New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County · Rebuilding, House raising and Moving, Pilings, Renovations

Dream Homes Ltd./ Atlantic Northeast Rebuilding Blog – 3-23-14 – Speed up your Permits – Great RREM Change! – Notes from the Dark Side of the RREM Moon – Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar Schedule

Dream Homes Ltd. Rebuilding Blog – 3-23-14

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Speeding up disconnects & the permit process – RREM Changes to Path B – Construction tip – Quote from Winston Churchill – Dark Side of the RREM Moon – Seminar schedule – Scope of Work notes

Hello Sandsters and Happy Spring!

The good news is that spring is finally here…we hit 66 yesterday and the sun even peaked out. It’s so much more pleasant working outside in nicer weather.

Today we talk about some great ideas for speeding up your project (thanks Margaret!), some great changes to the RREM program that will help Path B Sandsters get started more quickly and give you the Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar schedule for April and May. As always, we dig up a little dirt and talk about the darker sides of the RREM experience.

Construction tip for the day: When you are adding fill to your crawlspace to bring it up to grade (remember – the FEMA codes require that the new flood vents be within 12” of both inside and outside grade) make sure that you prominently mark the sewer pipe location so you can reconnect the plumbing without digging up half the front of the crawlspace and/or half the front yard. No matter how careful you are, it is very easy to bury your sewer connection while you’re moving loads of new dirt in the crawl and this will cost you time and resources to uncover.

A sincere thank you to Super Helpful Sandster Margaret Quinn of Toms River, who taught me a new idea when I met with her last week, for speeding up your permit process. Currently the way demolition / elevation permits work in most townships is that all utility disconnect letters have to be submitted with the permit application in order for it to be accepted. This meant that Sandsters were calling for disconnects and out of their house for 2-3 weeks longer than necessary, before even submitting a permit. This has been a bone of contention with me since Sandy but all I ever did was complain and relegate myself to the fact that it was another misguided, time sucking policy in NJ that I had to deal with.

Not Margaret. She appeared before the town council in Toms River and actually had the policy amended. Really. Now in Toms River, you can submit a full permit package for review prior to submitting utility disconnection letters and your plans will be reviewed. It is not until you go to pick up your permit that you will need the letters, in order for the township to actually issue you the permit.

Outstanding process improvement Margaret and Thanks from all the Sandsters! If we saved 3 weeks x 35,000 rebuilding projects, that is a total of 105,000 weeks of unneeded delay in rebuilding. In each case, Sandsters are back in the house 3 weeks sooner, the township has a functioning property paying full taxes 3 weeks sooner, and another NJ resident is out busily stimulating the economy while living comfortably once again.

As a note, Margaret was one of the most organized people I have ever encountered and had 2 full RREM notebooks chronicling the program details and the never ending changes to policy since the program started. I was experiencing serious paper envy when I saw those notebooks and I immediately offered her a position as a consultant with Dream Homes. I think she may be pondering that offer ….:)

I am trying this technique in a number of other towns and will keep you posted as to which towns are receptive and which are firmly ensconced in the Dark Ages.

Positive saying for the day: From my man Winston Churchill, who is eminently quotable and performed above par during a very difficult time in history, “Some people dream of success, while others wake up and work hard at it.”

That’s a perfect Storm Sandy Rebuilding Mantra. Some people are actively pursuing their project and working on what they can while others are lamenting over the shortcomings of RREM, insurance companies, and their lives in general and focusing on all the reasons why it is better to complain & wait. Be in the first group. Get up, grab your sword and go out and face the world swinging.

On to RREM happenings – Some Great News for Path B Sandsters!

About 10 days ago, the DCA announced a change to the RREM program giving Path B homeowners the right to request up to 50% of their grant amount in an initial up front payment prior to work being started. The press release is at this link… http://www.state.nj.us/dca/news/news/2014/20140312.html

You may be getting a letter from RREM, but the summary is you can now get up to 50% of your grant in order to start design work and tender deposits to your builder. You can then request the balance of your grant in up to 2 additional draw requests.

This is a great change to the program and will help kick start a number of projects, especially if the homeowner has a very constrained budget and is limited to working with the RREM alone. Assuming you get the full $150,000 RREM grant, you can get $75,000 to get started, which will take you significantly into your project. You can do design, engineering & architectural, permitting, demolition if needed, foundation construction and make some meaningful progress towards starting elevation/rehabilitation or new construction.

Credit where credit is due – another positive change to RREM.

Negative RREM thought #1– the duplication of benefits exclusion is still being described and explained incorrectly by many people. If you are getting a full RREM grant of $150,000, and applying for ICC (increased cost of compliance benefits) of $30,000 and your project costs $200,000, there is no duplication of benefits. If it costs $160,000 and you get the $30,000 from ICC, you will have to return $20,000 to RREM (or alternatively take only $10,000 from ICC). Often the fine folks at RREM do not clearly explain this distinction.

Negative RREM thought #2 – Another misnomer and unclear distinction between Path B & C: While it is true that the Program will pay for design fees, overages and changes in Path C, what is not clearly stated is that you will have to come up with money for a 15% contingency fund ahead of time that is placed in escrow.

It’s almost like they’re saying to you, “Don’t worry, there won’t be any overages since we’re on top of this, but if there are, we have your contingency fund to draw against”.

I’m sorry – can you run that by me again? Is that the Bugs Bunny School of Estimating? I must have missed that class.

Next time I give a $150,000 estimate, I am going to request that my client put $22,500 in escrow in case I screw up, make a mistake or things don’t go strictly according to Hoyl. Sure – sounds like a sound idea. I’ll let you know just how that works out but I’m not hopeful. If someone said that to me (many contractors attempt to price like that) I would laugh and throw them out of the office.

Scope of Work Notes – Part II: In the last blog, we said that the more accurately you define the scope of work for your project and the more you know (or at least think you know) what you want to do, the more likely you are to choose RREM Path B, or give up the RREM grant entirely and build privately.As a modifier to that statement, you don’t have to know everything about the entire scope of work before you start anything. Many items evolve over time, either because you see things in the field or realize things you may have forgotten that you would really like to add.

There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a normal progression of events and 99% of the time your builder will treat you the same way he did when you originally signed the contract. If he or she was fair originally, they will be fair with changes. If your pricing was expensive at the outset, expect the same (or more expensive) pricing for change orders.

The point is you don’t need to wait until you have everything perfect in order to get started. If you do that you might never begin.

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar Schedule: Our next seminar is at the Egg Harbor township branch of the Atlantic County Library on April 24th from 5-8. We’ll host Andrew Baumgardner from Baumgardner House Lifting, Scott Lepley, architect, Kathleen Dotoli, attorney and Evan Hill PE from Dewberry Engineering. We will also have Steve Brasslett from Ivy First Hope Bank with some interesting financing ideas for you. We’ve had real success and great response bringing a professional team to our seminars and all the Sandsters who’ve attended have had really positive comments. I think I’m going to start making t-shirts…:)

Sandsters from AC, Brigantine, Margate, Ventnor and Egg Harbor Township have been asking for a while for a seminar in Atlantic County, and should plan on attending if possible. In May we’ll be in Shrewsbury in Monmouth County. Give me a call or an email if you would like to attend either one.

Remember – if you have a specific question, send me an email or a text. You don’t need to wait for a seminar or a site visit to clarify a point or two. The same goes for those of you under construction. Whether or not you are Dream Homes/Atlantic Northeast Construction client or not, I will always try and help you or guide you in the right direction.

Repeat: Again my congratulations to Sandsters who’ve gotten started! The greatest joy in life is to begin and you have done that. Any forward movement is excellent and if no one else is saying it to you, I will. Good for you for starting – you should be proud of yourself!

Repeat – Repeat: Question: “What should I do next to get started?”

Answer: Start work on your design stage. Survey, soil boring, foundation & architectural design, builder or contractor estimate. Whether you hire a Conductor (Builder) to guide your orchestra through the show, or do it yourself, or a combination of both, the time to act is now.

Either pick up the phone, call me and say “Let’s go!” and I will put everything in motion or start making calls yourself.

This bears repeating – unfortunate but true fact: In the majority of cases (90+ %), the design stage (surveying, soil boring and geotechnical analysis, foundation inspection and design, architectural design, utility disconnects and plan submission and approval) takes longer than the actual construction stage.

Reminder: if you’ve sent me email or left a voice mail and have not received a response within a day or so, please try and contact me again. I do miss messages here and there.

A Note to Sandsters: Though I began and continue to write this blog primarily to help as many Sandsters as possible, Dream Homes Ltd. is a design builder and general contractor and we are actively doing renovation and reconstruction projects up and down the shore. Yes we actually do all of the work that I talk about in the blog. We work with private clients, as well as Path B and C in the RREM program. Feel free to call, text or email to set up an appointment for an estimate on your rebuilding project.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few items I wanted to cover, but I’m giving myself the hook and my Sandsters a break…J

Hope this helps. As always, call or write with any questions.

Stay well Sandsters.

Regards,

Vince

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Licensed NJ New Home Builder License# 045894

Licensed NJ Home Improvement Contractor License# 13VH07489000

PO Box 627 Forked River, NJ 08731

Office: 609 693 8881 F: 609 693 3802

Cell: 732 300 5619

Email: vince@dreamhomesltd.com

Website: www.dreamhomesltd.com

Blog:http://www.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: foxbuilder

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog – RREM Workshops this SATURDAY, 3/15/14

Hello Sandsters – 

Hope you are well and not frozen from today’s lovely weather. Spring is coming soon…I promise. 

I just have a short note today about the Sandy RREM workshops being held in several places in the state on Saturday. By the way, this post also proves that I am able to write a blog of less than 4 pages in length. 

Here is a link from NJ News…if the link doesn’t work, copy it and paste it into a browser. 

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/03/nj_to_hold_sandy_housing_workshops_on_rebuilding_grant_program.html

The workshops are being held from 12-5 pm on Saturday at all 9 of the Sandy recovery centers. 

If you are feeling particularly depressed and morose and have nothing better to do with yourself, you might want to attend. I have no opinion about whether it will be fruitful, but another 5 hours out of your life at this point trying to figure out RREM, might help a little. 

Not that I generally advocate drinking during the day, but a bloody mary or 2 would help before you go…:):) 

These workshops are only for those who have been selected for a RREM grant, not for anyone on a waiting list. 

Hope this helps. Any questions, please call, email or text. 

Regards, 

Vince

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Licensed NJ New Home Builder License# 045894

Licensed NJ Home Improvement Contractor License# 13VH07489000

PO Box 627 Forked River, NJ 08731

Office: 609 693 8881 F: 609 693 3802

Cell: 732 300 5619

Email: vince@dreamhomesltd.com

Website: www.dreamhomesltd.com

Blog:http://www.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: foxbuilder

 

 

 

 

 

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes / Atlantic Northeast Construction – Rebuilding Blog – 3-9-14 – Notes from the Rebuilding seminar, Getting Started II, RREM foundation systems, Rich Pezzullo for state senate, RREM program progress.

Dream Homes Ltd. Rebuilding Blog –

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

3 – 8 -14

 

Rebuilding Seminar reviews and comments from 2/27/13 OC Library – Toms River

Getting Started II – RREM Status & Update – Rich Pezzullo – Campaign for NJ Senator

Foundation notes & finishes –

 

Hello Sandsters –

The good news is that spring is finally coming…we hit 60 yesterday and it was sunny. It’s so much more pleasant working outside in nicer weather.

Today we touch on the Rebuilding seminar, speak more about getting started and RREM foundation systems, endorse a state senate candidate, and talk about RREM program progress.

That’s a lot of info for 3 pages of copy, but I will do my best.

Like a splash of cold water, let’s start with RREM. It’ll help you get motivated for the day. Remember, if you didn’t set your clocks ahead already, you should do that. Although if you haven’t by the time you’re reading this you must be doing something much more interesting. You should probably keep doing that…the clocks can wait.

An unnamed contributor described the RREM Path C process to me recently as “slowly crawling out of a fetal position and getting off the floor”. That about sums it up, and I should just stop there and talk about foundation systems, but of course I just can’t quite do that.

We are hearing rumblings about a few people actually being through their design stage and filing for permits and we’re in that stage on a few projects ourselves. The largest delaying issue is the number of people who need to bless each piece of paper under Path C, which is something you don’t have with private or Path B projects. CBI & Gilbane (the 2 surviving RREM program managers) are doing their best to move the process along, but there is only so much they can do since they are both administrators and victims of the RREM / DCA / HUD system.

The RREM rules remind me of the US tax code – an equal amount of time is spent describing exceptions to the rules as following them. Forget about actually understanding them all.

The whole process is just too unnecessarily complicated for the average human. It doesn’t have to be that way at all and in private and Path B work, it’s not.

Another recurring item is pricing. It would simplify matters if there were posted pricing benchmarks for the various aspects of RREM work, with distinctions made between private, Path B & Path C work. Why it is such a (open) secret that pricing is necessarily different between the different categories of work is beyond me. No one reading this blog is unable to understand simple explanations and there is no complex calculus going on here.

If you do work privately (meaning non-RREM, or working on an HMGP or ICC grant), your project costs and level of confusion and complexity will generally be the lowest. This is followed immediately by Path B work which is generally slightly more expensive, but not materially.

Path C is the most expensive & cumbersome pricing structure and process, but you have the comfort of knowing that if the project goes over budget, or encounters unforeseen conditions, the program will pay for it.

Why the pricing differences and realities in the current market are not being acknowledged by the RREM Path C program is a source of disbelief and confusion to everyone I know. One cannot rationally think (although this is what the RREM program expects) that the pricing to complete 100+ assignments a year for 10 years, on time, to very expensive, exacting, demanding standards would be the same as contracting with a small builder or contractor who is doing 4-5 homes a year. It is not, nor will it ever be. Nor will general operating costs ever be less in NJ than in 95% of all other locations.

If you want to stay at the Waldorf Astoria in NY on Central Park south and go top drawer all the way, you’re paying for it. If you stay at the Pod or the Metro hotel off lower Broadway, there might be a little more grit, but it’s going to cost a hell of a lot less. (It’s may be more fun too.) Either way you’re still sleeping and showering in a hotel room and if everything works, it’s a satisfactory experience.

As a general note, the more accurately you define the scope of work for your project and the more you know (or at least think you know) what you want to do, the more likely you are to choose RREM Path B, or give up the RREM grant entirely and build privately. Generally you will also stress less. 

If you have an unknown soil or foundation condition, don’t want to do some preliminary analysis of your own, or don’t have the financial resources you might need, you might want to suffer through Path C. It takes longer and costs more (it doesn’t necessarily cost you more, but costs are always significantly higher) but you are afforded the certain piece of mind that comes with having a whole bunch of people constantly inspecting, considering and evaluating your project.

Each house is different. Each project is different. Each Sandster is different. It’s not correct to say that any particular path is right for everyone – it’s not. That’s why Baskin Robbins has a whole passel of flavors to pick from and the cereal aisle has 248 choices. That’s probably also why RREM arrived at Path B or C – that is what the market demanded.

Seminar Comments & Review – our Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar on February 27th at the Toms River branch of the OC Library was fantastic and the best one yet. We hosted Andrew Baumgardner & Rod Scott from Baumgardner House Lifting, Scott Lepley, architect, Kathleen Dotoli, attorney and Evan Hill PE from Dewberry Engineering. The concept of a professional team presenting in that atmosphere really worked for all the Sandsters who came. Everyone who attended moved their specific project along and had really positive comments in general. The seminar was very informative but the time after the presentation was even better – lots of questions and interaction with all the professionals. The seminar ended about 8 or so and security was booting a bunch of us out at 9:20 pm.

We shot a video of the seminar also, which we will be posting on the blog, hopefully tomorrow.

We’re a bit behind the curve on that item. With the next one I may try to do a live webcast. Good luck with that Vince.

As far as seminar scheduling, I’m going to try and do one a month from now on and the next one is scheduled in Egg Harbor Township on April 24th. Sandsters from AC, Brigantine, Margate, Ventnor and Egg Harbor Township have been asking me for a while to do a seminar in Atlantic County, and here it is! In May we’ll be in Shrewsbury so the Monmouth folks can attend. Send me an email if you would like to attend either one.

Remember – if you have a specific question, send me an email or a text. You don’t need to wait for a seminar or a site visit to clarify a point or two. The same goes for those of you under construction. Whether or not you are Dream Homes/Atlantic Northeast Construction client or not, I will always try and help you or guide you in the right direction.

What’s good for any one of us, is good for the entire community. You cast your bread upon the waters and hope for really excellent sandwiches to come back. If we assist each other whenever and however we can, there is a multiplier effect – NJ comes back more quickly, and better than ever. I believe that. Take a half hour and read “How Full is Your Bucket?”

Now a plug for my business associate and friend of 20 years Rich Pezzullo, who is campaigning in the US senate race. Rich is on the ballot and is currently working very hard to get his message out to everyone in NJ, and ultimately to obtain the endorsement of the NJ Republican party. Rich is a conservative Republican candidate with great ideas and I urge all Sandsters reading this blog to check out his website at www.pezzulloforsenate.com. Rich supports less government, more clarity and fiscal sanity (a man after my own heart) and deserves your consideration. If he wins the primary, he will be challenging Cory Booker in the fall and he needs your support. You can learn more about Rich’s views, sign up to help his campaign or make a contribution on his website at www.pezzulloforsenate.com.

Reminder – Wise words for Smart Sandsters: Call for your New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) reconnections when you pick up your permit or when you start your lift. They’ve been running 4 – 6 weeks. If you’re really running late, you can always call and push the date back.

My thoughts in the last blog about getting started really resonated with a lot of people and I received a number of comments and questions.

First I have to say, Sandsters, if you’ve pulled the trigger on your project, congratulations! The greatest joy in life is to begin and you have. Taking control of your project and the process is so important and more and more people are doing just that. I’m hearing from people ordering soil borings and analysis, starting or finalizing discussions with an architect or builder and generally nudging things along in positive directions.

Any forward movement is excellent and if no one else is saying it to you, I will. Good for you for starting – you should be proud of yourself!

Repeat: “What should I do next to get started?” 

Start work on your design stage. Survey, soil boring, foundation & architectural design, builder or contractor estimate.

Whether you hire a Conductor (Builder) to guide your orchestra through the show, or do it yourself, or a combination of both, the time to act is now.

Either pick up the phone, call me and say “Let’s go!” and I will put everything in motion or call Evan for a boring and soil analysis, Scott to start working on a plan, Kathy to file an appeal, or Andrew to talk about the actual lift. Do something.

This bears repeating – unfortunate but true fact: In the majority of cases (90+ %), the design stage (surveying, soil boring and geotechnical analysis, foundation inspection and design, architectural design, utility disconnects and plan submission and approval) takes longer than the actual construction stage.

RREM – Standard foundation systems: We spoke about foundation systems in the last blog and I wanted to clarify some items. If you are in RREM, and you are doing a reconstruction (demo and new construction), the program standard is timber pilings straight up to a girder system under the house. There is nothing surrounding the foundation, unless you pay for it separately. You can install lattice, build breakaway walls, or even block up a foundation between the pilings but none of those finishes come standard.

If you are doing a Rehabilitation (lifting your house in place, and building a new foundation) you will either have your old foundation demolished down to the footings or (in a few cases) be able to build directly on your existing block foundation. That depends on your soil, and the age and condition of your foundation.

Repeat: When you are elevating an existing house, the least expensive method is to build on top of the existing foundation structure with concrete block. The primary concern with this method is the weight bearing capacity of the existing soil under the old foundation – it may not be strong enough to support the weight of the additional block.

This is why it’s critical at the beginning of the design stage to get a soil boring and analysis to definitively determine the best, most cost effective foundation system for your home.

Reminder: if you’ve sent me email or left a voice mail and have not received a response within a day or so, please try and contact me again. I do miss messages here and there.

A Note to Sandsters: Though I began and continue to write this blog primarily to help as many Sandsters as possible, Dream Homes Ltd. is a design builder and general contractor and we are actively doing renovation and reconstruction projects up and down the shore. Yes we actually do all of the work that I talk about in the blog. We work with private clients, as well as Path B and C in the RREM program. Feel free to call, text or email to set up an appointment for an estimate on your rebuilding project.

Hope this helps. As always, call or write with any questions.

Stay well Sandsters.

Regards,

Vince

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Licensed NJ New Home Builder License# 045894

Licensed NJ Home Improvement Contractor License# 13VH07489000

PO Box 627 Forked River, NJ 08731

Office: 609 693 8881 F: 609 693 3802

Cell: 732 300 5619

Email: vince@dreamhomesltd.com

Website: www.dreamhomesltd.com

Blog:http://www.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: foxbuilder