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
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
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
(Oranges photo courtesy of WGyuri, via Flickr.)