Young woman in a shop, smelling a scented candle.

A scented candle can fit in with your decor while providing a fresh aroma throughout your home. (Getty Images)

The sense of smell can sway a homebuyer when it comes to spending time in a space during an open house. When preparing a home for sale, homeowners need to remove the sources of bad odor first. Bad smells that deter buyers include cooked food, home appliances, clothing and shoes, pets, smoke and mold – even dusty air vents can cause put a stank face on homebuyers.

It’s important for home sellers to be honest with themselves about the smells curating in their home and take care of the root cause of the stink, rather than simply masking the smell.

Once the source of the bad odor has been addressed, home sellers should make sure the space smells clean during open houses.

But a clean smell and a deodorized smell are two different things. Pulling out scented candles and plug-ins or preparing baked cookies may smell nice to some, but others may think you’re masking a smell or could find the scent appalling. Even worse, the scent could distract the buyer’s ability to make a decision.

[Read: 7 Smells Homebuyers Hate.]

First, take the time to clean the entire home from top to bottom to make a huge impact in the scent of your home. By cleaning regularly, a home seller is staying on top of stale, musty air that can linger in the home.

Hate cleaning? Try turning it into a fun task by turning up the music, getting all family members involved and coming up with a desirable reward. Maybe it’s giving the kids an allowance, maybe it’s buying that pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on. Use whatever reward necessary to motivate the cleaning process and eventually you’ll be able to change your habits about the way you clean, which improves the home’s overall smell.

Next, plan on using one clean, simple fragrance in the home. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Retailing by Eric Spangenberg, now the dean of the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California-Irvine, found shoppers spent an average of 31.8 percent more money in a home decor store when it was scented with a simple orange scent, rather than a blend of scents. The study, conducted while Spangenberg was dean of the College of Business at Washington State University, recommends using simple scents such as:

Citrus. Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges smell fresh, and they’re a more durable fruit with longer-lasting scents that are particularly fragrant.

Herbs. Using scented herbs can also bring a refreshing, familiar smell to the nose. Instilling rosemary, thyme or basil in the home when selling, especially in the kitchen, will create a warm and welcoming feeling for buyers.

Vanilla. There is something about vanilla that makes the room feel cozy. Grab a vanilla candle or make your own scent using vanilla beans or extract. You can use almond or mint extract to bring in a fresh scent as well.

Green Tea. Refresh your mind with a crisp, lively aroma of green tea that is used to help restore harmony.

Pine and cedar. Pine and cedar are two fragrant trees that can be used to create a complex aroma, these are especially nice to use during the holidays and winter months.

These scents are easier to sort out, less distracting, and thus more conducive to spending. When deciding what scent works best for your home, take a cue from your location. For example, you can use pine and cedar for a house in the woods, but not at the beach.

[See: 13 Photography Tips When Shooting Your Home to Put It on the Market.]

One of my favorite scents, as home stager, to use throughout a home is citrus cilantro, which comes in a variety of products that diffuses the scent. Consider using products like these in the home:

Candles. Wax or oil-based candles strategically placed around the home can quickly freshen up the air in the room. Remove candle wrappers or choose ones that can be easily displayed with other decor, or that a seller can place inside other decorative pieces to hide the candle. Just remember the candles are lit – don’t put them in a place where they can easily be knocked over.

Reed diffusers. This is a great product to use in a bathroom. The scented oil is released into the air through reed sticks over time. However, a reed diffuser can get overpowering in small rooms, and should be replaced when the smell dissipates.

Simmer pots. A simmer pot can easily make the home smell amazing. To use this product, mix a few scented ingredients with water, then place them in a pan on the stove. Try this before your next open house.

Deodorizing disks. These will stop bad smells in smaller places like in a shoe closet, in the laundry basket or under your sink.

Potpourri. Potpourri is a mixture of dried petals and spices that can be placed in a bowl or small sacks around the home to freshen up the air.

Oil plug-ins. There are a number of products on the market that you can plug into an electrical socket to dispense aromas into the air. The scented oil releases throughout thirty days, so place this in the entryway and hallways to welcome buyers into each space.

[See: Current Design Trends That Will Date Your Home.]

Of course, whatever scent you decide on, remember to first find the source of any bad odors. If you can’t detect anything – which most sellers can’t because they’re so use to the smell – then recruit a friend to take a whiff.

Tags: real estate, housing, existing home sales, home improvements


Tori Toth is a best-selling author, DIY and lifestyle expert, award-winning home stager and lifestyle authority. She can show anybody how to add more value to their home by giving the tools needed to prepare and showcase any home for sale. She works with consumers, real estate agents, or anybody else who wants to make their home look its best quickly and easily. Home staging is a strategic marketing tool for the biggest return on investment of a home, focusing on renovation and creative design. By creating a lifestyle that buyers will find aspirational, Tori Toth will demonstrate methods of rearranging, organizing and in many cases, adding or editing furniture and home décor. The best, clearest, most helpful information of how to stage a home with and be an immediate success can be found in Tori’ best-selling book "Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell."