Curve

Vaping indoors might devalue a home

Erik J. Martin
The Mortgage Reports contributor

There’s no escaping the vaping effect

Over time, indoor smoking can create odors and leave residue on surfaces. The same is true of vaping indoors. Secondhand aerosol from e-cigarettes and other vaping devices can contain nicotine and low levels of toxins known to cause cancer. These vaping remnants can settle on surfaces and even transfer between rooms via air vents.

Whether you’re eager to sell or buy a home, it’s important to know that vaping inside that home can lower its value. This is particularly true of homes for sale that have not been thoroughly cleaned of vaping remnants.

If you’re a seller who has vaped indoors, learn how to properly prep your home prior to listing. If you’re a buyer, find out if vaping occurred within the home and explore your options.

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What we can learn from a new poll

A recent survey of 750 adults by The Domo Group/RE/MAX had some interesting findings:

  • Over 42 percent said regular use of e-cigs indoors would negatively affect their perception of a home’s value.
  • Around 23 percent said their knowledge of heavy vaping indoors wouldn’t affect their perception of a home’s value.
  • Nearly 35 percent weren’t sure how they would judge a home’s value after finding out that someone heavily or regularly vaped indoors.

Michael Mesa, a Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, says these findings are telling.

“But I’m surprised that the 42 percent number isn’t higher, given the negative view toward any item that produces vapor or smoke,” he says.

Greg Geilman, managing partner with The Domo Group, on the other hand, expected the 35 percent number to be higher.

“I was somewhat surprised that only 34.5 percent of respondents were not sure of how regular e-cigarette use inside a home would affect their perception of a home’s value. I almost expected that answer to make up a majority of our responses,” says Geilman.

That’s because public awareness of the potential health risks of vaping remains low. The FDA reports that 8 in 10 youths don’t see a great risk of harm from regular e-cigarette use.

How vaping can hurt resale value

Vaping can impact a home several ways. The Domo Group study reports that the residue it produces can be nearly invisible and colorless; yet it can make certain surfaces feel slick and oily, attracting dirt and dust. This residue can also make some people feel sick. These include like allergy sufferers and those with respiratory conditions.

Some vaping products also produce odors that can be hard to remove. These smells may not be as strong as those caused by tobacco smoking; still, a shopper may notice odors while touring the home.

And, as proved by that 42 percent stat noted earlier, knowledge of prior vaping within a home for sale can also lead to a negative view of that property.

“Assume only a few buyers are dissuaded from making an offer. That will affect demand for the home and may lower the sale price,” says real estate attorney Elizabeth A. Whitman.

Also, “regardless of the odor vaping can produce, there’s the challenge of cleaning the home, which can be costly,” Mesa says. “Say the seller wants to ignore or deny the odor and film inside the home. This can set the listing agent up for a difficult time marketing the home. It could lead to longer time on the market. It can also result in price reductions or a low offer with several buyer contingencies.”

What sellers should do

If you’ve vaped in your soon-to-be listed home, don’t ignore its after-effects. Make the needed preparations to ensure a faster sale at a preferred price.

“Air out your home. Deep clean all carpets and furniture. Remove any film from windows. And repaint or at least clean all walls,” suggests Geilman.

Hiring a professional cleaning service is your safest bet. But if you plan to do the cleaning yourself, Geilman, Whitman and Mesa recommend the following tips:

  • Use a mixture of vinegar and water for non-porous surfaces.
  • Apply baking soda to deodorize carpeting.
  • Scrub walls clean that you don’t want to repaint.
  • Repaint any walls with a flat or matte finish that can be damaged by heavy cleaning.
  • Clean the furnace, ductwork and all register grates.
  • Clean or replace all light fixtures.
  • Open windows and run your furnace fan to keep fresh air ventilating.
  • Avoid any further vaping once your home has been thoroughly cleaned.

Even after these efforts, a vaping-sensitive buyer may not be satisfied.

“In that case, be prepared to offer a credit for professional cleaning to the buyer,” Mesa says.

What buyers should do

Don’t assume that the home you’re eyeing is clean and free from vaping.

“Have your agent ask if the seller vapes or has vaped in the house. And have it confirmed in the purchase and sales agreement,” recommends Mesa. “If they confirm it, simply add a contingency to the contract. Insist that a professional service clean the house. Then, make sure the seller submits a cleaning invoice or receipt prior to closing.”

Geilman notes that some buyers feel more comfortable asking for a discount on the price equal to the cost of professional cleaning rather than asking the seller to have it professionally cleaned. “This way, they can choose their own service to their satisfaction.”

Above all, never buy a property without first touring it in person.

“See if you can spot or smell anything up close. Check to see if windows or other glass surfaces have any film or fog on them,” Geilman says. “Closely examine walls and furniture in common areas.”

Whitman notes that the seller usually isn’t required to disclose vaping activity. That’s why it’s important to ask if vaping happened.

“Many states require sellers to disclose environmental hazards when selling a home. So far, vaping hasn’t been considered an environmental hazard, but that could change,” says Whitman.

Plus, “a buyer with a health problem that’s exacerbated by vaping residue might sue a seller who does not disclose it,” she adds.

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