IRVINE, CALIF. -- When Lennar began plans for Irvine, Calif.'s Central Park West (CPW), a mixed-use, pedestrian-focused, urban master planned village, one of the challenges the home builder faced was how to show the public the 82 different floor plans for the 1,380 units. And then Mollie Carmichael, Lennar's vice president of marketing, came up with a solution that not only met this challenge but also enhances the buyer experience -- a theater room that features full-scale, virtual floor plan tours.

Before construction for the development began, Lennar spent three months building the Lennar Home Store. Located just minutes from the building site, the company is using the Home Store to showcase the floor plans for the flats, lofts, townhomes, and apartments that are offered at CPW.

The Lennar Home Store offers the typical sales features you would find in a show room--a scale model of the community, brochures of floor plans, a model of an apartment, and examples of kitchens and bathrooms. But the Home Store also carries an item that is unique to California; a theater room that gives potential buyers a chance to "walk through" multiple floor plans without leaving the building.

The idea behind the theater room, which displays floor plans on a 9-foot-by-12-foot, wall-to-wall screen, is to let potential home buyers take a close look at the various floor plans and winnow their choices down to a few of those available. When they make their choices, the salesperson takes them to the actual show homes. Buyers are able to choose some of their options at this time as well. In the long run, the process saves time for both the buyer and the sales team.

"You can kick the tires on the virtual level and then kick them on the physical level," says Diane Gaynor, executive vice president of Roni Hicks and Associates, a San Diego marketing communications firm.

"The beauty is that we can take them through 82 different floor plans," adds Carmichael.

The virtual tours, created by Focus 360 Architectural Communications, offer views of the floor plans with or without furniture. As the video plays, consumers actually feel as though they are walking through the property. The video also features window views that are representative of the real deal. The virtual floor plans run for roughly one minute each, but can be viewed multiple times.

Steve Ormonde, founder of Focus 360, says the project took about five months to develop.

"The advantages go both ways [for both the seller and the buyer]," he explains. "I can't imagine it any other way. How else do you filter through 82 floor plans?"

According to Carmichael, Lennar plans to use the theater room to also sell future Lennar Urban properties and she says that some CPW properties have already been sold, months before the project is ready for residents. Lennar expects the theater room to be a trendsetter in the industry.

"We are certain that the Lennar Home Store's theater room, which is now previewing life-size virtual home tours of [our] first three enclaves at Central Park West, will be an industry leader," says Denise Hayes, vice president of marketing for Lennar's Orange Coast Land division, master plan developer of Central Park. "The future of home shopping is here, and we look forward to seeing how technology will continue to be incorporated into the home shopping experience."

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.