Flickr photo Peanut Butter Cookies on Rack  By Muy Yum Realtors prepping for open houses should lose the oven mitts and baking sheets.

The Wall Street Journal reported on a new Washington State University study that maintains the smell of fresh-baked cookies doesn’t actually make prospective buyers more keen to put in an offer.

Though baking aromas have long been associated with childhood memories and domestic bliss, the homey scent isn’t doing real estate agents any favours. When shopping around, people actually prefer simple scents such as lemon, basil or pine.

The reason? The cookie smell is far too complex and distracting. Would-be buyers “are not there to process the smells. They are there to process whether this is a place they want to live,” says Professor Eric Spangenberg of Washington State University, whose study on the effects of aromas will appear in the Journal of Retailing in March.

Spangenberg explained that scents may affect cognitive functions in the same areas of the brain involved in decision-making. No matter how nice the scent, a complex smell causes some people to subconsciously spend time and energy trying to figure out exactly what it is.

In other words, while you think you’re thinking, “Can I afford this house?” – you’re actually subconsciously thinking, “Am I smelling cookies? Are they chocolate chip? Me want cookies!!”

Spangenberg and his co-authors studied 402 people in a home-decor store over 18 days and found that customers spent 31.8 per cent more, on average, when the store had simple orange scent instead of a complex orange, basil and green tea aroma.

The most effective scents included lemon, green tea, cedar, pine, basil and vanilla. But lose the dried flower sachets because potpourri is also too complex.

So spritz the house you’re showing with lemon scent and save the cookie dough for the post-sale celebration.

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