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.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Feb 19, 2013 12:56PM

Fresh-basked cookies may not sell houses after all. © Andersen Ross/Getty ImagesThis 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?

Tags: selling
Feb 20, 2013 12:59PM
We once looked at a house that had dirty clothes on the floor, dishes in the sink and a full toilet  in need of flushing!!  Totally gross.  Left as soon as possible...after flushing the toilet.
Forget the silly cookies and clean the house!!!
Feb 20, 2013 12:30PM
Smell does affect the sale of a home.  Just try showing a bank owned home to a dreamer, they want it all, they want it at a fraction of the cost and I constantly hear "what is that smell"... Bank owned homes can be vacant for 2 years or longer!  The listing agent and realtor have no idea what pets may have been in the house or how it was lived in.  The house comes into the office usually full of trash and broken furniture, that gets trashed out by a subcontractor and god only knows what it was.  I've spent money out of my own pocket for lemon or orange scented air fresheners, and I don't hide them.  It's what you see, feel, hear and smell is what you get.  Also, to those dreamers out there who think a bank owned property is worth a fraction of it's neighbor just because it's "bank owned," get a reality check, they are priced to be competitive with it's market conditions, not pennies on the dollar and not what the former owner owed on it.  If you are going to look at a home that is listed for 100k, don't waste my time and effort writing a 50k offer, you are only making me jump through hoops and yourself look ridiculous.
Feb 20, 2013 12:29PM
I always wondered what they were trying to cover with the smell. damp etc.
Feb 20, 2013 11:56AM
I haven't looked at houses since we bought ours 32 years ago. I don't remember smells unless we went into a smoker's house. Folks didn't have all the scented candles & Glade oil plugins & such then. I have heard the advice to do an apple pie or simmer orange peels with cinnamon on the stove, tho. I visit folks sometimes who have wayyy too much candles or scented warmers going in every room. They're so used to it they don't even smell it but it is really over powering.
Feb 20, 2013 11:35AM

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.

Feb 20, 2013 11:25AM
Let me add this thought to the fray, People not only walk through your home they also look around the outside as well. CLEAN THE DOG **** OUT OF THE YARD FOR CHRIST SAKE!!!
Feb 20, 2013 11:06AM
Argh. The headline and the researcher's conclusion do not necessarily follow from the research. They did not test the smell of fresh baked cookies. The smell of fresh baked cookies may be familiar enough to not induce the complexity effect, and/or the positive association with fresh baked cookies may override the complexity effect. Think people!
Feb 20, 2013 11:00AM
clean smell thats what will help! cat piss no good or dog smell...
Feb 20, 2013 10:56AM

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).

Feb 20, 2013 10:52AM
I don't see how any of these tricks sell homes anymore, they've been plastered all over the internet and TV shows for years. 
Feb 20, 2013 10:47AM
My house was vacant for 2 years before it finally closed after many offers.  I just tried to keep it smelling clean during that time.  My realtor went there often to vacuum and keep it fresh.
Feb 20, 2013 10:43AM
I once immediately seized upon an apartment because the current tenant was chopping onions and cooking something that smelt great.
Feb 20, 2013 10:41AM

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.

Feb 20, 2013 10:28AM

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.

Feb 20, 2013 10:01AM
I love the comments about how "worthless" real estate agents are. These are the same folks that will cry and whine while their over priced FSBO sits and the listed houses on their street sell. Yes, I am a Realtor and can say that before I became licensed I too thought that the 6% fee was obscene. After several years and finding out that that fee is normally split 4 WAYS I can assure you that the agents involved earn every dime. I do not expect to change anyone's mind but a good, competent, knowledgeable and market savvy Realtor is worth their weight in gold.
Feb 20, 2013 9:46AM

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.

Feb 20, 2013 9:07AM
Farting n thebathroom doesnt sell houses either............
Feb 20, 2013 9:06AM
For me, I like a place smelling and looking clean.  And, definitely don't want to walk into a place & have it smelling of smoke or pets...a big turnoff. 
Feb 20, 2013 8:56AM
A reasonable price sells a house, what it smells like (unless it is completely disgusting or overpowering) does nothing.
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