Smells That Sell

Right now, some Realtor® is saying “If it smells, it doesn’t sell” to a client because their house needs a scent make-over.  Smells bad, that is.  But what about pleasant odors?  There are several schools of thought about which aromas are the most buyer-friendly.


Theory No. 1:  The best smell is a clean smell.  Most of us grew up in homes that used products like Lysol and other strong disinfectants (usually pine or lemon-scented) when it was time for serious cleaning.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, our minds now think “clean” whenever we catch a whiff of these nostalgic fragrances.  If you go this route, be sure to properly dilute the cleaning solutions lest buyers choke on the residual fumes.


Theory No. 2:  The best smell is a “green” smell.  This approach seeks to have no interior smell by using “green” cleaning supplies and avoiding fragranced home accessories. Some buyers are so sensitive to the chemicals in potpourri, plug-ins and spray air fresheners that they won’t go past the front door if those things are present.  Baking soda, cornstarch, tea tree oil and club soda are low-odor products with a variety of cleaning uses.  You can also use ionizers to banish any lingering smells.   


Theory No. 3:  The best smell comes from a bakery.  Nothing better evokes the warm feelings associated with home, mother and apple pie than…apple pie!  Baking bread, cinnamon rolls or cookies before showings also works well.  I recently tried a tip I read for getting that bakery smell without the work.  Pour a beer into a glass dish and put it in the oven on low to produce the aroma of fresh bread.  Unfortunately, that experiment just made my house smell like it should check into rehab.  Guess I should have seen that one coming. 

Theory No. 4:  The best smell is a fruity smell.  The most appealing fruit smells come from the citrus family.  Lemon, orange and grapefruit scents work best.  For open houses, simmer a pot of apple cider.  The right combination of these fruits will simultaneously make buyers perceive the house as both clean and homey.  And remember to grind up lemon slices in the garbage disposal to refresh the sink area.


Theory No. 5:  The best smell is a comforting smell.  Comforting fragrances produce associations with warmth, home, safety and being loved. Vanilla is probably the most widely recognized scent that people find warm and soothing.  And anyone who has walked by a Cinnabon shop in the mall knows the smell of cinnamon has an almost magical power to draw people in. 

On the other hand, many people dislike floral aromas, so avoid using them when your house is on the market.  The exception is lavender, which has such a relaxing effect that it is often sprayed on bedding to aid sleep. 


With all these different theories, what’s a seller to do?  First, the basics.  Whenever possible before showings, open windows, turn on the fans, and get fresh air circulating.  Carpets need to be professionally cleaned and sources of mustiness (especially common in basements) must be eradicated. 

Then my top recommendation is to strive for that no-odor-anywhere ambiance in your house.  If that’s not your style, then the best scents to use when selling your home are vanilla, lavender, apple, cinnamon, and lemon.

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