When it comes to selling real estate, there are dozens of factors that can easily get overlooked. From room fragrance, to temperature, to lighting, more goes into the decision-making process than meets the eye. With autumn fully upon us, it can be easy to overdo it with a cozy vibe when staging the home—like creating clutter from chunky blankets, making the home too warm for potential buyers, or overwhelming the senses with the scent of pumpkin spice lattes—and though that may seem like the perfect antidote to the cooler temperatures, it can actually deter potential buyers from truly seeing the homes for sale. So clean up the space, open the windows, light a candle, and get ready to (finally) sell that home.
Step away from complicated home fragrances
Intricate scents sound like a good idea, but they can actually distract the viewers from focusing on the task at hand—which in turn affects whether or not they will make a purchase. While choosing a scent may seem like a pretty harmless decision, your selection can be the determining factor in selling your home, so it can get complicated. Even the smell of chocolate chip cookies can be enough to alter prospective buyers’ attention; because the same part of the brain is used to discern these scents and to make decisions, the wrong smells make a huge impact.
How big of a difference are we talking about? Several studies (including researcher Eric Spangenberg’s 2013 study) have shown that retail stores using complex scents experienced a 30-plus percent decrease in sales compared to stores that used simple ones. What’s more, the stores that used no scent at all had higher sales than those that used complicated fragrances.
The effects of room scents don’t stop there. Fragrances are first processed in the olfactory bulb, which is connected to the amygdala and hippocampus; these areas are tied both to emotion and memory, making the sense of smell incredibly important in triggering happiness and fond memories. So while the scent of chocolate chip cookies could instantly transport you to your grandmother’s house around the holidays, it can also distract you from the task at hand.
A little goes a long way
Even the best scents can become overbearing when there is too much of them, and these potent smells can drive enthusiastic buyers out the door before they’ve had a chance to fully experience the real estate that’s for sale. Unnatural scents are more likely to cause headaches, so try to stick to essential oils in a scented-oil diffuser or to single-scent soy candles for the purest fragrances—but try to avoid floral scents, which can quickly become bothersome.
Use familiar home scents
With dozens of houses for sale, using distinct scents helps to differentiate the home you are showing from all the rest. Familiar scents allow the brain to process less because there is no question as to what you are smelling—but the scent may work overtime if it is associated with positive memories. These thoughts can put your potential buyer in a better mood and increase the chance of making a sale. Scents like vanilla or cinnamon can work wonders because they are often associated with happy holiday traditions.
Because scents can be so distracting, it’s best to use one fragrance throughout the entire space. Attempting to mix too many different fragrances can be even worse than using a single, complicated one. Multiple scents may create a constant distraction and combine in an unpleasant way as the viewers move throughout the space. This can cause potential buyers to run out the door as fast as they can or leave them so concerned about the unpleasant smell that they decide not to move forward with a purchase.
Scents the mood
Much like anticipating the scent of freshly baked cookies when walking into a bakery, people expect homes to smell similar to their environment. So, the room scent should mirror the scenery outside; use a dash of pine or cedar oil for cabins in the woods, try a light coconut or herbaceous scent for homes by the beach, and add a splash of citrus to homes in California’s farm towns.
Choosing the right home fragrance
A clean, aired-out home is the best smelling, so don’t overlook the obvious: Clean the house a few days before the showing to get rid of any mold, smoke, or pet smells that may be lingering. Adding fragrances on top of preexisting smells—even the ones you’re “nose blind” to—only makes matters worse, so try to avoid cover-ups whenever possible. After the hard work is done, it’s time to have some fun choosing the best-smelling essential oils for your home.
While dozens of essential oils can serve as smells that sell houses, it’s important to keep the time of year and the home location in mind when choosing a single scent. Simple options like cedar, cinnamon, clove, ginger, lemon, nutmeg, orange, pine, rosemary, sage, and vanilla can be incredibly effective because they are familiar, seasonally appropriate, and understated enough to not be overpowering. Because smell and taste are so tied to positive memories and emotions, consider baking cinnamon rolls for the viewers; this adds a wonderful cinnamon scent to the air, allows the potential buyers to have a quick snack, and likely helps them imagine what the holidays could look like in their new home.