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The Scents of Selling Success: Can the scent of fresh linen help to sell your home?

When it comes to selling a property, homeowners should know that prospective buyers will unconsciously use all their senses to make a decision on whether a property is right for them. House buying is an emotional and psychological process so small, subtle changes like hiding clutter and cleaning surfaces can play a significant role in whether someone wants to buy your home. But what if we told you adding a diffuser or lighting a candle could make all the difference when trying to sell your home?

A report by Shopify revealed how scent marketing has long been used by retailers to improve browsing experiences. By simply adding pleasant fragrances to stores, brands have been able to create a warm feeling of familiarity which in turn has increased sales.

So, with the psychology of fragrances being a proven selling technique, why shouldn’t the same method be applied to the process of selling your home? 

The mortgage experts at Bankrate UK surveyed over 2,000 people to discover if certain scents make us feel more homely than others and which, if any, people prefer to smell in each room of the home. 

Which scents are best for sellers?

You'd have thought after a lockdown filled with banana bread and sourdough, Brits would be fed up with the smell of baking but in fact the comforting aroma of a freshly-baked crust is the nation's favourite homely smell.

Both men and women agreed this was the most homely scent. 3 out of the 5 age groups voted freshly baked bread on top, and it proved particularly popular with older respondents.

The best way to make a home smell of freshly baked bread is of course to bake a loaf yourself. However the popularity of freshly baked bread as a scent has driven demand for artificial bread home fragrances. In fact, there were 12,600 Google searches for fresh and baked bread candle terms in 2019 and 2020. 

Similarly, Google search volume also revealed searches for ‘linen candle’ peaked at a 5 year high in January. This was voted the second most homely scent and was top choice for those aged 35 to 44.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the smell of coffee was also a popular choice, with estate agents regularly recommending homeowners brew a fresh pot ahead of house viewings.

Close behind coffee was the spring aroma of freshly cut grass, while the soothing scent of lavender came in fifth place.

Nisha Vaidya, Mortgage Expert at Bankrate UK, said: “The strategic use of scent in a home can create a warm and welcoming environment, immediately putting potential buyers at ease. Fragrances that not only appeal to individual buyers, but also draw upon emotions can help prospective buyers to picture themselves living there.”

Does preferred scent differ by age?

When selling a house, homeowners should bear in mind the age of any prospective buyers. The average age of a first time buyer in the UK is 34, however there are plenty of buyers of all ages looking for homes.

Although fresh bread did come in the top three for all age groups, the survey revealed that Generation Z is more attracted to sweeter scents than older generations. 16-24 year olds are most drawn to the sweet scent of vanilla, with almost a third saying that the sugary fragrance was the homeliest. Fresh linen and freshly baked bread made up the top three.

25-34s also associate vanilla as a homely scent. It was the third most homely scent in that age group, with over a fifth of respondents associating it with home. However freshly baked bread appeals to nearly a quarter of 25-34s so will be a comforting scent to prospective buyers. 35-44 year olds, on the other hand, believe the crisp scent of fresh linen is the most homely.

For those aged between 45 and 54; freshly baked bread, coffee, and fresh linen come in the top three spots.

The scent of freshly baked bread was the most popular with over 55s; more than a half of respondents chose this as their homeliest scent - more than any other age group. The calming aroma of lavender was also more popular with the over 55s, with nearly a fifth of respondents referencing it as a homely scent.

Nisha Vaidya, mortgage expert at Bankrate UK: “Although there is a common theme, it is interesting to see how this differs slightly between ages. Potentially mirroring their more relaxed lifestyle, in general, older generations prefer the soothing notes of lavender and fresh linen. In comparison younger generations associate a sweet scent, such as vanilla and cinnamon with home.

“To ensure they have the best chance of selling their home, homeowners should think about who their house will appeal to, and use appealing scents for that specific age group.”

Could fragrance zoning help to sell your home?

A new emerging trend in the interior and wellness space is the act of home fragrance zoning, otherwise known as scent-scaping. The psychology behind the trend suggests by using different scents to divide the home and your day, your brain is triggered to compartmentalise and switch to a different frame of mind. 

Experts including Joe Coggrave, Beauty Buyer for Skincare & Fragrance at John Lewis suggest scent-scaping could be as straightforward as “a refreshing peppermint spray in the morning, an energising citrus candle post lunch and a relaxing lavender scent for evening”. 

For homeowners preparing to sell their property, simply tailoring their fragrance to the time of day house viewings are taking place could have a positive impact.

Another option for a more tailored approach is the use of individual scents by room.

As with colours, it’s been said that fragrances can have an effect on how big a room feels, with lighter fragrances like jasmine, water lily and orchid helping to open up a space. Therefore placing these in a hallway can open up an entryway, making it instantly feel more spacious and light. Citrus scents such as lemon or lime on the other hand are perfect in a kitchen to create a fresh environment, and give the illusion of it being freshly cleaned.

The scent of cinnamon creates a harmonious, homely feel, so is a great choice for living rooms and snugs. For something a little fresher in warmer months, floral scents are another great option. 

Finally, with home offices often now being a priority for buyers, sellers looking to showcase their office set up should use scents such as rosemary as it’s known for helping with memory, or peppermint for stimulation.

Fragrance zoning may be a relatively new trend, but fragrance has been used by people to create different moods and atmospheres for many years. To find out which scents people use in their homes, we’ve found the most popular by room. So if fragrance zoning has inspired you to create individual spaces in the home, whether you’re looking to sell or not, here are the top scents by room, in order to help you create just the atmosphere you’re looking for:

If you’re considering using scents to help speed up the sale of your home, you may want to read our guide on selling your house. If you’ve had a sale agreed and looking to remortgage, check out our remortgaging deals and rates.

Sources and methodology

John Lewis Beauty Report

Google search volume data - 2019 v 2020

Bankrate UK enlisted Censuswide to conduct a nationally representative sample of 2,051 participants on their thoughts on scents and fragrances in the home. Survey data accurate as of February 2021.