Anyone who has ever bought a home knows that there can be small, almost indescribable things that draw you to a particular house. Whether it’s a child playing next door in the front yard or a bird chirping happily in a nearby tree, prospective home buyers often tap into tiny details that give them that good feeling about a particular place.
For Kathleen Henon, that tiny detail came almost 30 years ago in the form of baked cookies. “I’ll never forget it,” says Henon. “My husband and I were looking at houses in Pittsburgh after he was transferred there for his job. We were in a rush to find something because I was six months pregnant and he needed to start right away, and he didn’t want to leave me behind in Ohio, which is where we were living at the time, until he found something.”
So the Henons went on an open-house blitz, looking at “at least 10” houses on a particular Sunday in the fall of 1984, with the full intent of making an offer on one of those houses the next day. “Most of the houses looked the same — all very lovely and suited to our needs, which at the time was at least three bedrooms because we knew we were starting a family.
Henon says their search stopped when they entered a home in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood for an open house. “As soon as you walked in the door, you were hit with the most wonderful smell of chocolate chip cookies,” Henon says. “I fell in love. I walked around the house and everything looked perfect. I saw myself making dinner for my kids in that kitchen, and I saw myself reading them stories in the bedrooms. The smell of the cookies was the draw into the house, like an invitation to realize its warmth. I felt that warmth when I looked around. It all came together.”
Unfortunately, the deal did not. The Henons lost out on the house to another buyer and ultimately found a similar home in the same neighborhood. But the lesson from Henon’s initial entry into the “cookie house,” as she calls it, stuck with her for years. “Each time we sold a home — and we’ve moved five times in the past 30 years — I would bake before anyone came to see the house,” Henon says. “Sometimes it would be cookies, sometimes bread, sometimes fruit pies. Regardless, it was always something. And as soon as people walked in our house to look around, you could see the look on their face, like they were in a warm place, a place they could see themselves in.”
Henon’s most recent sale was a home in Wayne, PA, where she and her husband moved to be closer to her oldest son to help him raise a child with special needs. “I think it’s important to make a connection with people when you sell your home,” Henon says. “You want to guide them a bit, make them see themselves in your home. Baking is one of those things. It’s universal. A young couple smells cookies and they think of their family sitting around the table with cookies and milk, or they think of a busy kitchen making cookies for Christmas. If you can get them to make a connection like that, they’re hooked.”
Tell us in the comments: What’s your go-to scent when hosting an open house or showing your home?