Down In Smoke: The Hidden Costs of Smoking At Home


Nearly 30% of Canadians won’t even buy a home that has been smoked in. In fact, smoking can damage home value prices. How much? Why? Read on.


Walking by a local fine furnishings store recently, it was after hours and I saw the owner light up a cigarette in their sofa-and-living room section. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Selling couches that start at $2,000, and smoking near them? Later, after dinner, a friend admired the same couches through the window as we passed, and I related the story of the Smoking Staffer earlier, and she lost all interest.

Fact is, for some of us, that stale smoke scent lingers and there ain’t no “fabric freshener” in the world that will take it out.

Things have changed considerably, and while smoking was once acceptable even in hospitals, it’s really fallen out of favor fast. In my lifetime, we’ve gone from having “smoking” sections in restaurants and on airplanes to not even being able to smoke within 15 feet of most public building doorways.

Will Big Brother say stub out?

Canada’s Globe & Mail ran a feature just this week about how “the last frontier” will be to ban smoking from apartments and condos. As a renter, I’ve already seen a dramatic increase in rental buildings that ban smoking on their whole properties, let alone in suites.

Living above smokers in an apartment doesn’t seem like a big deal until the patio door’s open on a spring day and all that smoke wafts up and blows into the apartment.

Where does one person’s freedom end, and another’s begin? Tough call. But knowing big government’s love of big business, lawmakers might be easily swayed to nix smoking at home in attached dwellings. With a majority of people of the public not smoking and big biz wanting to protect property values, it’s easy to see the freedom of smokers getting burned in the not-so-distant future.

Fact is, a non-smoking home has a higher resale value than a smoker’s home. How much more? Some say between 20 and 30%.

cigarette ashtray smoke

Home values: down in smoke

I remember the last time I smoked inside a small concert venue. I used to be an “only when I drink” smoker and that got out of hand for a while. Eventually I neared a half-pack a day. The fateful night was a particularly smoke-filled concert where I choked back a half-pack myself, in the long-gone Starfish Room. It ended my love of tobacco, and I’ve never smoked since.

Back then, I could smell that a place was a smokey home, but it didn’t bother me. Now, though, I walk into a place with stale cigarette smoke and it trips all kinds of reactions.

I’m not alone. For this reason, real estate agents dread taking on listings where homeowners smoke in the home. They report these homes languish on the market and often will suffer lower selling fees as a result. According to one study, despite 15% of Canadians smoking at home, some 27% refuse to consider even buying a home where owners smoke indoors.

“Thirdhand Smoke”: the deal-breaker

In recent years, science has spoken of “thirdhand” smoke. Secondhand smoke is when you’re in the room with someone else smoking and inhaling their smoke.

Thirdhand smoke, though, is a whole ‘nother beast, as the National Geographic explains:

“Researchers now know that residual tobacco smoke, dubbed thirdhand smoke, combines with indoor pollutants such as ozone and nitrous acid to create new compounds. Thirdhand smoke mixes and settles with dust, drifts down to carpeting and furniture surfaces, and makes its way deep into the porous material in paneling and drywall. It lingers in the hair, skin, clothing, and fingernails of smokers—so a mother who doesn’t smoke in front of her kids, smokes outside, then comes inside and holds the baby is exposing that child to thirdhand smoke. The new compounds are difficult to clean up, have a long life of their own, and many may be carcinogenic.”

If this science is right, it bodes even worse for real estate values as word spreads and knowledge grows about this particularly toxic legacy of tobacco smoke.

It’s not about just changing the drapes and carpets, this is about smoke seeping into and altering everything from floorboards to kitchen cupboards.

The smoker & the damage done

It could be too late to reverse smoke damage without major renovations and mitigation in some long-smoked-in homes.

If you’ve had smoking in your home and you’re undertaking renos in the form of new paint, drapes, and so forth, you might want to consider the financial value of stubbing out at home from now on. If you could make 10-30% more on the sale of your home, and add years to your life in so doing, why wouldn’t you?

With enough time, solid upgrades, and smoke-free discipline at home, there’s a good chance your home can realize its maximum value potential.

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