“Smelly” Homes May Put Off Buyers

It’s not something that buyers or sellers tend to think about consciously, but real estate agents in the ‘nose’ understand that the smell of a home can have a big impact on a prospective buyer’s decision to make an offer or pass up the chance on a particular property.

© udra11 - Fotolia.com

© udra11 – Fotolia.com

However, new research suggests that while agents understand the importance of a home with a seductive aroma, some of the most common scents used to spruce up a home could actually be having the opposite effect to what’s intended – turning buyers off.

Eric Spangenberg, dean of the College of Business at Washington State University, told the Wall Street Journal that some of the most complex smells associated with home cooking – like chocolate-chip cookies, potpourri and gourmet foods – actually have the effect of dampening a buyer’s enthusiasm, contrary to popular belief. Instead, agents would be better off using lighter aromas such as green tea, lemon, cedar, basil, vanilla and pine.

Spangenberg and his team of researchers came to this conclusion after studying 402 customers in a Swiss home décor store back in 2010. Over the 18 days that they watched the store, the researchers discovered that shoppers would spend an average of 31.8% more money when on days when the store used simple scents, as opposed to days when more complex aromas were used. Spangenberg says that the same principle can apply to listed homes, as the aromas are believed to have an effect on the cognitive function of part of the brain that’s involved in decision making.

The problem with complex scents is that, even though they may be pleasing, these can actually distract buyers from making a decision on whether or not to make an offer on the home, because they spend time subconsciously trying to guess what the aroma might be. Instead of using such smells, Professor Spangenberg recommends that agents use less distracting scents such as lemon, pine or basil to facilitate a sale.

In addition, sellers should also make sure that whatever aroma they choose is congruent with their particular home. For example, if the home happens to be located up in the mountains somewhere then a cedar smell would be most appropriate, but if the home happens to be right beside the beach then it probably isn’t a good idea, simply because it isn’t natural.

About Mike Wheatley

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at mike@realtybiznews.com.


  1. Interesting read! And definitely some good tips to keep in mind. One of my favorite tricks is to pour a few teaspooons of vanilla into an oven safe mug, stick it in the oven, turn it to 300 degrees and let it stew for an hour. Smells amazing but not overpowering!