Now for something completely different: a talking tree. No, Annie Oakleaf doesn't sell homes at Sienna Plantation, though one might argue that the nimatronic arbor gives the sales team valuable alone time with mom and dad. But it's just part of the scene at the new, 1,500-square-foot Home Finder Center serving this 12,000-unit master plan near Houston. “Our community is full of trees and outdoor space for our families to enjoy,” says marketing director Susie Mahoney. “We're trying to give people a fun, memorable experience that replicates what we have to offer.”

Previously located in a temporary building, Mahoney and her sales crew are now front-and-center at the entrance to the master plan. But a better location wasn't enough; the new digs had to be different and memorable. In addition to a grove of trees (including Annie Oakleaf), the Home Finder Center presents an active mockup of the master plan's water park and of its various schools, among other amenities.

To realize her vision, Mahoney hired a local museum exhibit producer to source the interactive displays. After just three months, the Center is attracting 250 visitors a week and the feedback is all positive. “Realtors like it because buyers can see the community features,” says Mahoney. “When they leave, they remember it.” She also says prospects are staying longer, which in turn helps the sales process. So does requiring visitors to register on a computer kiosk, which reduces data entry chores and creates an immediate and accurate prospect list.

KID FRIENDLY: A talking tree at Sienna Plantation's new Home Finder Center is just one interactive  element that keeps kids interested while parents consider their housing  options.
KID FRIENDLY: A talking tree at Sienna Plantation's new Home Finder Center is just one interactive element that keeps kids interested while parents consider their housing options.

CAMPAIGN DETAILS Program: The Home Finder Center at Sienna Plantation, Missouri City, Texas; Developer: The Johnson Development Corp., Houston; Interior designer: Terry Productions, Houston; Cost: $150,000 (interiors only); Advertising agency: Tania Oshman Public Relations, Houston

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Houston, TX.