What kind of smells can help sell your home?

cookies on a plate - The Right Smell Can Help Sell Your Home

While it may be common to fill a house with the smell of fresh baked cookies prior to an open house, doing so can actually hurt your cause.

Every house smells like something. We all know that no matter how scent-free our homes seem to us, someone else can walk in and instantly pick up on last night’s sautéed fish or the garlic that went into Wednesday’s spaghetti. Maybe the recycling needs to go out, or litter box odor lingers no matter how often the pan is changed. There’s always something. Even the fragrance products you buy might strike a guest as stinky.

Those odors are all fine if they’re fine by you, but they are not smells that can help sell your home. For that, we’re looking for light, clean and neutral.

First off, neutralizing a home’s air does not mean spraying a product that claims to neutralize or freshen. Scented sprays mask odors and often create the unpleasant effect of, for example, cheap artificial gardenia perfume layered over old cooking grease. Neutral means clean, as in nearly without smell.

Things that are clean smell clean

The deep house cleaning that prepares a home for sale is also going to improve its scent profile. However, be careful that your efforts do not leave the house reeking of ammonia, bleach or any strongly scented cleaner. Using well-chosen products, you’ll freshen up the air when you:

Carpet cleaner - smells can help sell your home

  • Wash all bed covers and wash or dry-clean drapes.
  • Have the carpet cleaned or, if necessary, replaced.
  • Mop hard-surface floors with a lightly scented or unscented cleaner.
  • Scrub the bathrooms top to bottom, again being careful to use lightly scented cleaners or to allow time for the room to air out.
  • Store old shoes in plastic boxes with lids.
  • Wash pet bedding.
  • If possible, move pet paraphernalia and litter boxes to a garage or otherwise away from main living areas.

Research shows complex smells may not sell

Eric Spangenberg, Dean of the College of Business at Washington State University, has spent years studying the effect of smell on buying behavior. He says complex scents — such as the intermingled chocolate and vanilla of fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies — are distracting. They plain make our brains work too hard trying to figure them out. Spangenberg knows of what he speaks. His research published in the Journal of Retailing shows that sales in retail stores are lower when complex scents are present.

While homes aren’t retail stores, home buyers are buyers, and their behavior can be affected by smells. Spangenberg told the Chicago Tribune in December 2012: “I’ve noticed in some homes for sale that they will scent with a potpourri blend that may be very pleasant, but it’s just too complex. … There are too many scents in potpourri.”

Sales in Spangenberg’s study were higher when a store had no scent at all. But the study found sales to be highest when a simple scent was in the air.

So what smells can help sell your home?

What are these simple selling scents? Professionals offer some suggestions. If you want to use scent to help sell your home, try deploying a hint of a single-note organic one such as:

lemon - The Right Smell Can Help Sell Your Home

Simple, recognizable scents such as citrus have been found to be most desirable to buyers.

  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Pine
  • Basil
  • Cedar
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon

“When you’re in the real estate business, you want someone to walk in and want to stay in the house, so you want (the scent) not to be overbearing, but familiar. You want it to encourage revisiting, because sometimes it takes several visits to decide to buy,” Spangenberg told the Chicago Tribune.

And if you’re stuck on baking, he suggests, skip the chocolate chips or anything gourmet in favor of a simply scented cinnamon bun.

Are you thinking of selling your home? Find a local realty expert who can help, or explore what’s selling in your local market with our real estate listings.