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Do different scents sway buyers during an inspection?

By Ashley Sandor

The smell of citrus in a property can increase the perceived value of a home by over $100,000 in the eyes of potential buyers, a new experiment has shown.

In a test, 44 potential buyers were split into groups of two and each pair inspected the same house which had been infused with either freshly-baked brownies, hot bread, freshly brewed coffee, citrus or smelly socks.

The groups were then asked to estimate the overall value of the home, having been provided with a guide price by the selling agent.

The food was prepared by MasterChef judge and chef Gary Mehigan and the citrus blend was prepared by Dr. Megan Thornton, a lecturer in food science at Deakin University.

What smells like home?

Mehigan says he chose to bake the scents that evoke good memories for most people, such as the smell of fresh bread and chocolate.

“What’s lovely about baking a cake or some bread in the house, is what it does is, it reminds you of all the fond memories you’ve had in that house and hopefully it reminds the buyer that they’re not buying a house, they’re buying a home,” he says.

But he also thinks some smells are only appealing at certain times of the day.

“I think coffee and bread would be much more appealing in the morning, than in the afternoon. Don’t you reckon? I want to wake up to that smell.”

Mehigan didn’t think the roast chicken would do that well in the experiment, as he thinks a roast needs to be heard as well as seen and different cultures value different roasted meats.

“I reckon a roast is a tough call. I reckon a roast is very visual but you also hear that (crackle) too. You’ve got hear that,” he says adding that roast lamb isn’t a particularly appealing smell.

Mehigan, who has sold two properties, says his wife loves essential oils and places candles and diffusers around the house which he says he appreciates coming home to after traveling.

“I think she’s the expert, she loves a scented candle or a diffuser and low-light. As a man that all seems superfluous to my life, but I love it when someone else does it,” he says.

The results

The citrus smell resulted in a valuation of $850,250 for the suburban house compared to the smell of roast chicken which resulted in buyers valuing the same house at $749,500. Unsurprisingly, the smelly sock scent resulted in the lowest valuation for the house at $743,750.

ScentAverage property estimate
Brownies$821, 250
Baked Bread$808,750
Roast chicken$749,500
Smelly socks$743,750 survey data shows that 45% of respondents haven’t used a scent to entice buyers when their home was on the market.

The survey of 1025 Australians also found that 27.6% of people would use the smell of baked bread at an open for inspection followed by 25.3% who would use coffee, compared to just 17.5% who would use citrus.

Why citrus works

Thornton says she chose the citrus blend based on research that suggests a singular citrus scent is popular with shoppers in retail space, as well as the home.

“While a few years ago it was popular to be baking cookies or doing a big Sunday roast with all the trimmings which smells amazing, the research is starting to show that it’s the more simple, subtle scents that are more important. They have to be ambient in that you don’t really notice, they’re in the background and you don’t think they are influencing you in any way but they still evoke simple, clean type memories,” she says.

Citrus works because of its simplicity and it also stimulates buyers Thornton says, but a chemical citrus smell would not work in the same way.

“If people have come across the smell before and they pick up that it is an air freshener or a cleaning product then they’re going to say there’s something being covered up here and they’ll start to look for something that might be wrong,” she says.

Matching the smell with the style of the property, will also influence how buyers experience a home at an open for inspection.

“Having an aroma that matches the home is very important, it’s known as being congruent to the area.  So if for example, you have a home with a garden, you might bring some of those flowers from outside inside so that people will match the smell with what they are looking at,” Thornton says.

A subtle citrus smell is a better match for a new home, whereas baking would suit an older home.

“If you have a brand new house and you’ve got the smell of brownies or cookies or that kind of thing people won’t really match that kind of smell with the home because they are used to it (the smell) being in a more a homely area.”

Reference : Danielle Cahill,

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