Smoking cigarettes inside may be the single best way to tank your home value short of deliberate vandalism. According to a recent study released by, smoking cigarettes in a home can reduce resale value by nearly a third (29 percent) and, furthermore, failure to remove tobacco-smoke byproducts and residue may actually represent a health risk to future tenants and buyers.

These leftovers are not just stinky. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, they represent a health risk to any individual likely to end up with the residue in their mouths. This means that thirdhand smoke, like lead paint, is a particular threat to babies and young children, although it is very important to note that thirdhand smoke is a relatively new concept and, as a result, much of the research on it is focused on possible health risks rather than proven threats.

Nevertheless, most non-smokers (roughly 85 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control) do not want to live in a house that smells like cigarette smoke. Combine this popular distaste for cigarette smokers’ properties with the massive hit to the retail value a smoker’s property will take if any hint of tobacco smoke remains behind, and you have a perfect potential deal for many real estate investors. That is, of course, assuming you know how to safely, effectively, and fully remove the smell and residue before you put the property on the market.

Think Realty Magazine spoke with active real estate investors who routinely deal with cigarette smoke smells and damage and asked them for their advice on how to remove the cigarette smell from a house. Here are some of the top responses from high-volume investors in all sectors:

Removing Cigarette Smoke Smell: Ozone Machines for the Odor-Free Win

Ozone machines blast the inside of a building with ozone (O3), a gas you are probably familiar with in context of “the hole in the ozone layer” that dominated the environmental conversations during the late 1980s and 1990s. Ozone machines manufacture this gas in high concentrations until the home is filled and the gas is in contact with all surfaces. This treatment may take a couple hours or a couple days, depending on the size of the building and duration of indoor smoking. Every enclosed space should be left open, and no one should be in the house for 24 hours after the treatment is complete because ozone is a lung irritant.

Tips & Tricks from the Field:

“Use the full ozone generation machine for 48 hours. Place it next to the cold-air intake on the furnace so it not only gets through all the ducts but permeates the entire home.”

– Bryan Blankenship, Ohio Turnkey

“We’ve never had a perfect result with ozone treatments, maybe because the extreme humidity in southwest Florida.”

– Lee Lanktree, BEX Realty

Ozone Alone Won’t Do the Trick

Investors note that the O3 machine is something of a “finishing touch” on tobacco-smoke remediation and removal. Here are other imperative steps all agreed are an integral part of the process:

#1: Remove all soft surfaces

This means curtains, blinds, carpets, and any other absorbent material.

#2: Wash all hard surfaces to remove tar staining

Many investors use bleach solutions, while others rely on strong soaps and lots of water.

#3: Seal & Block all potentially resistant surfacesSmoke-Removal-KILZ

Once everything is clean, all hard surfaces must be primed, repainted, and sealed so that no smells or lingering residue can escape into the environment in the future.

“Odor-killing KILZ as an initial primer will take care of most of it, but you have to remember to paint the ceilings as well as the walls. For heavy smokers, it may take two coats of primer before the final coat of paint.”

– Carl Mullin, CPR Real Estate Solutions

“What does smoke do? It rises, so ceilings must be KILZed, primed, and painted.”

– Bruce McNeilage, Kinloch Partners LLC

#4: Hit the HVAC with everything you’ve got

Before you fill the ductwork with ozone, you need to physically clean it and fog with an odor-blocking product.

Is Tobacco-Smoke Remediation Worth It?

“Of course. This is easy [to fix] unless you are also dealing with a meth house. If so and you still buy it, you had better add $20,000 to your rehab budget (at least) and make sure you work in a contractor-friendly city. As far as tobacco smoke alone, goes, we say, ‘Mold is gold, and smoke is easy.’”

– Tom Olson, The Olson Group & Good Success

“We buy them often, but they are a real pain [to restore].”

– Bryan Blankenship, Ohio Turnkey

“I will not buy them.”

– Bruce McNeilage, Kinloch Partners LLC

Natural Remedy to Remove Cigarette Smoke Smell:

“Bring in big, flat trays of coffee grounds. They absorb the stink and afterward, your house smells like coffee!”

– Greg Rand, Own America

Although sellers are not legally obligated to disclose the smoking history of a home, many buyers will automatically reject a property that they believe was a smoker’s residence. Since heavy air freshener is commonly considered a “giveaway” that another smell is being masked, coffee grounds may be a better option.

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