Home Scenting

By Sharon Naylor

April 1, 2011 5 min read

The most beautiful home will turn off prospective buyers if it smells unpleasant. Real estate agents and home stagers endeavor to create a welcoming impression with your home's assets and d?cor, and everything you've put into improving your home would count for nothing if buyers were to walk into a cloud of cigarette smoke, pet scents or mildew smells; they might not even venture past the entryway.

Though cigarette smoke and pet smells are the most notorious offenders, some additional scents also have been reported as turnoffs. "Strong disinfectants, insecticides and french fries have all been known to dampen the enthusiasm of buyers who might otherwise respond positively to a house that would meet their needs," says Realtor Stephanie Mallios. An addition to that list is the musty smell of an older home.

What makes a buyer connect to a home is extremely subjective, and scents can trigger memories and feelings in an individual that you can't possibly predict. The goal is to create a pleasant, subtle scent that inspires the experience of a comfortable, clean and cozy living environment.

Here are some tried-and-true methods for creating a lovely scent in the home you're selling:

--Before a showing or an open house, pop some Pillsbury rolls or bread into the oven. The scent of freshly baked bread is one of the most advised aromas. Before baking, though, make sure your oven does not have any spilled-over sauce -- for example, from last night's lasagna -- in it, as that could fill your home with smoke and a burnt smell. Be sure your oven is clean inside and out.

--Experiment ahead of time with scented candles. Some brands of candles create a very strong scent, which can create a "too much of a good thing" vanilla, citrus, lavender or other scent that becomes an overpowering, almost sickening, smell. Test your space to find out how many candles are needed in a single scent to create a pleasant, subtle aroma.

--Scent smaller spaces, such as bathrooms, with a single reed diffuser in a natural scent, avoiding very strong smells in a small space. Some berry or tropical scents can be too strong for a tiny room.

--"If someone in the home is a smoker, place a moratorium on smoking indoors during the time you have your house on the market," Mallios advises.

--Place reed diffusers on a windowsill so that the sun warms the jar and helps disseminate the scent.

--Do not use scented floor cleaners, such as lavender- or berry-scented cleaning solutions, even if you like the aroma. Some cleaning solutions with scent added can create extremely strong or conflicting smells within your home.

--If your refrigerator will stay with the property, be sure the inside of it smells fresh, not like spoiled food or onions. Place an open box of baking soda inside to absorb all scents.

--The same goes for your microwave. To eliminate coffee or food smells, fill a bowl with water and lemon juice, and microwave it for a few minutes. Then wipe down the inside of your microwave.

--If you have stains from pets on the carpet, use a product that is safe and specially formulated to remove pet stains and odors.

--"If your puppy has made a stain on a chair, remove that chair from the room, even if you have spot-cleaned it," Mallios says.

--Ask a friend who does not live in your home to walk through and assess your house for scents. It's possible there are unpleasant scents that you've become used to. A "fresh nose" will reveal the scent experience that first-time visitors will have, and you'll know which areas of your home to fix.

--Pay special attention to scents inside closets. Especially in older homes, closets can hold musty odors. Place a few dryer sheets on a closet shelf, which freshens the air within, and think twice about putting cedar hangers or balls inside a closet, because some buyers might not like that strong cedar scent.

--If weather permits, open your windows to get fresh, clean air inside your home.

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