85253 – it’s one of the most expensive zip codes in America, coming in at No. 87 on the Forbes 2013 list of the 500 priciest places to call home. With the median house setting buyers back nearly $1.9 million, Paradise Valley, Arizona, is sought after by professional athletes, politicians and prominent business leaders – and there is no shortage of one-of-a-kind homes. There are few people who know this desert oasis of 15,000 residents in the Scottsdale-Phoenix area better than Walt Danley, founder and president of the luxury Real Estate firm Walt Danley Realty, who has lived and breathed the area’s real estate for nearly four decades.
Formerly from Portland, Ore., Danley was drawn to Paradise Valley’s average 294 days of annual sunshine — a big attraction for many of his clients. Danley’s listings, most of which are situated on at least 1 acre, take full advantage of the surrounding desert and mountain vistas from expansive outdoor entertaining areas. While features like pools and wine cellars come standard, many of the homes are set apart by luxurious touches that land them in The Wall Street Journal’s “House of the Day” section, including a full-scale equestrian riding arena, a state-of-the-art observatory and a 15-passenger train.
“A lot of the clientele build these features for themselves because they enjoy them, not because of the investment. They make the home a spitting image of their personality,” Danley said. “For quite a few people, this is their second, third or fourth home. Your money buys more here than it does in places like Southern California.”
Even in this luxury market, more buyers are seeking value, he said. This means that the typical empty-nester couple is now seeking around 4,500 square feet of home space instead of the 10,000-12,000 square feet popular a decade ago.
“With the contraction of the economy, people are rethinking their priorities. The market is more value-driven than ever before,” Danley said. “If they are spending $9-$10 million on a house, a lot of times the original value was $12-$13 million.”
Several current listings include: “La Casa Que Canta,” or The House of Song, listed at $13.75 million at 6240 E Cholla in Paradise Valley. This equestrian estate is 19,475 square feet, featuring design elements imported from Spain, Italy, Morocco, India and Mexico. Every room and design component is custom created by master artisans, from the millwork and heavy antique wood doors, to the ironwork by a local fabricator, and 16 fireplaces. The property has a full-size riding arena and luxurious three-stall barn. Horses are pampered with details like an antique trough from Spain and indoor wash rack with heated water.
At 5339 E Lafayette Blvd. in Phoenix, a $3.4 million home features a 15-passenger train and three-story treehouse, along with a diving pool and rock-slide waterfall, elevated Jacuzzi and tennis court. On more than 2 private acres, this adobe home built in 1890 is completely updated. Towering cypress line the entrance leading through expansive lawns, citrus groves, and water features including a koi pond and large entry fountain.
Danley has built his Paradise Valley firm into one of the nation’s most successful luxury Real Estate companies, with a combined sales volume of more than $2.5 billion, 24 employees, and the largest inventory of million-dollar estates in Arizona. He has also earned some of the industry’s highest accolades, including being named one of the “35 Most Influential People in Luxury Real Estate” by Unique Homes Magazine.
“I love what I do, and I have surrounded myself with really, really good people,” he said. “From our brokerage standpoint, market share continues to increase: 2013 was a good year, and 2014 will be getting a little better. There is more stability in the market, and there is demand for good properties that are properly priced.”