Recently, as I arrived at a property to set up for an open house, I passed the homeowner on her way out.  “Oh! I baked some cookies!!” she shouted as she ran by.  “YUM!” I thought.  I knew I would be there for the next two hours and I had been too busy to stop for lunch.  As I entered the house, the smell of fresh-baked cookies filled my nose and I immediately felt at home.  My mind quickly wandered off to thoughts of childhood and happy memories.  I wanted to sit and enjoy that wonderful scent forever.

Baking a pie, bread, or cookies before an open house or a showing is an age-old piece of advice that Realtors have offered their clients.  More recently, many other industries have taken up this practice known as scent marketing.  Many people may not even consciously notice it, but Westin Hotels & Resorts pump in the smell of white tea.  Sony Style stores are scented with a custom blend of mandarin orange, vanilla, and cedar, which, by the way, they’ve patented.  The Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando installed “Scent Wave” technology to project a “waffle cone” aroma adjacent to their ice cream parlor.  The added scent drove up ice cream sales 50%.  Adding ambient aroma has become big business and many companies have signature scents designed for their brands.  Some “scent technology” companies like Scent Air can charge more than $25,000 to create a custom blended aroma for a client.  Adding an ambient aroma to an environment can be done on a much more cost-effective level as well.  Almost any supermarket will have a large section of scented sprays, plug-ins, and candles.  Alternatively, Yankee Candle stores which are practically ubiquitous sell candles and air fresheners available in myriad aromas.  Scent Marketing is big business!

Scent Marketing is such an exciting new practice because smell is a powerful sense tied directly to the emotional center of the brain and it has also been shown to help facilitate memory recall.  For instance, the smell of pine may bring back great holiday memories.  The smell of fresh-cut grass may remind you of summer.  Because smell is such a powerful sense, much money has been spent studying the effect of smell on consumer behaviour.  While some of these studies have been inconclusive, many of them have shown strong evidence that behaviour can be influenced by ambient aromas.  Scent was shown to increase sales in a bakery 300%,  increase the amount of time spent by gamblers in a casino, and even increase the desirability of Nike shoes.  The key to using scent as a marketing tool is to find one that is appropriate for your product and that causes a positive effect on “mood valence.”  Positive “mood valence” is a term used by psychologists to describe a mental state of happiness and relaxation and an increased appeal for the object causing the change in “mood valence.”  Ambient aromas, which inspire positive mood valence, have been shown to cause consumers to linger longer in stores and find products more attractive.  It is also important to match product and aroma appropriately.  Adding lemon scent to a purple colored product has been shown to have no effect on consumers whereas adding lemon scent to a yellow colored product can increase desirability.

In the retail environment, it doesn’t stop with the sense of smell. In almost any store, a carefully selected soundtrack is playing in the background.  They don’t play Barry Manilow in Hot Topic stores and, conversely, Metallica isn’t played in Neiman Marcus.  Music, much like aroma, can be judged to be pleasant/unpleasant and, if appropriately chosen, can also trigger mood valence.  Studies have also shown that pairing music and aroma together can lead to a strong response from consumers.  Using the two at the same time can be more complex, however, as both the music and aroma must be judged as pleasant by the consumer and both must be appropriate for the product being sold.

So, what does all this mean for people trying to sell their home?

In real estate, we spend a lot of time on the visual appeal of the home:  How do the pictures of the home look?  Is the home staged properly?  Does this home need to be neutralized?  Clearly though, appealing to the buyers’ other senses can also add to a home’s allure.  Appropriately chosen scents and sounds can do a lot to enhance the appeal of a home.  They can cause buyers to linger longer in your home and find it more appealing.  They can also help a buyer’s ability to not only remember your house, but to remember it in a positive way.  Many companies spend thousands of dollars to formulate scents that consumers will identify with their brands.  The same effect can had in a home for only the cost of a tube of Toll House cookie dough.

When preparing your home for a showing or an open house, go that extra mile and put on some relaxing music with wide ranging appeal and bake some cookies.  It will help to distinguish your home from others that buyers may see that day and make it more appealing.  It’s the little things that can make the difference and will help you sell your house.

If you’re thinking of selling your home this year, give me a call.  I’ll help you to present your home in the best way possible down to the smallest detail so that it will sell for the highest price possible in the shortest amount of time.