Planning an Open House? The Right Scent May Help You Sell Your Home

Photo of sliced oranges
Simple aromas, such as an orange, can help sell your home.

Sellers preparing their home for an open house may be tempted to put a batch of cookies in the oven, following the conventional wisdom that the smell of baked goods will make buyers feel at home – and more likely to buy.

You may get a tasty snack for your efforts, but don’t count on a sales contract.

Recent research says complex smells, such as chocolate chip cookies or potpourri, are a distraction and have no bearing on buying decisions.

Instead, Eric Spangenberg, dean of the college of business at Washington State University, recommends simple scents, such as orange, lemon, green tea, cedar, pine, basil, cinnamon, or vanilla.

Spangenberg was part of a team that studied the effects of aromas on shoppers, with results published in the March issue of the Journal of Retailing.

The researchers tested a retail store’s sales levels when hundreds of shoppers were exposed to “background” aromas of a simple orange aroma compared with sales when the air was scented with an orange-basil-green-tea blend, and with no fragrance at all. They found that sales increased by 20 percent when the plain orange scent was in the air.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Spangenberg said the same principles apply to home sales as well as retail shopping.

Complex scents, even pleasant ones, can be distracting as people subconsciously try to identify the aroma, he said. Simple scents are easier for buyers to process, and they add to the overall experience.

Besides sticking with simple aromas, Spangenberg said smells should be congruent with the home – he recommended using a cedar scent in a mountain home but not a beach house, for example.

“You need to think, ‘What scent will buyers associate with this environment?’” he told the Journal. “It must be simple and positive and congruent.”

(Oranges photo courtesy of WGyuri, via Flickr.)

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