You Can’t Smell Your Own Home But a Buyer Will

Just like people, every home has its own distinctive smell. After years spent in the same house, you won’t be able to easily detect its unique aroma but visitors can and here’s why.

A popular brand of air freshener has an ad campaign that explores one of our greatest fears; that our homes smell awful. The idea is that you are used to the odors in your own home while visitors could be thinking your house smells like a pair of dirty sneakers.

This phenomenon is sometimes called “nose-blindness” and it’s very real. Who hasn’t gone on holiday for a week or two and when walking into their house, exclaimed how musty the place smelled? Your house may indeed be musty but, it’s also entirely likely that the place always smells like that, and you just don’t normally notice it.

There’s a complex series of reactions going on in your nose and brain when you “switch-off” environmental odors. If you were to start using a new spicy smelling air freshener, the fragrance molecules drift through your nose until they collide with your smell receptors. Your smell receptors will then send signals to the olfactory bulb in the part of the brain that is linked to emotion and behavior.

At that point, your brain recognizes the smell and decides what must be done about it. All this is happening very fast and just as quickly the smell receptors in your nose stop registering the new scent and the strength of the odor begins to diminish. Because your brain knows the smell isn’t menacing, you won’t have to pay close attention to it.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure why our noses adapt to smells, but it seems to be linked to survival, helping us quickly detect tiny changes in the scent of our environment. Whatever is new in your environment becomes a red flag that rises above the rest and demands attention, such as the smell of fire. This phenomenon is known as sensory adaptation, and it’s something we experience most intensely with smells.

So is there any way to improve your perception of smells in your environment? As you’ll know, taking frequent breaks helps – coming back home after a long time away is an opportunity to experience your home’s smells as a visitor would. Take a tip from the professional “noses” (perfumers) who have been known to run up and down stairs because increased blood flow seems to kick-start the nose into smelling those familiar odors again.

If this worries you, here’s some good news, an intense fear about odors, in fact seems to make your nose more sensitive. Filling your property with pleasant aromas is discussed in many articles about staging your home.


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