By Shay Moser
In 1980, JoAnn and Joseph Callaway moved from Illinois to Arizona because he says, “I used to get pneumonia every winter.” So, as book collectors, they packed up their hardcover inventory and household items and headed to the desert. Little did Joseph and JoAnn know, they’d change careers and write a book from their Scottsdale residence that would become a New York Times bestseller.
Since 1996 when JoAnn and Joseph opened Those Callaways Realty, they’ve sold more than 2,000 homes in the 85254 ZIP code, which they coined the “Magic ZIP code.” They have become the top real estate agents in Scottsdale on the strength of their mission to put clients first and three guiding principles: honesty, competence, and caring.
“It was a lot of fun to search for books,” JoAnn says. “We would buy them, and then we had places to sell them. Our problem was we couldn’t part with about 10,000 books. So, we needed some other way to make money.” As a result, they got real estate licenses.
Real estate 101 in Scottsdale
At first, JoAnn wasn’t interested in selling houses, but Joseph sold her on the idea of investing in property. While they didn’t have money to invest or real estate experience, the Callaways hung their licenses in a Scottsdale Realty One office and proceeded to learn the business.
Joseph stamped their name and home address on the back of their new real estate business cards and put them on the doors of the 50 closest houses to theirs. “I didn’t want to talk to anybody,” he says. “I didn’t know what to say.”
The Callaway’s first listing came from a woman down the street who got their business card off her door and walked to their house. From there, JoAnn and Joseph continued to open their front door, step out, and meet the neighbors. “We got to know everybody,” says JoAnn.
Eventually, the Callaways were mailing postcards to the entire 85254 ZIP code, which is 15,000 homes total.
The Callaway’s keys to success
Success in the real estate industry is more than leaving business cards on neighbors’ doors and direct marketing. Joseph and JoAnn also attended real estate conferences. “They were all about systems and processes, but the client wasn’t part of the discussion,” says JoAnn, “and our whole business was about the client.”
When you call Those Callaways, you get JoAnn or Joseph on the phone. They delegate some behind-the-scenes projects to the team, such as real estate escrow to the brokers, two of whom are their daughter and grandson. “One of us comes out to your house to list it. Then if there’s an offer, one of us is there with you to take it,” explains JoAnn.
The personal relationship with their clients was the difference the Callaways offered and what inspired them to write Clients First: The Two Word Miracle (Wiley 2012).
“It was a great experience because we examined what we did and how we did it,” says Joseph, who added that it took the couple six years to write.
The Callaways came up with three keys to putting clients first: honesty, competence, and care. “If you’re honest with the client and you’re competent in what you do, and you care about them, that makes the difference.”
Joseph says whether clients want too much or too little for their house or want to buy a house out of their budget, it’s JoAnn and his responsibility as their Realtors to help them buy or sell at the right price.
“I’ve gone out to people’s houses, and they’ve been unrealistic about how much they want for it, and other clients have wanted to sell their house for much less than it’s worth,” he says. “Looking out for clients’ best interests is what a real estate agent is supposed to do. Sometimes people don’t know what that is, and we help them with it.”
The Callaway’s favorite part of the work is the first and last house. “The first-time homebuyer is changing their lives because they’re moving from being a renter to an owner. That’s what makes a house a home. When our client is an older couple selling their last home for retirement, we want to take care of them and get them top dollar because it’s often all the money in the world to them.”
What’s so special about the ‘Magic ZIP code’?
The Callaways rented in Old Town Scottsdale before making an 85254 house a home. They love living in the “Magic ZIP code,” which they named because it has a Scottsdale mailing address even though it’s in Phoenix city limits. That means lower taxes and utilities, more flexible zoning, and a much easier building permit process. It also has good access to freeways, shopping, top-rated schools in the Paradise Valley School District, and more.
“Sometimes we call it an embarrassment of riches because it’s such a nice area,” says Joseph.
Ringing true in Callaway Realty
While Joseph and JoAnn enjoy the amenities of their home in the 85254 neighborhoods, they realize more than 5,000 people live on the streets of metro Phoenix. That’s why they’ve volunteered on The Salvation Army’s Phoenix Advisory Board since 2013. The nonprofit invited Joseph and JoAnn to join the advisory board after learning about their book’s message of honesty, competence, and care.
When the Callaways learned The Salvation Army often had to pay minimum wage to workers to ring the bells on Wednesdays every December, JoAnn volunteered Joseph and herself and the entire Maricopa County real estate community to do it. That’s how Real Estate Wednesdays were born. Today, the program is expanding nationally.
“We can feed the hungry, protect the abused, and shelter the homeless,” JoAnn says. “We can do good by doing good. Our industry image should reflect the generosity in our hearts.”
The couple also started Real Estate for Rehabilitation in Phoenix to collect gently used goods from the homeownership industry to fund The Salvation Army rehabilitation centers.
“The homeownership industry and The Salvation Army’s shared interests in family values, food on the table, and a roof over everyone’s heads make for a powerful partnership,” says Joseph.
Before sharing their hearts with The Salvation Army, the Callaways shared Christmas sentiments with clients and agents during the holiday season. When they had 30 clients in 1998, it was affordable to buy a gift for everyone and personalize it.
“And then we had too many clients,” Joseph says. So, they hired a woman who made ornaments out of bread dough. JoAnn designed a different door ornament each year from salt, water, and flour, and the woman executed her creation by the thousands. Now they commission a Christmas scene by a renowned artist to make into an ornament.
Last year, the Callaways mailed 20,000 of them.
To learn more about Those Callaways Realty, visit thosecallaways.com or call 480-596-5751.