A helpful house doctor once told me that a good trick to help sell a house was to grind coffee beans in the kitchen just before prospective buyers came in for a viewing. Her logic was that people would find the scent welcoming. Picturing themselves sipping coffee around the cosy breakfast table one lazy Sunday morning, they’d be more tempted to make an offer?so long as the buyers aren’t allergic to caffeine, presumably.

But now an American developer has hit on a new idea that threatens to upstage my friend’s ploy big time. Dallas-based Centex not only have caught on the ‘scent to sell’ trend?though they opt for homemade cookies rather than coffee?but they have also hired actors to show prospective buyers what it would be like to live in one of their properties.

So Centex applicants for Milestone, a development in Santa Clarita, California, are greeted at the door of the model home by the fake smile of a fake-tanned fake-owner (a former Baywatch lifeguard) who offers them orange juice alongside a warm hello. Invariably pretty children with big eyes under a mop of lovely curls lead visitors around the bakery-scented house like Hansel and Gretel before the old witch showed up. And everyone ends the tour in the kitchen where an equally blond fake-wife (though not quite as fake as Pamela Anderson) is busy baking another treat.

When I first read about this I dismissed it as utterly ridiculous. To start with, the costs of this Desperate Developers charade will pass straight back to the buyer (though anyone so gullible to fall for it deserves to pay for anything, in my books). Worse, seeing all these people milling about a house will make it look small and cramped. And the supermodel-like housewife behind the breakfast table will instantly trigger the dreaded “Does my bum look big in this kitchen?” question, which, as everyone knows, is the kiss of death for any sale.

But then two words stopped me short and made me think this is not such a bad idea after all. You see, in one of the carefully-acted home vignettes fake Pamela is baking a layered chocolate cake. Chocolate cake. And at the end of the viewing she offers prospective buyers a slice. A velvety textured chocolate cake, dripping in molten chocolate, could persuade me to do things that no amount of ground coffee or tanned Baywatch muscle would. Unless that too is fake, of course.