Scents for a Buyer-Friendly Open House

Scents for a Buyer-Friendly Open House

Scents for a Buyer-Friendly Open House


When staging a home to appeal to the most people in the shortest amount of time, it seems obvious that the place should smell good. While hiding away all of the questionable artwork and various clutter, most agents will light a candle or two. Maybe spray some Febreze, give the bathroom its own oil diffuser, and take out the trash.

But what scent should we be spreading through these homes? Scents are certainly not a one-size-fits-all, and while most people can agree that certain scents are quite nice, there will always be outliers that will have some lovely childhood memory sparked by an otherwise offensive smell.

Don’t worry, because there’s been research into this very question.

In 2010, Washington State University observed 402 people over 18 days in a Swiss home-decor store, and found that, on average, shoppers spent 31.8% more when the store was scented with a simple orange scent over a complex blend of orange, basil, and green tea. Eric Spangenberg, the dean of the college of business at WSU, pointed out that the findings can similarly be applied to open houses since, in both cases, the aromas may affect cognitive functions in the same areas of the brain involved in decision-making.

Complex smells, while sometimes perfectly pleasant on their own, can be a distraction from the house itself. Like ignoring a movie in order to figure out just where it was that you’ve seen that actor before, some people will coast through the open house, their thoughts entirely consumed by trying to place the scent. The smell of freshly-baked cookies, though nearly universally loved, might send the wrong message by awakening a grumbly stomach instead of a wallet.

Welcome scents like cedar and pine might be confusing if featured in a beach house, but would be perfectly suited for a mountain home. In other words, if the scent is not something you might expect to smell in the given setting, it probably won’t accentuate the house itself – which is, after all, the ultimate goal.

The simpler the scent, the better. In addition to orange, Spangenberg and colleagues found that lemon, green tea, basil, and vanilla were the most effective in creating a pleasant environment without being overly distracting. The stronger the aroma, the more likely someone will be pulled away from the charming features of the house. So, in order for people to notice and truly appreciate how charming that handmade Portuguese chandelier really is, you should opt for a subtle scent.

Beyond candles and diffusers, though, make sure the house just generally smells good. This means changing out old air filters, cleaning up pet fur, vacuuming carpets, and maybe even installing a dehumidifier to control those particularly musty smells. No one wants to buy a house if it smells like a disturbing mix of a dog kennel and a crypt.

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