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House Hunters: Beware of Thirdhand Smoke

November 1, 2011  |  by John Heithaus

As we see newly established anti-smoking bans at work, restaurants and public places, Bottom Line Secrets has released the following news story.

I would imagine this is a topic that will likely be discussed in the near future at industry policy-making events like the upcoming NAR Expo given the speed at which the anti-smoking forces have been able to muster.

Aside from mandatory and appropriate disclosures, what do you think should be the real estate industry’s policies about homes with “third hand smoke? Should appraisals and CMA’s discuss this?”

“When looking to buy or rent a home, of course you check to see whether a property has problems with radon or lead. But a new study published in Tobacco Control suggests that you also consider whether the previous occupant smoked.

San Diego State University researchers examined the homes of 100 smokers and 50 nonsmokers before the residents moved out… and again after new nonsmoking residents moved in. Air, dust and surfaces such as walls and ceilings were tested for tobacco smoke pollutants—also known as thirdhand smoke.


Results: Compared with homes previously occupied by nonsmokers, homes that had been occupied by smokers continued to have higher levels of nicotine and other tobacco pollutants in the dust and on surfaces. This occurred even after the homes had been vacant for about two months and even though the homes had been cleaned and repainted before the new residents moved in!

Also: New nonsmoking residents were tested about one month after moving in. Compared with people living in homes previously occupied by nonsmokers, those living in smokers’ former homes had higher levels of nicotine on their fingers and greater amounts of a tobacco-related marker in their urine.

Self-defense: The health effects of thirdhand smoke are not yet fully understood—but as a precaution, researchers recommend against moving into a smoker’s former home, especially if you have small children… have asthma or another respiratory illness… or can smell stale tobacco smoke (a sign of high pollutant levels). If you already have moved in, consider replacing the main toxin reservoirs (carpets, curtains, upholstery)… having wood floors refinished… and cleaning air ducts and heating/air-conditioning equipment.”  Get the FULL ARTICLE here.

Georg E. Matt, PhD, is a professor and chair of the department of psychology at San Diego State University in California and lead author of a study on thirdhand smoke in homes.

Posted in Blog, Featured, Industry News, MRIS CMO Insights

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4 responses to “House Hunters: Beware of Thirdhand Smoke”

  1. DCPM says:

    What type of actions can a property manager take to rid an apartment of stale smoke smells? Let's assume that the PM has already, changed carpet, repainted walls, etc.

  2. mariestill says:

    I've always heard that if you put out fresh coffee beans they absorb odors (such as smoke), it is worth trying!

  3. MRIS_Candice says:

    My experience in ridding this, or any smell, includes washing down the ceiling, light fixtures and cabinets as well as changing air filters and cleaning the duct work. I hope it helps.

  4. JJ_Henry says:

    My husband and I found our dream house except the previous owners were chain smokers. I really couldn't believe that odors and 3rd hand smoke is what was going to stop us from owning the house of our dreams. Thank goodness after doing some internet research I found Room Shocker. It's and odor eliminator, but it's different because it attacks odors at the source. It works like a fumigation bomb, but it for odors and it's also environmentally friendly. Check it out at http://www.biocidesystems.com/roomshocker1.html

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