As the Valley has grown, so too has the business that Tim and Liz O’Neall of Ahwatukee have run for the last 25 years.
Indeed, their AZ Property Inspections is an integral part of growth when it comes to buying resale homes, new-builds and even commercial structures.
For a quarter century, from mobile homes to multimillion-dollar ones, Tim has been making sure that none become a source of buyer’s remorse where their physical and code-compliant integrity are concerned.
Now employing 10 inspectors, AZ Property Inspections has handled more than 35,000 inspections – and of that total Tim figures he’s done “north of 14,000” of them.
That kind of experience has qualified Tim as an approved instructor with the Arizona Department of Real Estate, providing would-be inspectors with the 84 hours of classroom instruction and 30 parallel on-site inspections they need for their certification.
He also teaches continuing education classes that Realtors are required to take.
“The agents love it because they really get a bird’s-eye view and a different understanding of what makes these homes tick,” Liz said.
A couple of those classes Tim teaches are with Ahwatukee real estate attorney Patrick MacQueen, including one on new-build inspections.
“I tell them in the beginning that ‘most of you probably don’t believe that you need an inspection on a new house’ and most of them would agree.” Tim added. “By the time we get done with them, they are all asking.’ Okay, can we sign you up?’”
Surprisingly, he added, new-builds require pretty close scrutiny.
“We find a heck of a lot, really” Tim said, adding it’s not uncommon for an inspection of a new-build to lead to a 15- or 16-page report detailing all the problems beneath the surface – or even on it.
“It’s just amazing,” Tim said. ”And it’s not because the builders are bad people. They just don’t hire enough people to watch all of the subcontractors and just have so many people working for them. And it’s impossible for the municipal inspectors and for the builders to actually police these guys to make sure that they get things done right.”
The O’Nealls moved here in 1995 from the East Coast, where Tim had been sales director for a New York City environmental consulting firm and was involved in commercial real estate and building restoration projects.
Though he once told AFN, “I loved the fast-paced corporate culture of New York City,” Tim had long dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur.
“Unfortunately, that dream was hard to attain when I was in the daily grind, commuting two hours each way in and out of New York City every business day for more than a decade,” he said.
So, he and his wife of 32 years moved to Arizona, quickly picking Ahwatukee as the place where they wanted to live and raise their two daughters.
Liz had come out here a few months ahead of her husband and as she bopped around the Valley looking for a place to settle, she recalled, “I kept going back to beautiful Ahwatukee because I love those mountains…We were always just drawn to Ahwatukee.”
Over the last 25 years, both the business of home inspections and the field in which their business operates has changed dramatically and in recent years the changes in the latter have picked up steam.
Within his profession, Tim recalled, “when I became a home inspector back in 1996, if you could spell ‘home inspector,’ guess what you were?
“Now it’s completely different,” he continued, explaining that in 2002 he became licensed by the state through the Board of Technical Registration.
“Everything changed from that point forward – which was great because we needed oversight, we needed regulation. There was no uniformity at all, no standardization. Back then, if they had a cocktail napkin and they wrote on the back of the napkin ‘your house looks great,’ that was your home inspection. The real estate agents were pulling their hair out.”
The work also has increased.
AZ Property Inspections has opened a Tucson office to capture the growth in southern Arizona and its team of inspectors are spending more time as well in northern Arizona, especially in places like Pine Top and the Flagstaff area where more people are buying second homes.
And in the Valley, the demand has increased exponentially.
“Our business kind of grew during the pandemic,” Tim said. “We added three inspectors during that time because the real estate market just went bonkers after May.”
“Gov. Ducey said real estate was an essential business and we kept rockin’ and rollin’ while in other parts of the country, inspectors didn’t do inspections for months because they weren’t allowed to.”
Liz, the managing partner in the couple’s business, said competition for homes among buyers has made for frenzied business days.
“A lot of times the clients or the agents kind of call in a panic,” she said, “because when they go into contract, they’re just so happy because lots of times there’s 10, 20, 30 people bidding on the same home. But when they get it, they call our scheduling office and they’re like ‘get us in, please!’ They want to lock up at such a crucial part of the transaction.”
With only a 10-day window for an inspection, she added, “our volume has picked up.”
Not only that, the critically low inventory of homes in the Valley means inspectors are traveling farther as buyers settle on homes on what Liz calls “the outskirts of the Valley.”
Four of their 10 inspectors are assigned solely to new-builds, partly because of their experience with large construction companies but also because that’s where a lot of the demand for their services exists.
“We never used to go to places like Florence, Coolidge or even Tucson for that matter,” Tim said, “and now just every week, we have several down in that area.”
Does he have particularly memorable inspections?
Oh, yeah, particularly one that Tim had many years ago in Chandler and that he often mentions in class as a home owned by a fictitious character he calls Uncle Joe.
“Uncle Joe” represents those do-it-yourselfers, Tim explained “who’s out there fixing things and repairing things and he does a really bad job.” So bad, he added, “if the city inspectors ever saw it, it would be condemned.”
“There wasn’t anything this man didn’t touch and he just ruined everything,” Tim continued, recalling how “Uncle Joe” “built himself a room in the attic – and cut out all the structural wood.”
Tim was in that room on a windy day and had to back off because he literally thought the house was going to collapse.
And so he made an exception to his rule.
As an inspector, Tim explained, “I don’t feel it is my place to tell people what to do. I can’t say, ‘Well you shouldn’t buy this, or you need to re-do that. We’re not there to do that. We’re there to tell them the facts on the home. And so I have never taken a real estate agent off to the side and said, ‘You can’t sell this house to these nice people.’”
But after putting together a more than 25-page report on Uncle Joe, Tim recalled, he pulled the Realtor aside and said just that.
“She took my advice,” he said. “She understood what was going on and a few weeks later she found a better house. I inspected that one too. And so it was a happy ending.”
Information: 480-283-5642, InspectionsAZ.com.