Last week I was showing a home to one of our buyers. When I opened the front door, the strong smell of cinnamon smacked me right in the face. As my clients walked in through the door, the wife sneezed and said, “Oh my, what is that strong cinnamon smell? I can’t breath!” For a minute, I thought she may not be able to preview the home, but she said she could deal with it.

Honestly, it wasn’t okay for her to “deal with it.” I could tell it was really bothering her as we walked through the house. She was holding her nose, trying not to suck in more air. Clearly she was turned off by the smell to the point that she couldn’t even focus on the home itself, and this home was probably a really good fit for them too.

Unfortunately over the last 14 years of my real estate career, I’ve witnessed this all too many times. Homeowners read somewhere that it’s important to cover up smells in your home by simmering water in a small saucepan and add citrus slices and herbs, like lavender or mint. They buy those little plug-in air fresheners and then crank them up full blast so the whole house will smell like pumpkin spice. The last time I walked into a home with one of those air fresheners, it smelled more like “burning pumpkin” to me! 

I always find it amazing how quickly the buyers will think the sellers are trying to cover up something, like there is a dead body in the basement and they can’t get the stench out. Admittedly though, sometimes the sellers actually are trying to cover up a smell. Smokers and pet owners tend to do this a lot. If the house has mold issues, it’s better to take care of the problem directly than try to mask it with a vanilla bean extract.

I recently read an article in REALTOR®Magazine that talked about how some commercial developers are paying thousands of dollars for sophisticated research to develop specific scents for their new buildings. They are teaming up with fragrance makers to fashion signature scents that make work spaces more welcoming. It’s called “ambient scenting” and their hopes are to provide office dwellers with a pleasant experience in common areas of the building. 

Mike Fransen, chief operating officer at Parkway Properties has 15 buildings in the greater Houston area and has been working with a fragrance company called Prolitec to add specialized scents to their buildings. Mike said they chose a warm, woodsy fragrance called “blue wood” for one of their newest building’s main entrances because scent researchers have tied the smell to feelings of luxury, modern, and sophistication – all terms they wanted associated with their new lobby area.

The hospitality industry has a proven record for its ambient scenting. For example, in 2005, Westin Hotels and Resorts created a signature scent for its global properties known as “white tea,” a fragrance described as a blend of white tea and vanilla with cedar notes. Its lobby spaces and bath amenities like lotions and soaps, all carry the same scent to reinforce brand recognition of its spaces.

That may be a little too much if you’re on a tight budget when selling your home in Kansas City. Most people don’t have the luxury of paying a fragrance maker to develop a signature smell for their home. If your home does have a negative odor, there are a few things I might suggest that do not include trying to cover it up with another strong fragrance. 

1) Have your carpets professionally cleaned. This is first on the list because it’s where most of the odor originates from.

2) Change the furnace filter and have your vents professionally cleaned.

3) Have the entire home professionally cleaned top to bottom.

4) If there are smokers living in the home or several pets, you may need to have the furniture professionally shampooed and cleaned, as well as repaint some rooms that are especially strong.

5) If possible, open all the windows and let the home “air out” naturally.