Meritage Homes should not be selling houses this fast in this location. “Southwest [Phoenix] has been kind of the worst of the worst” housing market, says C.R. Herro, Meritage’s vice president for environmental affairs.

Yet the Scottsdale, Ariz.–based company sold 14 homes in 2011’s first quarter at its Cortile at Palm Valley community in Goodyear. Fortunately, Cortile is located in a good ZIP code, with competitive sales prices ranging from $194,900 to $249,900 and 1,969- to 3,391-square-foot floor plans that are new and fresh. But that’s just the starting point for competing in Phoenix.

What Cortile homes have that competitors don’t is a 25 HERS rating. The homes use half the water and one-fourth the energy of a standard house yet are priced the same as a standard home. That’s the hook that Meritage stresses in its marketing.

“In this community we are seeing traffic count at two to three times and the sales averaging two to three times the competition,” says Herro. “People are able to buy their first home and buy more home because they have a lower monthly cost of operations.”

To slash energy consumption, Meritage super-insulates its houses with spray foam, after building a framing system that provides unbroken insulation in the walls by staggering the exterior and interior framing. Then it installs a solar-electric panel system that offers four times more BTUs than a typical solar system by capturing more heat from the solar panels to heat water and to heat and cool the houses. In addition, the 2100 ECHO Solar Electric/Solar Thermal system manages fresh air transfer into the house.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Phoenix, AZ.