To Burn or Not To Burn: Will Your Incense Interfere With Your Selling?

Real Estate Agent with Palmer House Properties 292385

Alpharetta, GA homes for Sale by Dee NealI'm a burner. So naturally, when I toured a home with my buyer recently, the smell of incense when I walked in didn't bother me. It actually made me interested in just who these sellers were. My buyer however, thought the smell was from cigarettes, and immediately had thoughts of how she was going to get that smell out if she bought the house or if the seller would have the home professionally cleaned to remove the smell. Having experience with incense and being an ex-smoker, I was able to assure her that the smell was not from cigarettes and incense smells don't linger for long after a window is open. I was able to calm her down from the alarm that went off as soon as the smell hit her. 

Others may not be so prepared to calm their buyers down. Not everyone burns incense or knows the difference between cigarette smoke and the smell of an incense being burned. An agent with little to no experience with these things may have to side with the buyer and find other ways to quiet their alarm. It could turn a buyer off completely, especially if they have children. 

Incense smell GREAT! I love them. Everyone's nose can't handle them especially those with allergies and asthma. Incense are burned for a variety of uses. They can be used just for their fragrance. Most people burn incense for healing and spiritual practice. As new age practices spiritual practices are becoming more and more popular, I suspect we will have more sellers who's homes are fragrant with unconventional frangrances like incense. It is wise for sellers who burn incense to keep their buyers noses in mind when putting their home on the market. 

A couple of suggestions may help:

  • Since we know burning regularly or frequently will leave the smell lingering longer, it may be a good practice for incense burning sellers to suspend their burning a week or two before listing to let the home air out.
  • Replace the smoke burning to with an essential oil burning lamp or other type of burner. 
  • Once the air is clear in your home and a seller absolutely has to have the smoke of the incense, they may want to restrict the burning to one well ventilated room. 
  • Having the listing agent add a note in the listing instructions advising for the fragrance may be helpful and keep buyers from thinking they're smelling nicotine. 


These are just a few tips to keep a happy medium between giving potential buyers a great experience allowing sellers to continue their own personal practices while in the process of selling. 

Remember, there's always a way balance the needs of both the buyers and sellers. Just takes a little vision, revision, creativity, and compramise...HAPPY SELLING....

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Selling? Buying? You should call me for that. Dee Neal Palmer House Properties 678.387.9309

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Comments (30)

John Cunningham
eXp Realty - Phoenix, AZ
Helping Phoenix Sellers and Buyers find each other

Wow, lots of opinions here; seems like odor or the lack there of gets a strong response. I always tell my sellers thata home shopuld smell clean or be void of odors altogether. Even if a home is visually in tip-top shape a bad smell can turn off a buyer

Aug 28, 2013 01:47 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

I don't think a home that is being listed should have ANY strong odors -- no perfume, incense, smoke, pet odor, cleaning supplies, air fresheners.  The first thought a potential buyer might have is, what are they trying to cover up? 

Aug 28, 2013 01:50 AM
Juan Jimenez
A House on a Rock Home Inspections LLC - Richmond, VA
The Richmond Home Inspector
Sometimes I am cynic and I would be wondering what foul smell they are trying to hide.
Aug 28, 2013 01:55 AM
Dee Neal
Palmer House Properties - Alpharetta, GA
Atlanta Area Real Estate

baking is a good one. or home cooking. as neighborhoods become more diverse, so will the aromas of these listings. im an explorer and love other cultures so i love it. buyers...not so much. i can say the buyer was interested more in the sellers than the house itself because of the smell.

Aug 28, 2013 02:06 AM
Phil Stevenson, CRMP
PS Mortgage Lending 305-791-4874 or 888-845-6630 - Miami, FL
"Mortgage Nerd" in Miami, Florida and Texas

Dee, I like the smell on occasion but it also depends on the fragrance. On top of not being used to the smell, there are incenses that just don't smell as good as people think they do, just like perfume or cologne, to each their own. Your suggestions are helpful though and homeowners should suspend all burning practices, just to be on the safe side, and light some candles instead.

Aug 28, 2013 02:18 AM
Edward & Celia Maddox
The Celtic Connection Realty - Queen Creek, AZ

A clean home can smell good without the fragrance.  Think they would hurt more than help.

Aug 28, 2013 02:22 AM
Dee Neal
Palmer House Properties - Alpharetta, GA
Atlanta Area Real Estate

Phil: I totally agree. Not all incense are created equally. I would however tread lightly on telling someone to suspend their burning when it's part of a spiritual practice. I would find out why they burn first. If its for spiritual practice, I would choose my words wisely. 

Ed: you're right. 

Aug 28, 2013 02:46 AM
Gerard Gilbers
Higher Authority Markeing - Asheboro, NC
Your Marketing Master

Agents normally advise their clients to depersonalize the home during the selling process, this should be included. I would not go far into the home as a buyer if the smells/fragrances are wrong. I have sensitive sinuses and can get headaches very quickly from some fragrances, this includes perfumes, colognes, deodorants, etc.

Aug 28, 2013 02:58 AM
Nora Sims
Northern Shadows Realty, Inc. - Sedona, AZ
helping folks like you since 1978!

You made an excellent point, Dee. How a home smells will become one of the talking point and an action item to be agreed upon with the Seller on my future listing appointments. Bread baking in the oven, pinesol, and those fake air fresheners all create an impression in the mind of the person who is sencing the smell.

Nora Sims

Northern Shadows Realty, Inc., Sedona, AZ

Aug 28, 2013 03:05 AM
Tricia Jumonville
Bradfield Properties - Georgetown, TX
Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense

I love scents and always have.  My mother the preacher's wife used to burn incense back in the 1950's, and it was considered a positive in a home.   It breaks my heart that suddenly we've become a society that can't have scents because all of a sudden everyone is "allergic".   But as agents we do have to take that into consideration, our own preferences notwithstanding. 

Aug 28, 2013 03:09 AM
Paul Collier
Patriot Home Mortgage - Huntington Beach, CA
Paul Collier

 Fragrance is a slippery slope--you'll always have people  attracted to and repelled by certain ones. My best advice would be to apply whatever scent you choose lightly and rely most heavily on good, old fashioned fresh air.

Aug 28, 2013 03:13 AM
Susan Jacobsen
The Alliance Group Realty - Hilton Head Island, SC
20 Years Providing WOW Real Estate Service

Dee - I'm sorry to be so firm but to burn or not to burn answer is NO NO NO! Whether or not the seller, or the agent likes the smell just is not relevant. The home must present like a model home and we all know there is no smoke of any kind there. There are people with allergies, people with crazy assumptions, people who will be distracted by any fragrance at all, people who make the assumption that it will take many $$$$ to remove the smell. Their home is now a 'product' and has to be viewed in that light.

Aug 28, 2013 05:30 AM
Dee Neal
Palmer House Properties - Alpharetta, GA
Atlanta Area Real Estate

great insights....but my question to you all is how do you communicate this to someone who burns as part of their spiritual practice without offending them and losing a client? We all know you can't mess with people's God.

Aug 28, 2013 05:42 AM
Joanna Cohlan
Fresh Eyes For Your Home - Chappaqua, NY
Designing, Decorating & Staging Westchester Homes

I gotta agree, you can not burn incense when you sell a home-scents are very very personal and it looks like you are trying to hide something.  When you sell a home and smoke, you need to smoke outdoors.  If you burn incense for religious reasons, transfer the altar to an outdoor space.

Aug 28, 2013 07:46 AM
Suzanne Otto
Six Twenty Designs - Lansdale, PA
Your Montgomery County PA home stager

I've never been a fan of incense. Maybe I just never got a good kind but they always just smell like "burning" to me. So I can understand how a buyer might interpret the smell as a bad one.

Not to burn!

Aug 28, 2013 08:05 AM
Ralph Gorgoglione
Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes - Kihei, HI
Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407

Though incense may be rising on the popularity charts, perhaps the risk factor is just too high for using them during a sale because even if just one set of buyers is allergic, that could have been the one that got away.

Aug 28, 2013 09:09 AM
Jimmy Faulkner
Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage - Wantagh, NY
The Best Of St. Augustine

It is best to get all foreign smells out of the home before showings begin. People feel you are hiding something with insense or that it could be ciagarette smoke being hidden. Clean air always wins and does not distract from the sale.

Aug 28, 2013 11:19 AM
Pamela Seley
West Coast Realty Division - Murrieta, CA
Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA

I went on a listing presentation to a home where the owners had five altars and all burning incense at the same time. My first thought was this would be a turnoff to buyers, unless the buyer so happened to be of the same religious practice, which is uncommon in my market area. How to tell the home owner without offending them is a sensitive topic. Sometimes we have to be truthful if we want to help the homeowner sell their home. The homeowner decided not to sell, so I was let off the hook so to speak, but the question remains in my mind for the next home seller. Burning incense would be a distraction in home buyers' minds, IMO. 

Aug 28, 2013 03:09 PM
MichelleCherie Carr Crowe .Just Call. 408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years

As most people burn incense as an offering to God (or idols), it's understandable that people selling homes want to "lift up their offered prayers like incense" to help with the sale.

Aug 28, 2013 04:04 PM
Spencer Stott
Salt Lake City, UT
Mortgage Professional

Those Febreeze car commercials hold some water. Even when the car is dirty, the people sitting blindfolded in it think it's clean and new. I'm not saying have a dirty house and just spray it with febreeze, but when a house smells clean, buyers think it's even better. 

Aug 29, 2013 01:33 AM