When you think of the financial cost of smoking, you tally up the cost of the cigarette purchases over the course of a week, month, year and lifetime, thinking about what you could buy with that money. It is common to see the tabloids do this every time the cost of cigarettes go up. As shocking as those calculations are, one significant financial cost which doesn’t come up in the basic tally is the value of your home.
For homeowners, prolonged smoking can reduce the value of the property. According to the National Landlords Association, it can devalue your home by up to 29% as of 2019. To understand that in monetary terms, you would lose a whopping £72,500 if your home is worth £250,000.
A house is only worth what a buyer will pay for it. A smoker’s home will either completely turn the buyer off or they will be looking for a reduction in price so that they can factor in the cost of rectifying the smoke damage. Studies show that up to 50 per cent of home viewers think twice before wanting to buy a smoker’s house and a huge 25 percent of people are completely unwilling to buy a smoker’s home.
Even if you are a careful smoker, smoking inside a building will lead to damage including:
Yellow and brown stains on surfaces and walls
(image source: reddit)
Nicotine and tar from cigarette smoke leaves brown/yellow stains on surfaces and wallpaper. It is a long and costly job to remove, so naturally this puts off potential buyers.
Smokers who don’t take the care to use ashtrays often have homes full of scorch marks where cigarettes are stubbed out, especially on worktops/tiled surfaces. Even if the smoker is careful, it is inevitable that the odd scorch mark might occur on furnishings or carpet.
Third-hand smoke is a sticky residue that contaminates indoor surfaces and contains nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Buyers may also be less keen to buy a smoker’s house for the typical price – if at all – as the presence of third-hand smoke can still cause harm years after it first settled on various surfaces/fabrics.
Stale smoke odours on the curtains and carpets
The reek of cigarettes in a home is one of the most unpleasant smells when guests and potential buyers enter the property – and first impressions count. Carpets and curtains soak up the smell of smoke and it’s not just a case of spritzing some Febreze. The smoke particles lie deep within the carpet pile and into the underfelt, so vacuuming won’t make any difference either.
1. Stop smoking in the home or even better – quit for good
If you have been smoking in your house, then stop doing so! Even if you smoke outside the home, the smoke can come inside via your clothing, and a buyer walking into the house will smell it on coats in the hallway.
Smoking while leaning out of a window or door in your home also doesn’t work as unseen smoke will simply waft back into the house. As a smoker, you may not be able to notice this, but a buyer will. Think about making a move to quit smoking for good so that you can improve your health and gain the value back on your home.
2. If you are a landlord, consider your smoking policy
Smoking within a property you rent out typically depends on the specifics of an individual’s tenancy agreement, so make sure that you clarify this before tenants move in.
You can include a clause in the tenancy agreement stating that smoking is not permitted and you can refuse any further requests to smoke in the property. You may also wish to reiterate the no-smoking policy in a ‘house rules’ document that you can give to tenants before they move in.
If you are a landlord of a house in multiple occupation (HMO) all the shared areas of the property will come under National Smoke Free Legislation. Public Health England asks landlords to create their own policies. In doing so, landlords must distinguish the difference between smoking and vaping in order to support smokers to stop smoking. As recommended by the NHS, many people use vaping as a way of quitting for good. Vapour from an e-cigarette will not be traceable and will not damage your property in any way, leaving your property and your lungs smokefree.
3. Assess your property
Carry out an honest assessment of your property to list anything that needs cleaning or replacing due to smoke damage.
In natural light, look for yellow or brown cigarette stains left on surfaces, walls, light fixtures, lamps and curtains. Cigarette residue and ash can get into all the nooks and crannies. Check for ash by running a finger along picture frames, behind furniture, on window sills and even electrical items like televisions and games consoles. It gets everywhere!
Even if smokers have tried to cover up their smoking, such as tenants who have broken a tenancy agreement, signs of smoking damage will be apparent on assessment.
4. Clean, don’t cover up
Don’t simply try to cover up any unpleasant smells. Long term usage of fragrances and fresheners won’t hide any permanent issues and the combination of stale smoke and artificial perfume can make your home smell worse.
5. Deep clean the walls
Once your home is smoke-free you’ll need to deep clean the walls. You can’t just paint over the problem as the nicotine still bleeds into the coats of paint and the stains will simply reappear. The walls need a thorough scrub (really put your back into it – a wipe over won’t do).
You can either mix a solution of warm water, vinegar, dishwashing liquid and a few drops of ammonia, or wash the ceilings and walls using trisodium phosphate or sugar soap. Then apply a stain block primer to stop any further bleeding into the new wallpaper and paint.
6. Clean or replace the carpets
Scented carpet powders to use while vacuuming are not strong enough and will simply mix with the stale smoke odour.
To remove the smell of smoke the carpets will ideally need professional cleaning or replacing. A cheaper option is to hire a Rug Doctor carpet cleaner. You can also hire a pressure washer for cleaning rugs, making sure that you take the rug outside to clean as excess moisture in the air can damage the interior of your home.
7. Wash the curtains
Many curtains can be machine washed, but some need to be professionally cleaned so it is important you read the care label. Blinds also collect dust and smoky smells – each slat can be wiped down with vinegar and warm water to refresh it.
If you are a smoker the smell of cigarette smoke in your home won’t be as obvious to you as a non-smoker, but one thing that will be evident on inspection will be the damage that smoking is causing to your property. Low levels of cigarette residue can also contaminate your home without obvious physical signs, risking the dangers of third-hand smoke for non-smokers — particularly children and pets.
The result is a substantial decrease in the value of your property, as well as the increased possibility of harming those around you. Next time you light up in your home, it may be worth contemplating the consequences, it could actually cost more than you think.