Writer Amanda Christmann
Photography by Scott Baxter and Courtesy of Walt Danley Christie’s International Real Estate
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f time flies when you’re having fun, the last four decades have passed in the blink of an eye for Walt Danley. Since 1977, the Phoenix real estate broker has risen to be among the top-selling Realtors in the nation, and he’s smiled all the way through it.
Danley’s blue eyes glisten when he smiles, and his grin is framed by his neatly trimmed white mustache. Neatly fitted black cashmere sweaters and white silk shirts are part of his classic timeless fashion sense-an elegance reflected in his beautifully appointed Paradise Valley real estate office.
Danley is confidant yet humble, not one to boast or drop names. He stands on his laurels-a platform that has boosted Danley to near-star status among his colleagues.
Arguably, Danley has the corner on the area’s luxury real estate market, having sold north of $3 billion in top-dollar homes. He has consistently earned a spot on Wall Street Journal‘s list of most prolific Realtors in the country, and is ranked with the likes of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other accomplished real estate developers and influencers among Top 35 Most Influential Persons in Real Estate. His sales record has placed him among the top one percent of real estate professionals in the nation every year for the past 42 years.
Those are a lot of accolades for a guy who thought he wanted to clean teeth for a living.
“I was going to college to become a dentist,” Danley chuckled, his own white teeth gleaming. “After I really started thinking about it, looking down people’s throats for a career wasn’t something that gave me the passion to get out of bed in the morning.”
Fortunately for Danley, he found another calling.
“While I was in school, I did a lot of fix ‘n‘ flips in Portland, so I got the real estate bug. My friend was a builder in Arizona, and he said, ‘How about I build it and you sell it?’ I came out to Arizona and fell in love with blue skies, the warmth and the beauty of the area.”
Danley’s love for Arizona was mutual. Though he was only 29 years old, his genuine smile and assiduous work ethic quickly won over his clients. Not only was he named Rookie of the Year following his first year in the business, but his sales numbers swept past those of other established Realtors to earn him the title of top company producer.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the je ne sais quoi that separates Danley from other Realtors. After all, the Valley is full of enthusiastic, hard-working professionals, but it takes something special to earn the acclaim that Danley has garnered.
From the very beginning, Danley has been willing to go the extra mile, often working late into the night and spending much of his free time learning the market. For years, he’s worked 80-hour weeks. He’s always been an innovator, thinking outside of the proverbial box and forging his own path in the industry.
In his early days, before listings were available on websites like Zillow and Realtor.com, open houses were one of the biggest tools Realtors had to market and sell homes. Instead of scheduling his on Sundays, which was standard, Danley scheduled his open houses Monday through Saturday, then dedicated his Sundays to getting to know the market and his peers by visiting their open houses.
His strategy paid off. Not only did he quickly become an expert in the booming Phoenix market; he earned the respect of colleagues, many of whom he still counts as friends.
“Buyers and sellers sometimes come and go, but your peers are always there,” said Danley. “Some of the agents I met 40 years ago are still in the industry, just like I am today. That’s part of the fun.
“It sounds cliché to say, but if you make a living doing what you love, you never work a day in your life. By and large, I have an exceptionally rewarding career and an incredible company with great people. Whether it’s the clients or colleagues in my company or other companies, it’s the fun and energy that I get out of it that keeps me going.”
Along the way, Danley has recognized talent and drive when he’s seen it. Today, 26 real estate professionals work for Walt Danley Christie’s International Real Estate, the brokerage he opened in 2011.
His new North Scottsdale office, located just east of Pima Road on Pinnacle Peak Road, has already begun to recruit top agents, including Mike Domer who has an unrivaled sales record in North Scottsdale.Eventually, Danley plans to add 35–40 agents to serve communities there.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is the team that I’ve built,” Danley said. “I’m really proud of the people I’ve elected to surround myself with. They’re all top-notch, professional people.”
Danley opened his brokerage in 2011, and has cultivated an environment in which everyone supports and celebrates success. It’s a close-knit group-and intentionally so.
“We want to build our team slowly and with very specific search criteria,” Danley explained. “We only hire what I consider to be true professionals. They’re smart, hard-working, and they do the right things in business and ethically.
“They are consummate professionals. We see ourselves as a professional services company; instead of practicing law or medicine, we just happen to sell real estate.”
Though he’s built a virtual empire through the years, pretense is not part of Danley’s biology.
“I’m fortunate to be bright enough to realize that I don’t know everything,” Danley added in his typical soft-spoken manner. “I’ve hired people who have filled those gaps for me, and I’m happy to see them succeed.”
That team has been incredibly successful. Walt Danley Christie’s International Real Estate is the only brokerage in the Valley that has managed to exceed the $1 million mark for the average home sale. The average annual sales volume per agent is an astonishing $12 million.
Growth has been a thoughtful process for Danley, and expansion into North Scottsdale is a natural move.
“I’ve always loved North Scottsdale,” Danley explained. “When I came here, there was very little development north of Shea Boulevard, but today it has grown to be one of the most popular locales in the Valley.
“We’ve always done business in North Scottsdale, so when we decided to expand the brokerage, we looked at the map and asked ourselves where it made the most sense to expand. It was the most logical choice.
“When people are sitting in their homes in Chicago and it’s 14 degrees outside, what pops in their mind about Arizona is what North Scottsdale is. It’s the quintessential blue skies, the golf, great restaurants and the cultural attractions. The weather and the natural beauty have been here for hundreds of years, but some of these other things are new, and that just adds to the allure of North Scottsdale.”
City of Scottsdale Economic Development statistics show a more practical allure as well. The city projects tens of millions of dollars in growth this year in the technology, finance, insurance, real estate, healthcare, social services and food services industries.
Israeli-based drone company, Airobotics, Acronis cyber protection firm, Nationwide Realty Investors and several other corporations have announced their contributions to a tremendous influx of dollars and jobs into the Scottsdale economy. There is no doubt that the growth will flow into area real estate, and when it does, Danley and his team will be ready.
Though he is the consummate businessman and aware of the coming boom, it isn’t black ink in his ledger that ultimately drives Danley’s success.
“The relationships are the number one drive for me,” he said. “Outside of the relationships, I think it’s the challenge that drives me. When people look at my track record of success, they often say, ‘What a great sales person you must be!’ I’m not sure I’ve ever ‘sold’ a home. I just listen to what people want and what’s important to them.
“I’m really a facilitator. If a husband wants 1-2-3 and the wife wants a-b-c, I try to find something that fits both of them.
“You have to listen to your clients. You have to counsel them and help them find what they’re truly looking for. Those aspects haven’t changed through the years.”
Danley enjoys using his success to contribute to causes he’s passionate about, including Arizona Humane Society, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Food Bank.
“All of those entities are such great assets to our community,” he said. “If everybody is committed to making the community better, then we all win.”
All in all, it’s been a great 42 years for Danley, and he’s looking forward to the new chapter that expansion into North Scottsdale will bring.
“You try and find something to do for a living that makes it fun to get up, and that makes it challenging. Real estate has always scratched that itch for me. It’s about developing relationships and building trust with people-and really understanding the market.”
He added with a laugh, “It really doesn’t feel like I’ve been doing it as long as I have but that’s the benefit to doing what you love.”