently.  I'd be overwhelmed by a chemical type odor when I walked in the house, turned out it was some rain coat finish on a coat in the coat closet by the door.  I found it very offensive and would hang the coat in the garage when I visited for several days, others didn't notice.
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November 05 2011
Profile picture for wetdawgs
Every house has a characteristic odor.  Some are just the odors of living - an amalgamation of the scents of foods, cleaning products, toilet products, the humans (including their health status) and animals in the house.   It is normal when walking into a house to discern its characteristic odor, and it is normal that within seconds the odor is no longer noticed.   We tend to not notice our own, but go away for a few days and come back in and it will smell like home (perhaps good "yay, I'm home", perhaps "ugh, the dog needs a bath")

Other things that can offer scents include new carpet, new paint, new kitchen cupboards, lumber, plywood, pressboard and many other things or less attractive would be mold, a dead rat in the crawl space, rotten garbage, or even the bathroom not cleaned well.  Some health conditions of the occupants (e.g. diabetes, some cancers and many others) have very distinctive scents.

Lead paint tends to be a potential problem in pre-1978 houses.   However, google it for confirmation.
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November 05 2011
It could also be a plant right outside the front door. It's hard to diagnose a smell issue over the internet. If the house was built in 1978, it is right on the line of when lead based paint became unacceptable. It needs to be checked for the presence of lead based paint.
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November 05 2011
It depends on what the smell is and where it comes from. Could be the carpet needs torn up and the floor sealed. Perhaps only a carpet deep cleaning, or if it's from smoke, the walls may have to be sealed. Find out where it's coming from and go from there.
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November 05 2011
 
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