Early in my real estate career it was suggested that I bake cookies at an open house. Here I am working hard to establish myself as a professional and it is suggested that I literally get in the kitchen and start baking. It was always so funny to me. So how do you establish a welcoming scent without throwing yourself back into the 1940’s?
My number one suggestion remains, the absence of smell is the best approach. In today’s world where we are more of a melting pot of ethnicities than every before what smells good to one person may not to another. More allergies exist and people with a sensitivity to scents may turn around and walk out.
Heavy scent devices like plug-ins, can create a cause for concern. What is the seller hiding? What other smells are they masking? So best to avoid.
What works if you really want a scent.
Go light. A hint of scent far outweighs an overbearing scent. Think men’s cologne — sorry guys, some of you have a heavy hand.
Seasonal scents are often appealing. Winter selling can be very successful in a home that shows especially beautiful decorated in holiday trim. November cold weather lends well to Williams Sonoma mulling spices and hot cider. The early bits of Spring is a great time for a large bunch of flowers for your kitchen table. If the home will be vacant or you don’t want flowers, pick a diffuser with a subtle scent that conjures up reminders of the season. Remember less is more. Depending on house size, one or two is likely enough. The goal is to please the guest with a hint of scent somewhere and leave the rest of the house absent of scent so they don’t think anything is being hidden.
I recently staged a vacant home and placed one diffuser in a guest bedroom that was away from the others and closer to the bonus room. When you poked your head into that bedroom the slightest scent was noticed, enough to hopefully get a pause from the view and a better look around.
Avoid scents that are overly used and greatly recognizable like vanilla, coconut, lavender and ‘fresh linen’. They’ll come across as gimmicky and will trigger the ‘what are they hiding’ thought.
Go for a scent that is crisp (opposite of vanilla) and that cannot be easily identified so that the mind rather than naming the scent finds a relation to it, like cheerfulness. My long time favorite is Prosecco by Antica Farmacista. It is subtle and carries a blended scent, its just gorgeous (if a scent can be).
Prosecco by Antica Farmacista may be one of the most beautiful scents ever.
Another one that I discovered recently at Target is Paradise Flower by Chesapeake Bay Candle. It elicits comments like happy, sweet and cheerful. It was perfect for a bedroom I staged as a girls room.
What to do when a smell won’t go away and you really want to mask it.
Resist and don’t if you are selling your home. The legalities associated with covering up known material items is much worse.
Figure out what the problem is. There are specialists of all kinds these days to detect and rid a home of odors. In California, the most well respected for the toughest jobs is Rainbow Services. Rainbow Services destroy the cause of the odor at the molecular level and guarantees their service.
For less severe cases look to these common causes that linger even after a thorough housecleaning.
Cooking odors: If the house smells like the food that has been cooked there it’s likely the stove vent. When cooking with pungent spices and oil they both get drawn up into the vent and form a paste that never comes out. Replace the hood and venting and you will solve the problem. If you can’t afford to replace, do your best to take apart what you can and give it a thorough clean with a degreaser.
Mildew odors: The likely cause is under the house. During the winter months when it rains the moisture content in the subarea increases. In your home the heater is likely running often. This will create an environment susceptible to mildew and fungus growth and if left untreated could lead to mold, which is a larger health concern. It is easily treatable by any termite company and best to have them do it rather than DIY. A fungicide product will be used and the matter will be scraped off leaving your home with healthy air once again.
If you have mildew on your walls, often hidden behind furniture, or you live in a home without a crawl space it may be the same problem but in the walls. Or it may be surface mildew created from a higher moisture content in your home plus heat. First try cleaning the walls with a water and bleach solution and then purchase and run a de-humidifier during the months it typically happens.
A quick temporary solution
Both baking soda and coffee grounds absorb odor. Depending on your odor problem try either of these. If you are limited for time the coffee grounds will work to neutralize the odor and also will leave a scent of coffee. Much less offensive to a buyer than a house that smells like last nights fish dinner. And on that note, a best practice is to not cook pungent foods while your house is on the market so that you never have to worry about ridding the house quickly of a smell.