Fresh-baked cookies don't sell houses
New research suggests that a complex scent, such as cookies baking, distracts homebuyers. A simpler scent, such as lemon, might be better.
This is one of the most shocking real-estate stories we have read lately: Contrary to popular belief, the smell of fresh-baked cookies does NOT help to sell your home.
A simpler scent, such as lemon, basil or pine, would be preferable, researchers from Washington State University report. A complex scent, such as cookies, could be a distraction from the home itself.
"They are not there to process the smells," Eric Spangenberg, who has done years of research on the effect of smells on sales, told The Wall Street Journal. "They are there to process whether this is a place they want to live."
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In their most recent study, he and his colleagues studied the effect of scent on 402 shoppers in a home decor store in Switzerland. They found that the shoppers bought 31.8% more when the stores used a simple orange scent than when the scent was a blend of orange, basil and green tea.
"Complex scents, even if they're pleasant, can be a distraction because some people subconsciously dedicate time and energy to figuring out what the aroma is," The WSJ explains, meaning that the would-be buyers are analyzing the cookie smell with the part of the brain that would normally be evaluating the merchandise, i.e., your house for sale.
The cookie-baking maxim has become so pervasive that it may be hard to get sellers to quit baking – though a few renegade agents have always questioned the advice. "Cleanliness is the best scent," Oregon broker Annette Sievert wrote at Active Rain.
Writing at Home Goes Strong, Leah Ingram said was skeptical but when her home was on the market she baked cookies because her real-estate agent insisted it would bring about a faster sale. She wrote:
What that meant was that I baked a lot of cookies before open houses and showings. And what I learned was this: While her choice of house smells turned out to be a personal favorite, buyers didn't like it. In fact, they didn't even want the cookies — that plate was always untouched after every showing or open house. And the folks that did eventually buy our house made no mention of the cookies.
What do you think: Does the smell of cookies give you a warm feeling about a place?
When I look at a house for sale and smell cookies, I always think, " Ah, ha, they are hiding the scent of dog, or mold or something." and then immediately am turned off.
Fresh baked cookies! Pine scent, rosebuds, in moderation
is fine. Overwhelming is obnoxious, but the worst --
cigarette/tobacco smoke NEVER leaves (even w/ a new paint job).
Just don't make the scent too strong.
Back when we were looking at homes to buy, we went into one that had so much potpourri and scented candles that the three of us (realtor included) could hardly breath. It gave me a headache. First off, it was uncomfortable to be in there, which meant that we didn't spend as much time looking at the house as we normally would've. Second, it made me wonder if they made it that strong to cover something up.
A GOOD realtor is worth his/her weight in gold. Mine earned every penny and then some. I had a buyer approach me, and I hadn't even listed the house, but I wanted someone to look out for my interests. He did, and even negotiated for more money than I could have done on my own. He pulled in enough extra to cover his commission.
I agree that the scent of cookies would be distracting to me.
My house always smells like whatever delicious thing I am cooking. It will probably linger when I try to sell it. When I bought it it smelled like dogs. The previous owner has two. I was not aware of this after the first showing when it smelled pleasant due to scented oil air fresheners.
It was fall, and I happened to go back on a much warmer day than originally, (noone lived there) when the AC hadn't been on, and it was so bad my realtor almost pulled the idea. I did not move on, because they signed to replace the carpet, and pad. No more dog smell. If I had found out AFTER the purchace, I would have been very upset.
It's false advertising to cover up yuck. Your house should smell clean because it is clean. If you walk into mine you smell food, I cook well, and often. When I leave, it will smell clean, because I clean it. Not because I'm falsifying the scent.
It should (and may be) against the law to sell someone a house under such pretenses. I want it to smell in the house, how it will smell when I move in when I am looking. Otherwise I could make a decision I then have to live with, and try to sell myself. Fortunately, my situation worked out. I got new carpet, and a great place to live.
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.