Will Vaping Indoors Devalue a Home?
Regularly using e-cigarettes and vapes indoors may cost homeowners in the long run.
Much has been said about the impact of smoking indoors on a home's value, and for good reason. Understanding what may negatively affect the resale value of a home is important for homeowners and investors alike. With relatively recent rise of e-cigarettes or "vaping," it's difficult to pinpoint if the market will respond similarly (and to what degree it will respond) to the act of regularly using these devices indoors. Common sense might dictate that - if there is some sort of negative impact tied to vaping indoors - it's likely to be orders of magnitude lower than that of smoking indoors.
In order to shed some light on the subject and get a feel for public opinion, we surveyed 750 adults (age 25+) across the US and asked if they might personally devalue a home simply due to the knowledge of someone heavily using e-cigarettes indoors.
- 42.4% of respondents felt that regular/heavy usage of e-cigarettes indoors would negatively affect their perception of a home's value
- 23.1% of respondents stated their perception of a home's value would NOT be negatively affected by the knowledge of heavy vaping indoors
- 34.5% of respondents were not sure how they would view a home's value after learning that someone regularly/heavily vaped indoors
For those interested in how opinions might differ by age group, location, etc the raw survey results can be viewed here.
To get an idea of specific reasons a home might lose value due to indoor e-cigarette usage, we will break down various factors that may contribute to negative perceptions from some buyers. Next, we will look at some of the tasks and costs associated with cleaning a home in such a way that might ease whatever fears or concerns a prospective buyer may have.
We'd like to extend a special thank you to Shawn Barghout of The Designer's Eye for providing some first-hand knowledge and experience with homes that have had these issues.
Table of Contents
- Vaporizer Impact Variations/YMMV
- The Potential Costs
- The Main Culprits
- Factors That Exacerbate Common Issues
- Recommendations From Real Estate Professionals
Vaporizer Impact Variations/YMMV
Everyone's experience with vaping is going to be different. Some homes may not present any evidence of vaping to the untrained eye while others might be a bit more obvious. This is because people have unique habits and homes. Some homeowners have reported that they can vape in their homes several times a day with little accumulation of smell and/or residue — only requiring periodic wipe-downs and airing out. Individual experiences will depend on:
- vaping frequency
- products used (e.g. propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, "dry herb")
- amount of vapor produced
- room size
- ventilation equipment and use
- types of surfaces nearest the area where residents prefer to vape
- personal habits, such as opening windows
The length of the use also affects how much cleaning homeowners may have to do. With this information in mind, homeowners may want to analyze their individual living situation, the type of "equipment" they use, where they will want to vape, and if they want to continue vaping indoors.
The Potential Costs
When homeowners decide to sell their properties, they typically have a few approaches they can take for cleaning. People selling a home that has sustained heavy vaping indoors might not have the same options. Some people choose to do as much as possible themselves, which takes more time but can cost a lot less. This tends to be more practical in cases where the house needs minimal cleaning and almost no repairs to windows, walls, and floors. Any homeowner who currently lives in a house with odors could be somewhat tolerant of the scent, and not realize its extent.
In many cases, sellers decide to hire professional cleaners for part or all of their cleaning needs in preparation for listing the home. Vaping residue and smells increase the likelihood that this will be necessary, at least in part. Some surfaces are easy to clean, and sellers may choose to start the work themselves. Others may be possible to DIY, depending on the individual situation, the surface type and the material. The location of a few areas of the home, like the air ducts, could demand professional assistance. Professional cleaning services that do this kind of work may charge by the hour or project. The total could cost $1,000 or more, related to the size of the home and the effort needed to remove the signs of vaping.
Lower Offers From Buyers
Buyers tend to balance their expectations when they look at potential homes for sale. Owners of a property that contains a potential negative attribute (e.g. vaping residue/odor) may need to compensate with other features that are in high demand, or be willing to compromise on the price. Sellers should evaluate their bottom line and determine how little they are willing to accept in an offer, in light of their homes as compared to others in the neighborhood and similar markets. The best approach might be to clean the home such that it does not show any sight or scent of vaping. This may not be practical or realistic for some sellers, especially in cases with a much higher incidence of residue.
Home buyers are often looking for a bargain and can make a lower offer for any number of reasons — even if you're selling a beautiful Rolling Hills Estates home. Signs of damage tend to make people worry about a high cost to remediate the problem once the responsibility of the home is theirs. Some, who can detect a whiff of something unsavory, may still decide that they are willing to take a chance if the house fits their needs in every other way. However, in knowing that there is an unpleasant odor or residue on the interior surfaces may lead them to ask for an allowance for cleaning, or decrease the bid in their purchase offer.
The Cost of a Home Sitting on the Market
A seller who struggles to find a buyer for their home has a number of possible effects that can get worse over time. Something as simple as an odd smell can cause a home to sit longer than it might otherwise. Sellers need to keep in mind that maintaining a home in listing condition takes time and effort. Showings can be somewhat unpredictable the longer the house is listed, but sellers should still aim to present an ideal product. Even if they are no longer living in the home, they may still need to pay the mortgage, utilities, and other services while they wait for a buyer.
A home that has been on the market much longer than the average can raise a red flag for buyers and the buyers' agents. For example, if the typical listing time for a home before contract in an area is 15 days and one listing has been up for 45, buyers might wonder why. They may suspect that there is an issue either with the home or that the seller is unwilling to negotiate. This can result in buyers passing on the house without requesting to see it in lieu of other promising properties, even if it meets their other requirements.
In addition, homes that do not sell are less likely to gain interest from potential buyers. When people browse for available real estate in Santa Monica, they tend to see the newest listings first. After a period of several days, the home no longer shows as new. People who already looked at the listing may not see it in future searches. Past a certain point, sellers and agents often have to reconsider how they approach the sale. Dropping the price or removing the listing for a short time to make improvements can help, but these strategies also cost time and money.
The Main Culprits
Vaping, by definition, produces a vapor that can settle on various surfaces of the home. Parts of it will evaporate, while others linger and stick. The amount of residue depends on the type of product. Some juices contain vegetable glycerin, which can become oily as it starts to accumulate. The residue is often colorless and fairly invisible until it reaches a certain degree of saturation.
In a home where one or more residents often vape, people may notice that certain surfaces develop a sheen that feels oily when touched. If the use is occasional or residents do most of their vaping outside, it may take a long time for the residue to gather enough to be visible or obvious. The problem with the residue is not just its presence, but what it attracts. Oily or sticky surfaces serve almost as a magnet for dust, dirt, and other debris. Before long, many surfaces in the home may start to appear dirty, damaged, or aged. This issue is particularly visible when vaping takes place near a window, producing a fog-like film over time.
This residue collection may also pose health problems for the residents living in the home. Many people suffer from allergies related to indoor dander and allergens. The harder they are to remove from the home (e.g. through the house ventilation system or window), the more likely people are to feel the symptoms. Removing the residue provides cleaner surfaces that are less likely to harbor these contaminants.
A lot of people switch from smoking to vaping in part because vaping generates fewer odors that stick around in clothing and the home. However, some vaping products do create an odor that can be difficult to eradicate in some cases. Compared to combustion (the act of a material burning), vaporizing should create only a fraction of the odor. In homes where people are vaping frequently, particularly if they sit in one part of a specific room to do it each time, the odors can be noticeable to an outsider.
Odd or unusual smells are not uncommon factors that homeowners have to deal with when they prepare to sell their homes. The problem is that home buyers tend to be turned off by the presence of odors. Buyers often rely on a vibe they get from the feel of the house, and scent is a big part of that. Faintly stale odors that smell of herbs may make people wonder what is lurking under the staging. And overpowering diffusers and other odor-masking tools can instill suspicion about what the fresh or enticing scent is trying to cover.
In the grand scheme, a slight smell to certain rooms of the home might seem like a small price to pay if the rest of the house is in good order. However, sellers may not want to take the chance of leaving the home on the market longer. It may be better to neutralize the odor for good and ensure it does not come back through repeated use.
Potential Negative Perception of Health Risks
As vaping exposure gains greater visibility, people are expressing more concerns about how secondhand or thirdhand exposure may affect them. Whether they personally agree or disagree with these concerns, sellers who vape indoors need to keep in mind that - for buyers - perception is reality. People have a relatively short amount of time in which to evaluate a home and make decisions about its appropriateness as a property they want to buy. Anything that serves to detract from it, such as suspicions or even hints at concerns in the back of a buyer's mind, could kill the sale before it even begins. Only about 23% of those in our survey say that knowing about the previous owners vaping indoors wouldn't affect their decision to put in an offer on a home. As such, sellers may disagree with buyers about the health effects of vaping indoors, but that viewpoint may be irrelevant come selling time.
Instead, sellers may want to look at it as an investment in the security of a sale. The best approach might be to restrict vaping activites to outdoors, or minimize indoor use as much as possible. If extensive damage is already done, homeowners may choose to instill habits of regularly cleaning nearby surfaces to remove the residue. Deep cleaning to remove all signs of vaping before selling could be a necessity, especially for homeowners who cannot wait a long time or accept a lower price. If buyers are still concerned, sellers might help ease their fears by providing a professional cleaning for the entire home. This is not likely to come at an exceptional cost, but should still be viewed as a last effort to contain the issue.
Factors That Exacerbate Common Issues
Type of Juice (or Herb)
The vaping product used could increase or decrease the residue and odor. People can choose from options that use liquids like vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG), and vaporizers that do not use liquid at all. Each has respective benefits and disadvantages for residue and odors. Specifically, liquids create the residue, while dry herb vaporizers may leave a more noticeable odor.
Some people like to vape using a dry herb vaporizer. It creates a vapor at a temperature a little below combustion. As such, it does not produce actual smoke or fire. However, this approach usually does generate a higher amount of odor than people might notice with liquid vaporizer products. Manufacturers say that it smells a little like burned popcorn and should dissipate relatively quickly. This is not a popular scent for a lot of home buyers, so homeowners should keep the possible odors in mind if they plan to vape in this manner before a showing.
Some people prefer vaping using liquids because they can control the amount of vapor. The more vapor, the higher the amount of residue. Liquids using VG instead of PG will produce a larger quantity of a denser vapor that sticks to surfaces. The higher viscosity of the liquid might also make it more difficult to remove. Different brands may offer contrasting features designed to decrease these effects. Researching options may help guide homeowners in the selection of products that work better for their needs.
The amount of vaping that people do in one sitting, and how frequently they do it, determines how much they have to spend managing the accumulation. The more people vape, the more cleaning they will have to do to get rid of the effects. Heavy vaping on a daily basis wihtout proper caution or cleaning tends to create the most visible results in the shortest period of time.
Certain tools and products allow people to increase or decrease the quantity of vapor produced by a pen. Some prefer to vape using liquids that generate a high volume of vapor, but this creates more residue. Similarly, people may be able to choose vaporizers that limit the vapor, but this is notalways a complete solution. If residents are unwilling to leave the home while vaping at a high frequency, they may need to create a daily or weekly cleaning plan to minimize damage.
The size of the room and its ventilation capabilities can keep odors and residue somewhat contained, or spread them around the house. Anyone who has ever burned or cooked a particularly smelly dinner knows that the kitchen is ground zero for a lot of odors. Similarly, the place that people spend most of their time vaping is likely to have a higher incidence of residue and odor than the rest of the house.
Vapor and odors are supposed to dissipate not long after the vaporizer is turned off. This assumes that the space receives regular fresh air from outside or the home's heating and cooling system. If you're selling a Manhattan Beach home, you'll want to make sure to look out for this. Ventilation is perhaps the #1 necessity to keep the problem from accumulating even more quickly, especially in a small room. However, homeowners should note that ceiling fans and ductwork can collect residue as easily as many other surfaces. Increased ventilation should not be considered the sole or permanent answer.
Types of Surfaces Affected
Although any surface can collect residue, they are not all equal in how much damage they sustain. The materials closest to the vaporizer are likely to absorb the most. The more porous the surface, the more it can absorb. People might want to locate a vaporizer above hard flooring and near furniture that is not padded, to minimize long-term damage.
Soft materials, such as carpet, upholstery, and pillows, absorb a lot of residue and may make it much harder to remove. These often call for professional cleaning to return to their prior condition. Delicate items like important papers and technological equipment could be permanently damaged or destroyed. Hard surfaces that can be wiped clean are often easier to manage. Vapor can also travel from room to room. People may need to specifically examine:
A plan to eliminate residue and odors, again, depends on the surface. Since many people vape on a regular basis, homeowners may need to create a maintenance plan that first gets the existing residue under control. Afterward, they can schedule regular cleanings to prevent the accumulation. Shawn Barghout, owner of The Designer's Eye, offers staging services and provides practical advice to sellers who need to remove vaping odors and residue before they can list their homes.
Barghout, who has over 26 years of experience in interior and construction design, says:
My recommendation is always for the homeowner to approach the problem starting with minimal cost solutions and moving onward as needed." This allows people the flexibility to experiment first with basic cleaning implements, like vinegar and water. DIY can save a lot of money, although it does take more time and may be ineffective. People can escalate to more in depth cleaning and professional services if the accumulation or damage is too severe for simple home treatments. Hiring a professional might also be the appropriate action to take for homeowners who cannot spare the extra time to clean, or who need to list the home quickly.
The best way to clean furniture after vaping is heavily dependent on the material. Hard, smooth surfaces such as chairs and tables may be wiped clean with a solution of water and vinegar and then allowed to dry. Soft furniture and fabrics need more attention. For exmaple, over time, the oils in vaping products can actually stain furniture.
If homeowners who vape regularly are committed to cleaning and the upkeep of fabrics on a regular basis, they could reduce the accumulation over time. They should be careful to research the best cleaning methods before spraying solutions, especially if they are unsure of the material. Delicate fabrics might require steam cleaning or a professional cleaning service.
Many homeowners choose to avoid this cleaning process by arranging to put staging furniture in their homes once they are ready to sell. This has the added benefit of allowing people to put the home in its most positive light for buyers to see. However, renting staging furniture can be a costly addition to the expenses of selling a home. And property owners with current tenants may not be able to have this choice at all.
How homeowners should clean their walls relates to the paint finish and the degree of accumulation. After several years of residue, dust, and cobwebs, it may be better to simply repaint. Many homes feature flat paint on interior walls, as the shine-free finish is less likely to show textures on the surface of the wall. However, paint with a flat or matte finish is also more likely to show stains and dirt over time, and is harder to clean. Paint in semi-gloss or high-gloss can be reflective, but the finish protects the paint against wear. With these types of finishes, people may be able to wipe the walls clean using a cloth damp with a solution of water and vinegar.
For walls that have sustained a higher degree of damage over the years from constant vaping, repainting may be the best approach. This is particularly true for walls with a thick texture or that previously had flat paint. Homeowners might prefer to start with a close analysis of the odors present in the walls. In this situation Barghout recommends using a primer that is resistant to liquids and blocks odors, like Kilz. This product not only works on walls, but also on subflooring if the flooring needs to be replaced.
Unlike many other parts of the home, windows can become a problem for vaping residue whether residents vape inside or outside. People who vape in the car may also notice that they have to clean their windshields periodically. The residue relates mostly to vegetable glycerin, so liquids with a lower amount of VG can help to minimize the greasy spots. Vaping experts know this to be true and suggest either vaping outside, away from the home or structure, or opening windows.
Lighter residues may be relatively simple to clean from windows. People should look at both sides of the window, in case the residue has collected outside. Note that standard glass cleaner may not be adequate to cut through the grease. A vinegar-water solution is inexpensive and will often do the trick. Homeowners may not want to employ this tactic right before a home showing, however, because vinegar can have a strong odor of its own. When a quick cleanup is needed a solution of warm water with a small amount of unscented dishsoap will cut through most grease without leaving a smell behind. People should wipe the windows dry with a microfiber cloth or other cloth that does not leave lint behind. This will help to prevent streaking and future excessive accumulation.
Like other porous surfaces, carpet has a lot of nooks and crannies that can collect the vaping residue. Carpets are a common place for food and outdoor particles, liquid spills, dust, and allergens simply because they cannot be wiped clean. The carpet absorbs the residue and can be quite difficult to remove if allowed to settle and over-accumulate. If homeowners spill a lot of liquid in one location, it could pass through the carpet and into the pad below. Spills and stains that reach the carpet pad could ultimately require full replacement of the pad or flooring.
Barghout suggests increasing the frequency of carpet cleaning to help prevent residue from becoming a larger problem. Most homeowners do not need to steam clean or hire professionals to shampoo their carpets more than once or twice a year. However, in rooms with a lot of vaping residue, this may need to happen more frequently. People can save money by trying to do it themselves at first. Sprinkling baking soda and then vacuuming the floor later may remove much of the residue. Following up with a spray of vinegar and water and vacuuming with an appropriate tool can neutralize odors and eliminate visible stains. Wet carpet cleaning too often can wear out the carpet and pad more quickly, making it looked dingy and older than it is. Homeowners may want to consider changing the flooring if they need to do this more than a few times a year.
In homes that have ductwork, homeowners may discover a larger problem inside. Most of the time, people won't need to clean their ductwork because it is designed to remain relatively clean and dry. However, when something sticky or oily collects inside the ducts, that general state could change quickly. Vaping residue can create a thin layer that allows dust to stick and accumulate over most of the interior space. Over time, this can result in ductwork that is extremely dirty, aggravating allergies and making the entire home harder to clean.
Centralized heating and cooling systems have a filtration system located near the furnace or air handling unit. The replaceable filter is built to remove most dust, but only if the dust is free to move to get caught. The residue can also clog the filter more quickly, requiring replacement more often than once every three months. Barghout says that adding vent filters to the vents in the room where most vaping occurs can help to filter out the worst of the residue. These are relatively inexpensive and could prevent the situation from deteriorating further. If these steps are not enough to solve the problem, homeowners may need to hire a professional duct cleaning service.
Sometimes, even the best home-based attempts to clear the air are insufficient. In this case, it may be time to start looking at air purification options.There are many products available on the market, but homeowners should confirm that the equipment is up to the task. Some air cleaners are designed to remove certain kinds of particles but not others. The air purifier may not be able to remove the vaping residue, especially if it has already settled on a surface. People can usually choose between systems that are portable and help clean the air in a single room, or whole-house air purification systems that attach to the HVAC system.
Homeowners should should note that enough time needs to be allowed for the air purification to work and results to be seen. A 2,000 square-foot house may take a couple of days for an air purifier to remove odors. It's very effective but due to its price, most consider this option as a last step to eliminate odors. The equipment itself can cost up to several hundred dollars, and homeowners may also have to pay a few hundred dollars for installation and set up.
Recommendations From Real Estate Professionals
Regular Home Upkeep
The last thing that many homeowners want to hear is that their home needs a deep, thorough cleaning to remove accumulation that might deter buyers. The most straightforward solution is for people to cut down or eliminate the amount of vaping they do inside the home. If this is not possible or realistic, owners can break up the cleaning into smaller tasks they can do each day, week, or month to keep the residue and odor to a minimum. This way, once they are ready to sell, they may not be facing a significant burden before they can even list the property.
To start, homeowners can designate a specific part of the house in which they will use the vaporizer. And they might want to choose liquids with a lower content of VG, or cut back on vaping with this liquid. The space should have hard surfaces that are easy to wipe clean, such as vinyl flooring or walls covered in high-gloss paint. They may opt for seating made of wood or plastic instead of upholstered chairs or sofas. Smaller frequent tasks may help to minimize the complication and time spent maintaining a clean space.
On a regular basis, people should:
- wipe down these surfaces with a damp cloth and a cleaning solution appropriate to the material
- dust dry surfaces to get rid of dirt that makes the accumulation visible
- increase ventilation by adding a fan or window
- use heating and cooling properly to help control the humidity and lingering odors
- set reminders for or schedule for regular cleanings
Sellers generally want a selling process that is as uncomplicated and quick as possible. They would typically prefer not to spend a lot of money and effort on removing the signs of vapor for each showing. To avoid giving buyers a bad experience at a showing, sellers can bring in a third party who is not used to the smell or look of the house. This person could walk through the home before the showing and bring attention to any excessive odors or visible residue that might catch a buyer's senses.
A thorough professional cleaning might not be a bad idea at the beginning, regardless of vaping issues or not, but many people do not want to keep hiring a service often until the home sells. Instead, sellers might focus on what they can do for themselves, to help save money. Once the home is in showing condition, they can work to keep it in that state each day. Setting a goal to avoid vaping inside during the hours prior to a showing is a practical solution to minimize the workload.
Property owners with resident tenants who vape inside the home (if that is permitted - which is a whole other topic for another day) may need to take a few extra steps to confirm that the property is ready to show. They might want to provide a few extra hours of time for tenants to clean and vacate the home before a buyer's agent arrives to show it. Regular communication with tenants can also help to decrease the likelihood of an awkward first impression for potential buyers.
Vaping is increasing in popularity, but its entrance into the mainstream is incomplete and opinons on the matter are varied. Over time, buyers and sellers can become more aware of the differences between vaping and smoking, and how it plays out during a home sale. Despite sellers' best intentions, vaping may carry some of smoking's negative connotations, especially for the condition of a home. This means that sellers and agents are left somewhat to the whims of buyers and mainstream societal norms. Homeowners who live in areas that are not firmly in a seller's market may want to take extra care with the way they attend to their homes, especially if they plan to sell sometime soon.
Since it's difficult to determine how any particular buyer might interpret a hint of vaping odor or residue, it's reccomended as best practice to remove all indications. In many cases, homeowners can clean the house, remove damaged furnishings, or repaint stained walls to the point where it is not likely for buyers to conclude that vaping happened inside the house. Sellers who vape may want to take this approach across the board, simply to have a better chance of selling the home in an average timeframe, for a reasonable price.
Homeowners who are aware of this situation from the beginning are better prepared to manage any possible effects that develop over time. There are many different factors that affect the degree to which residents' vaping will cause damage to the structure of the home or the furnishings inside it. And, as well as the possible physical damage sellers should also be aware of the stigma that comes along with a buyer knowing the home was vaped in. Homeowners need to keep all of these factors in mind as they relate to the ability to sell their home in a timely manner.
Although vapor's potential ability to devalue a home is only a fraction of smoking's effects, homeowners who vape regularly may want to take preventive action well in advance of selling the home. People who allow vaping residue and odors to accumulate over years of use without effective cleaning may have to deal with one of two problems at selling time. The first requires investing extra time and money into thorough deep-cleaning right before listing and during the sale. The second involves waiting a longer time and potentially spending more money to entice buyers to make an offer based on the home as it is.
In the end, this is a complicated topic with no single answer for every seller. One home sale may go completely unaffected by the presence of vaping indoors, while another may cost a seller thousands of dollars when all the variables are added up.