Can you guess the first move a buyer makes when walking into a home for the first time? I'll let you ponder that one for a moment while I talk to you about the content of this installation of "Stage to Sell Secrets".
This episode is about the psychological warfare tactics that can be waged on your prospective buyers to get them to act NOW on your home. You see it's not enough to 'show well' or 'be competitively priced'. Your objective is to have that buyer walking out of your home with a GNAWING FEAR that your home is going to be gone before they have a chance to write an offer.

To have that sort of impact on someone, you have to bypass logic and speak straight to the subconscious. You've got to be in touch with the senses. And 'that' should be a clue to the question I asked at the beginning. Have you figured out the first move each buyer makes when walking into your home? Give up? They take a big pull of air through the old sniffer and sample the air from the front door. It happens every single time without fail.
Why? You ask. Well, it's simple yet biologically sophisticated. You see our noses warn us of dangers that can't be seen. Mold, dampness, ammonia (urine), chemicals, a hint of propane, sulfer, etc. all give us hints about the overall healthiness of the environment. Deep down in the brain stem, this biological warning system is always working. It's particularly impactful when looking for a new nest. A home that smells damp will trigger a flag that our internal defense systems will read as a possible threat of lung infections, airborne illness, skin, nail, and scalp fungal infections, easy breeding grounds for bacteria, etc. A home that smells of ammonia (cats are the most frequent offender) tells our lower brain functions that there might be rodents about. That hints at lice, e-coli, potential competition for our food supply, contaminated drinking water etc. There's no need to go through all the possible smells. You get the idea.
The question I get most frequently about this is; "aren't people smart enough to look (smell?) past these things? I mean, it's obvious the 'cat odor' will go with the cats, isn't it?" Well, yes, people 'are' smart enough to figure that out. BUT, what most people 'aren't' smart enough to realize is what's going on in their subconscious. You see, we're not always privvy to what messages our lower brain functions are sending to our higher brain functions. We just get a very general, very visceral, and very strong "NO" impression. We often can't even articulate why. And it doesn't matter. Once that mental 'stamp' has been applied to your home, that's the game folks.
So what do we do about this? Well, the first thing to understand is that "EVERY" home has a smell. And YOU being the owner, are UNIQUELY UNQUALIFIED to smell it. The part of your brain responsible for pattern recognition will very quickly filter out a smell that is 'always there'. It's on the hunt for anomalies that could cause you problems. So that slightly musty smell that you took note of on day one, may still be there, but your brain has dismissed it as irrelevant, and has stopped telling you it's there.
So now we know that every time someone walks in your door, they smell 'something'. What we want to do to take the phychological battle to the enemy is be very deliberate in controlling what that smell is. What we 'want' them to smell is something that says 'comfort' and 'safe'. The 'comfort' part is easy so we'll get to that later. The 'safe' is the tricky part. An environment conducive to healthy living is going to smell 'clean, fresh, airy, and dry.' To achieve this, you need circulation, low humidity, and filtration. Air out the house a few hours before showing. It's pretty easy to change out the air. Open a door downstairs, and open windows upstairs. The 'chimney effect' will suck the air right out of the house from bottom to top after about 30 minutes. Next, let's control the humidity. Most moisture (assuming you don't have any leaks in the roof/walls/windows) is going to come from the basement. Run a de-humidifier at a low setting and drain the water into your sump pump, floor drain, or french drain. That will go a long way toward drying out the air. Finally, get good filters for your hvac system. A $30 dollar filter will go a LONG way toward cleaning up the air in the house. Leaving out open boxes of baking soda in discrete places can help as well, although I recommend putting them away before you show. Finally, have your carpets professionally cleaned. There is an unimaginable amount of funk that gets trapped deep in the fibers of your carpet. That funk is largely biological material that bacteria can eat. If the bacteria is eating it, a smell is being released as a byproduct. Nasty, right? You may want to do these things even if you aren't selling.
So...the combination of the above techniques can get you to a base level freshness. NOW, let's give them something 'good' to smell with their first draft of air. But go easy. Your nose is pretty sensetive, and if you overload them with a particular scent it'll do more harm than good. The best technique I've come across to create a subtle, yet pervasive, smell is to clip an air freshener to the main air intake for the hvac. Air gets sucked past it, and voila! The entire house is smellified.
Let's talk about scents. There's some debate about the best smell to have waiting at the front door. It seems to be a fairly subjective thing, but there are a couple of universals. Vanilla, fresh laundry, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and cinnamon all show up in focus groups as having strong positive emotional triggers so I'd stick with those. Your floral scents are received either indifferently, or negatively, giving some people headaches, and others negative feelings being reminders of funerals, etc. Obviously we don't want to make anyone sick or remind them of death sooo.....let's stick with the tried and true.
If done in a sufficiently subtle manner, you can create an extremely powerful positive connection to your home by eliminating the potentially bad, and then connecting your home to a strong emotional memory by stimulating the olfactory senses. I don't know that I have a strong wrap up for this article other than to say that "it smells like a plan to me! ;-).
Until next time!