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Are there risks to infusing your properties with aromas?

Most New Yorkers enjoy transitioning from the smells of the city as they enter office and residential buildings, hotels and restaurants. To make that experience even more pleasant, many upscale condominiums and apartment buildings have partnering with companies that provide fragrances to infuse lobbies, fitness centers and even hallways. They're often brought in through the building's ducts. They see it not only as a perk for residents, but as a way to stand out in Manhattan's competitive real estate market.

Some real estate developers are even having signature fragrances produced to set their properties apart from the usual lavender, sandalwood and ocean breeze scents. In fact, one fragrance company says that the residential buildings have become its largest-growing market segment in the past few years. The scents can change with the seasons and, of course, reflect the holidays.

However, infusing your building in an effort to enhance its ambiance and provide some aromatherapy for residents may have some drawbacks. For one thing, not everyone wants to be hit in the face, as it were, with the scent of pumpkin in the fall or pine at Christmas.

Some residents may have respiratory issues or allergies that are negatively impacted by even mild fragrances. They may suffer headaches, burning eyes and other negative physical responses.

Then there is the emotional component. A professor who has written a book about the power of scent and its effect on emotions and moods notes that even seemingly-pleasant scents can stir highly negative responses in some people. A scent can trigger a memory of an ex's cologne, for example. She says, "It's not like everyone's going to have the same experience. It has to do with your own past."

Although a specially-developed signature scent is less likely to evoke negative memories from the past, the professor notes that it can still provoke a negative reaction. If the first time a resident smelled it, he or she was having a terrible day, that scent may constantly take him or her back to it -- even if subconsciously.

It's unlikely that a developer is going to become embroiled in a costly legal battle with a resident over the addition of aroma to a multi-family dwelling. However, it's still wise to consider all aspects, both positive and negative, before taking this step, and also to make sure that property managers and condo boards don't ignore complaints from residents.

Source: New York Times, "Aroma: The New Building Amenity," Ronda Kaysen, Oct. 21, 2016

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