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While most of us are familiar with new-car smellâthat distinct scent of a brand-new automobileâhome buyers might have caught a whiff of another scent entirely during their home-shopping spree: new-house smell.
What exactly is new-house smell? Also known as new-construction smell, it’s essentially a combination of smells given off by the many materials that go into building a houseâthings like fresh paint, carpet, wood, and adhesives. If thereâs any new furniture in the home, that could be contributing to the smell as well.
But is new-house smell unhealthy to breathe in, day after day? Here’s a closer look at what new-house smell is made of, and how to get rid of it, too.
What is new-house smell?
Before we dive deep into new-house smell, letâs take a step backâway backâand look at what causes anything to smell in the first place.
Bill Carroll Jr., an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University, says all smells come from molecules in the air that your nose can detect. The molecules must evaporate to get into the air, and the more likely they are to evaporate, the more volatile they are and the easier they are to inhale and detect as odors.
âIf you can smell it, itâs because of a molecule in the air,â Carroll says. âThe fact that itâs in the air means that it is a volatile compound at least to some extent.”
As scary as “volatile” sounds, it doesnât necessarily mean a substance is dangerous or explosive. Carroll says it simply means that something can easily evaporate into the atmosphere, thus releasing an odor. For example, he says metals arenât very volatile, which is why you probably donât smell much (hopefully) if you sniff your stainless-steel refrigerator. Other materials like paints, adhesives, and plastics, however, are more highly volatile.
Are VOCs dangerous?
While new-house smells aren’t necessarily dangerous, there is some concern about certain types of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that exist in some building materials (e.g., paint, carpet, and furniture). Some have been linked to health issues, including cancer and central nervous system damage in people (e.g., construction workers who don’t wear face masks) exposed to high quantities of such materials.
“When you talk about VOCs that raise health concerns, that goes more to a substance’s inherent toxicity or reactivity,” Carroll says. “Itâs the difference between smelling a banana and smelling paint stripper, for example. They’re both volatile, but they have very different toxicities.”
“Regardless of odor, the ability of some of the VOCs emitted from any of [building] products and materials to cause health impacts or create other dangerous conditions varies greatly, depending on several factors,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “These factors may include the type and amount of VOCs emitted, the toxicity of the individual and combined VOCs, the ventilation rate in the space, the type and amount of other materials in the space, occupant level of exposure and length of time exposed, and the health of the exposed occupants.”
However, this is definitely not to say that a new-house smell will make you sick.
Watch: Get Smoker’s Smell Out of Your House for GoodâHere’s How
The good news is that because of concerns raised over certain dangerous VOCs in the past 40 to 50 years, thereâs a been a strong movement to reduce them. Carroll says thatâs most apparent in regard to paint. While oil-based paints used to emit high levels of VOCs and the odor would linger for a long time, todayâs paints contain virtually no VOCs and their odor dissipates more quickly.
In general, that means new houses today have much less of a pronounced smell than they did a years agoâand are less hazardous. For the overwhelming majority of the population, the odor is at worst a nuisance.
To reduce any potential indoor airârelated health impacts from VOCs, the EPA recommends using low-emitting products and building materials and increasing ventilation. The agency also offers further information on VOCs and indoor air auality.
How to get rid of new-house smell
âIf you like new-house smell, thatâs OK,â Carroll says. âIf you donât, itâs important to remember that the solution is dilution.â
He says for an empty house, that means opening the windows to air things out, and usually in a matter of days that new-house smell will disappear. Another solution is to âbakeâ a new home. Since some VOCs evaporate more quickly at higher heats, this technique has a homeowner turn up the heat in the unoccupied house for a few days while running fans to push them out the windows. Running exhaust fans and using an air purifier may speed things up, too.
Carroll says what’s more concerning than new-house smell, however, is what you bring into your place on your own.
âThe greatest source of VOCs is the stuff you bring into your house,â Carroll says. Items such as furniture, cleaners, waxes, and fragrances expose people to far more VOCs over the course of a lifetime.
Know this: If youâre moving into a new home and get a whiff of that telltale new-house smell, it will eventually wear off, even if you do nothing. Promise.
The post What Is New-House Smell? A Reality Check on the Risks, and How To Get Rid of It appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
Sometimes a credit card purchase that seemed like a great idea when you made it turns out to be a huge mistake.
While you may be able to return a product or cancel a service and get a refund, make sure you understand the refund process, or your credit could take a hit.
There are many reasons why you may want to return a purchase. You may have splurged on a new table only to find it is slightly too large for your space. Perhaps the necklace you bought online arrived with a broken clasp. Or maybe you just changed your mind and decided you didn’t want to spend $999 on an online course so you took the retailer up on its money-back guarantee.
Regardless of why you decide to return an item, “make sure you understand the return policy,” says Rod Griffin, senior director of consumer education and awareness for Experian.
The steps you take after you request a refund to your credit card could hurt your credit or protect it.
See related: What is a credit card chargeback, and how does it work?
How credit card refunds work
When you make a purchase with cash, the transaction involves two parties – you and the retailer. If you get a refund after making a cash purchase, the retailer can simply give you back the cash from the purchase.
However, when you make a purchase with a credit card, the credit card issuer is involved in the transaction as well. In fact, the credit card issuer extends the payment to the retailer with the understanding that you will pay the card issuer back when you pay your credit card bill. Since the card issuer serves as something of a middleman in the original transaction, the card issuer must serve as a middleman again when you are issued a refund.
That means if you ask for a refund, the retailer must refund the party that paid them, which is the credit card company. The credit card company would then issue the refund to you in the form of a credit on your credit card statement.
Unfortunately, there is no universal rule that determines how long it takes to get a refund. For one thing, retailer policies differ. One retailer may take 15 days to issue a refund while another may take 30 or 45.
“In many if not most states retailers are required to post their refund policies,” says Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for San Francisco-based advocacy organization Consumer Action.
However, “not all these laws require online merchants to do the same,” Sherry adds. Therefore, some merchants may not be obligated to tell you when you can expect a refund at all.
It may take even longer to get a refund if you have to return an item purchased online via mail. For example, according to Amazon’s refund policy, “it can take up to 25 days for an item to reach us once you return it.” It’s not until after the item is received that Amazon would process the refund.
Once the retailer issues the refund to the credit card company, it may take a couple more days for your card issuer to apply your credit.
See related: How do credit cards work?
Can a credit card refund affect your credit?
The way you handle a credit card refund can have implications for your credit score.
If you’re waiting for a refund, you may be tempted to hold onto your money rather than pay your credit card bill since you know the refund is coming. However that would be a mistake, says Griffin.
“If you’re waiting for a refund and you’re not sure if it’s going to be there before the payment is due, make at least the minimum payment,” he said. That way you avoid a late payment, which could not only hurt your credit score but leave you on the hook for a late fee.
Another mistake that could hurt your credit score is believing the refund counts as a credit card payment. Say you are carrying a balance on your credit card and the minimum credit card payment due is $25. Before you make your payment, you see that a refund of $30 is applied to your account for a product you returned.
You may believe you don’t have to pay your bill that month because the credit is for more than the minimum payment due. But that’s not necessarily the case. You could still be obligated to pay the bill because the refund does not count as a payment, Griffin says.
credit utilization ratio – the balance on your credit card in relation to the credit line – goes up. A higher credit utilization ratio can hurt your credit. On the other hand, once a refund is applied, the utilization ratio goes down, which can boost your score.
quickest ways to improve your score, since credit card balances typically get reported to credit bureaus on a monthly basis.
Refunds, negative balances and rewards
Say a refund comes late and you pay your credit card bill to avoid making a late payment. If you paid for part or all of the refunded item when you paid the credit card bill, you may end up with a negative balance on your credit card once the credit is applied.
That simply means your card issuer owes you money. They may either apply the credit the next time you buy something using the card or they may issue you a check if you request it. From a credit standpoint, a negative balance on your credit card won’t hurt you, Griffin says. Rather, the account would be reported to credit bureaus as having a zero balance.
While getting a refund for a purchase you no longer want can be a relief, there could be a downside. If you have a rewards card and you earned rewards on that purchase, those rewards are forfeited if you get a refund on the purchase, according to a Chase spokesman. That means the card issuer will take the rewards back, or if you have already cashed them in, you will have a negative value in your reward balance.
See related: When should I redeem my rewards?
If you’re confused in any way about an expected refund, it doesn’t hurt to give your card issuer a call to let them know you’re expecting a refund as soon as you request it from the retailer, Griffin says. That way you are less likely to run into any surprises, and you can ask directly what they expect from you.