BUYERS IN PHOENIX HAVE LOTS OF CHOICES, SO carving out a niche there is a challenge. To get its piece of the pie, Meritage Homes Active Adult has positioned itself as the value leader in the area's active adult market, but that doesn't mean the builder/developer is cutting corners or skimping on the amenities at Sundance Active Adult, a 1,102-lot community within the 2,000-acre Sundance master planned development.

“We have a gorgeous 15,000-square-foot recreation center with a grand ballroom, a gorgeous billiard room [see lower right photo], two pools, 2,000 square feet dedicated to fitness, and a spa,” says division president David Flagg. “Then there's the golf course with a restaurant and a pro shop. These are all brand-new facilities. We offer everything everyone else is offering, at a greater value.”

Meritage Active Adult has done that, Flagg says, by managing field overhead and day-to-day costs.

“We could build something at over $300 a square foot and [use] imported tile from Italy, but is that a value to the buyer?” Flagg says. “There are ways to shave costs out of those homeowner association facilities and deliver an attractive, functional facility.”

By promoting itself as the Phoenix market's value leader, Meritage has been able to appeal to buyers who don't want to spend more than $200,000 on what for them is essentially a getaway home. By $150,000 to $175,000, those buyers still have cash available to pursue other interests, Flagg says.

It would never fly, though, unless Meritage paid attention to the details that are important to these buyers. In that vein, Sundance's architectural style is consistent with the market without looking spare. The interiors respond to the lifestyle needs of today's often still-working active adult, with an average plan size of 1,900 square feet. (Older product lines topped out at 1,800 square feet.) The most popular plans have split bedrooms with a den and a great room, which lets buyers entertain family and friends and still have space to work from home.

“A good percentage of our customers are working or consulting; they want to stay very active,” Flagg says. “That den is their work space.”

Market: Phoenix

Project: Sundance Active Adult, Buckeye, Ariz.

Date sales started: January 2002

Sales through February 2005: 343

Total units planned: 1,102

Unit size: 1,000 to 2,209 square feet (including new models)

Price range: $120,000 to $175,000

Builder/Developer: Meritage Active Adult, Tucson, Ariz.

Architects: Techne, Tempe, Ariz.; Linderoth and Associates, Scottsdale, Ariz.

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