Smells and Selling Your Home
Posted by Chris Marney

What kind of smells can help sell your home?

While it may be common to fill a house with the smell of fresh baked cookies prior to an open house, doing so can actually hurt your cause.

Every house smells like something. We all know that no matter how scent-free our homes seem to us, someone else can walk in and instantly pick up on last night’s sautéed fish or the garlic that went into Wednesday’s spaghetti. Maybe the recycling needs to go out, or litter box odour lingers no matter how often the pan is changed. There’s always something. Even the fragrance products you buy might strike a guest as stinky.

Those odours are all fine if they’re fine by you, but they are not smells that can help sell your home. For that, we’re looking for light, clean and neutral.

First off, neutralizing a home’s air does not mean spraying a product that claims to neutralize or freshen. Scented sprays mask odors and often create the unpleasant effect of, for example, cheap artificial gardenia perfume layered over old cooking grease. Neutral means clean, as in nearly without smell.

Things that are clean smell clean

The deep house cleaning that prepares a home for sale is also going to improve its scent profile. However, be careful that your efforts do not leave the house reeking of ammonia, bleach or any strongly scented cleaner. Using well-chosen products, you’ll freshen up the air when you:


  • Wash all bed covers and wash or dry-clean curtains.
  • Have the carpet cleaned or, if necessary, replaced.
  • Mop hard-surface floors with a lightly scented or unscented cleaner.
  • Scrub the bathrooms top to bottom, again being careful to use lightly scented cleaners and time to allow time for the room to air out.
  • Store old shoes in plastic boxes with lids.
  • Wash pet bedding.
  • If possible, move pet paraphernalia and litter boxes to a garage or otherwise away from main living areas.

Research shows complex smells may not sell.

Scientists at Oxford University have spent years studying the effect of smell on buyer behaviour. Research suggests complex scents — such as the intermingled chocolate and vanilla of fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies — are distracting. They simply make our brains work too hard trying to figure them out. The simpler the smell, the more likely someone is to make a purchase. While our homes aren’t retail stores, home buyers are buyers, and their behaviour can be affected by smells.

So what smells can help sell your home?

What are these simple selling scents? Professionals offer some suggestions. If you want to use scent to help sell your home, try deploying a hint of a single-note organic one such as:

  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Pine
  • Basil
  • Cedar
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon

And if you’re intent on baking, skip the chocolate chips or anything gourmet in favour of a simply scented cinnamon bun.

Comments are closed.