New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes / Atlantic Northeast Construction Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog – 3-29-15 – Cost Overruns and Out of Pocket Expenses

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –

3/29/15

Hello Sandsters –

Hope you are well and moving along with your project.

Today I am posting a paper I wrote for a response on the Stop Fema Now Facebook page which speaks to cost overruns and unexpected out of pocket expenses.

Facebook doesn’t allow one to paginate or use any type of spacing and I thought the blog format would be easier to digest.

Regarding budgeting and out of pocket expenses, if you have signed for a RREM grant under Path B, start with this calculation. Add your grant award, plus ICC money (assuming you had flood insurance at the time of Sandy), and any additional insurance money you received and you will arrive at your budget number.

If you have no additional funds and are unwilling or unable to borrow or invest your funds, this is the number which should drive your decisions. If you are contemplating improvements, either new or upgraded, which are not in the customary RREM scope of work, you can also include any additional money you are willing to invest in your home (either equity or debt). If you have signed your grant after 10/1/14, you will also up to $15,000 towards your design scope, in addition to your RREM grant.

If you obtain an estimate from a reputable contractor which is inclusive of the scope of work that RREM has decided is necessary to lift your house and that amount is less than your budget, you will not have to add any additional funds. If however, your budget number does not cover your total project cost, you have several choices.

If RREM assumed you needed a shallow foundation system and you ultimately need a deep foundation system, you can send them your soil boring, engineering and a revised estimate which reflects greater foundation costs and appeal your grant amount. In my experience, discrepancies in foundation design are the single largest reason for grant awards being increased. If the difference between your budget number and your project cost is not great (less than $10,000 or $15,000 as an example) often you may choose to just move forward and obtain the difference somewhere else, or cut non-essential items from your scope of work. Unless the issue is a foundation design discrepancy, often it is not worth the effort to argue the point.

The second most common reason that projects go over budget is changes that are made during the project. Changes are (unfortunately) common, always costly, and directly follow the Law of Unintended Consequences. It is rare that an item is added during a project which doesn’t affect a number of other aspects of the project.

The third most common reason is additional options that you may have wanted to add to your home for some time and are including in your scope of work. Yes, it is a great time to get that Trex deck, new room over the garage or concrete in the crawl/basement, but sometimes your budget won’t allow that. All items except for the actual foundation structure and height of elevation can be done at another time and this is an important point to remember. Any other cost overruns are caused by incorrect estimates based on unfamiliarity with this type of construction work. IE: It is very common for inexperienced builders and contractors to attempt to pass along the costs of their errors to the Sandsters. That is not a good thing at all, but sadly common. The market will weed out these folks, or they will drop out of the business, but in the meantime, experience counts. Unless the scope of work or plans change, or items are added to a project, we don’t add to our project costs when we make errors (and God knows we do make them.) We have completed over 70 lifts and we do not change our pricing in the middle of projects, but many builders do. I think that is atrocious – you are paying a professional for their skills and should rely on their ability and integrity.

Definitions & Important Considerations That Can Delay Your Project:

Lowest adjacent grade (LAG): This is an important elevation since the lowest point in your crawl space has to be even or above the LAG. That is important because even if you don’t want your crawl filled that much (so you have more storage space) you will not pass final zoning / final building if this condition is not met. LAG is defined as the lowest grade immediately next to your house. There can easily be a foot or more difference between one side and the other, or back to front, so if you wish to use the least amount of fill (maximizing room in the crawl) make sure you find the lowest adjacent elevation.

Elevation: Elevation refers to “height above sea level” and not the height above grade at the house or distance the house is being elevated. It’s easy to make a mistake with these descriptions and it causes much confusion. Example: If you are raising your home to elevation 11, your finished floor is 6 and your grade is 4.5, you are raising your house 5’ to elevation 11, or 6.5’ above grade. When you use the expression “elevating my home 5 feet” that means you are lifting it 5’ from where it is now. The expression “building or raising the home to elevation 11” refers to the height above sea level, not the distance you are lifting.

Survey: An exact depiction of what exists on your lot, from a top view.

Plot plan: A top view of what you are proposing to build, including new heights, stairs, entries, decks, etc.

They are not the same and you will need both for your project.

HVAC Elevation height in crawl space: This must be considered when planning your lift. This is the elevation of the lowest duct, furnace or air handler in your crawl space. Most townships require a minimum elevation of base flood, some townships have no restriction, some are at minimum BF+1 to the bottom.

You Tube Link to a Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar: If you’ve missed our seminars and can’t easily attend, here is a link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVI69KoM8DRXqoEblHd94xg

It is not edited and is about 2 hours so feel free to fast forward and skip around to watch what you like and need to know.

Remember – if you have a specific question, send me an email or a text. Don’t wait for a seminar or a site visit to clarify a point. Whether or not you are Dream Homes/Atlantic Northeast Construction client or not, I’ll always try and help you or guide you in the right direction. If you’ve sent an email or left a voice mail and haven’t received a response, try and contact me again. Messages are lost occasionally.

Note to Sandsters: Though I write this blog to help as many Sandsters as possible, Dream Homes Ltd. and Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC are new home builders and general contractors who are actively renovating and reconstructing projects up and down the shore. We actually do all of the work that I talk about in the blog. We work with private clients and Path B clients in the RREM program. Call, text or email to set up an appointment for an estimate on your rebuilding project.

That’s all for today Sandsters. I hope it helps you move forward. As always, call or write with any questions.

Stay well.

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://blog.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: foxbuilder

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog – 3-21-15 – Rebuilding Seminar Update 3-26-15 – FEMA Insurance scandal – Working with Experienced Contractors – 11 tips for Dealing with your Builder – RREM News

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –

3/21/15

Hello Sandsters and Happy Spring!

In the last week, we’ve had National Pi Day, St. Paddy’s Day and today is the first full day of Spring!

Last Saturday (when I started writing this blog – only took me 6 days to finish it) was March 14, 2015, which is National Pi Day and reads as 31415, the first 5 digits of Pi. (You are very welcome for this bit of useless trivia to clutter up your brain.)

Yesterday, to close out the winter of our discontent, we had a snow storm and received another 6 inches. Today it is mostly gone, because most importantly, today is the FIRST DAY OF SPRING!! Not a moment too soon.

I hope this blog finds you and your families well.

Thank you God for some decent weather this last week. I think we’ve been more productive and gotten more done in the last week than in the last month. The glass is clearing up, and appears once again to be half full. Proof that perseverance wins more battles than any other technique. I just knew the winter would end eventually.

Today we have some interesting news about a huge FEMA insurance scandal which is rocking the Sandy affected area, a reminder about the extension of the Rental Assistance Program, finding and working with experienced RREM contractors who can handle RREM payment delays and complexities in elevation work, and a reminder about our Rebuilding Seminar this Thursday, March 26th. We’ll also give you 11 good ideas for solid communication practices with your builder and tell you how to avoid grief and mental anguish during your project.

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar schedule: We’ll be really holding our (twice rescheduled) Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar in Toms River on Thursday March 26th at 6 pm at the Ocean County Library. (This one has been postponed twice – once when it was 8 degrees at 6 pm and once when there was 8 inches of snow. Side note to Vince: Don’t schedule seminars in the evening in February.)

Anyway, it’s at 101 Washington Street from 6-9. We’ll have great speakers, including Kathy Dotoli, Esq. and Scott Lepley, AIA. George Kasimos from Stop Fema Now may stop by as well. As always, I’ll be moderating and providing general construction commentary and we’ll tell you how to design it, survey it, build it and protect it. We’ll be serving light refreshments. As a note, we’ll be upstairs in the Home Town Dairy room, as opposed to the Green Room where we normally hold court. Please drop me a note or give me a call if you plan on attending, so you don’t have to stand out in the hall and sneak in for cookies…JJ 732 300 5619 or vince@dreamhomesltd.com.

Welcome to a number of new clients – Thanks for putting your trust in us!  I want to send out a thank you and warm welcome to a bunch of new clients…Frank & Ruth, Vince & Adele, Peter and Susan, Bob & Maryann, Phil and Diane, and Pat & Rob are just some of the clients we’ve started working with recently. It is a compliment to Dream Homes and Atlantic Northeast Construction that so many Sandsters have chosen to entrust us with their most valuable asset, and one we work very hard to be worthy of.

Tip: If you don’t want to miss any of my blogs, go the blog and “follow” it. Sometimes I don’t send email alerts when I blog but if you “follow” the blog you will get an email reminder when I scribble away. We’re also on Facebook if you want to Friend us or post a comment.

FEMA Insurance Scandal: If you missed the last blog, please go back and read it. Another big thanks to Kathy Dotoli, Esquire for her substantial contribution to that blog. Thanks primarily to the bravery and integrity of one honest engineer, a wide spread fraud scandal has been uncovered, where several engineering and insurance companies were working together to defraud the public by disallowing over 96% of all Sandy structural claims. It is an amazing story and an inspiration to all of us.

In the meantime, the president and vice-president of FEMA have been unceremoniously tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. Not the most intelligent response considering that the heads of the engineering and insurance firms will probably face criminal actions, but someone had to be sacrificed on the altar of public discontent. This story is huge, and it is a travesty that it happened. The folks who orchestrated this scam should definitely spend time in a small 6 x 8 area for a long time. The amount of people who were harmed is incredible.

Thankfully, FEMA has agreed to reopen any or all of the 142,000 claims, based on whether benefits were denied you under the structural portion of your insurance policy. You can read more about it here.

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/fema_to_reopen_142000_claims_by_hurricane_sandy_ho.html

If this is something that you feel might help you, you might want to file an appeal and reopen your claim.

Common sense note regarding RREM appeals: I have this conversation often with Sandsters. If the difference between your grant award and the cost from the builder you wish to use is minimal (usually under $10,000), you are probably better off not bothering with an appeal. If there is a substantial difference in the assumptions RREM made and the actual condition of your house (the most common item is different foundation assumptions), then an appeal is worthwhile.  Example: If RREM says you can elevate on existing block and your soil boring and geotechnical analysis dictate a deep foundation system (helical or timber), that is definitely an item worth appealing.

11 Tips for Good Communications with your Builder – Part 1:  I receive many calls about issues with other builders and contractors and many of them fall into the category of misunderstood or insufficient communication between Sandsters and their builders. Here are 11 tips to make the process and your relationship with your contractor less stressful.

  1. Do communicate via email as often as possible. It is effective, clear and serves as an excellent record of discussions.
  2. Do Not use texting excessively. Texting, like many other forms of communication created in the last decade, is often misused. Texting is for brief one or two line notes or reminders, not for long lists of changes and specifications. A good rule of thumb is if it goes longer than 140 characters (1 text message) you should probably call or put it in an email. Texting is very useful to share brief specific bits of information.
  3. Do realize and accept that you will have a relationship with your builder, often for a period of 6-9 months between planning, design and construction. It is not the same as hiring someone to clean your gutters.
  4. Do realize that your project will not go exactly as planned, since no construction project since the time of the Phoenicians ever has. Having a practical, reasonably relaxed attitude towards unforeseen events will help you retain sanity throughout the process. Not everything is a tragedy and very few things are an emergency. Rarely does anything occur in construction that necessitates you becoming stressed or anguished.
  5. Do Not call your builder 6 times during the day and expect them to stop work to discuss your latest idea or change item. You want them to be paying attention to working at their craft, not spending time on the phone. If you place a call to your builder’s cell phone during the hours of 8 am and 6 pm, it is not unreasonable to expect that they may be actually building something. Call the office and leave a message or send an email.
  6. Do expect a response within 24 hours, whether it is text, email or voice mail.
  7. Do keep changes to a minimum or accept that they will cause delay. It is common to discover changes you want during a project and these items should be communicated to your builder, ideally via email. However, excessive (daily) changes to the scope of work will cause everyone involved a lot of grief.
  8. Do Be Nice. The book “All I Ever Needed in Life I learned in Kindergarten” is a great resource. Since you will be working with whomever you choose for a fairly significant amount of time, it is a much better idea to be nice than to be mean, nasty, grouchy, unpleasant and negative. Treat people how you would like to be treated and require the same courtesy from your builder. We all know that one gets a lot more with honey than one does with vinegar, so act accordingly. Most importantly, ask yourself how you would like to be treated if circumstances were reversed.
  9. Do address issues quickly when they come up. Once again, issues will arise during construction that require discussion. Do talk them through, come to a solution and keep moving forward. Do not get consumed by any single item to the detriment of the entire process.
  10. Do realize that you are paying your builder or contractor for a finished product and not a day to day tutorial on how to elevate a home. Do not expect your builder to condense 20 years of experience into bullet points for constant daily explanations of construction process. Do expect a schedule and time line, updated as needed.
  11. Do realize that every project is a give and take process. Being flexible and accepting changes as they come will allow you to keep your sanity and not be in a small rubber room making baskets at the end of your project.

News from NJ – repeat – an extension to the rental assistance program. See the previous blog for more detail, but here’s the link. http://www.renewjerseystronger.org/february-26-2015-christie-administration-announces-short-term-rental-assistance-for-sandy-impacted-homeowners-in-the-rrem-and-lmi-homeowners-rebuilding-programs-while-they-repair-their-homes/

Stop Fema Now Association: We’re now a proud sponsor of Stop Fema Now (www.stopfemanow.com) which is an excellent organization trying to save and protect NJ Sandsters from FEMA misery. We think those folks are doing more to try and protect the interests of Sandsters than all the HUD and DCA committees combined. While we help people on an individual bases, they are trying to improve the system, which is a much more worthy pursuit. We’ve been trying for 2 ½ years to educate and assist people through their Sandy trials and SFN is an organization with whom we are in complete agreement. I had another great conversation recently with George Kasimos, the organization president, and once again I was thankful for people who try and beard the proverbial tiger in its den. George and his organization are actually attempting to change policy to improve the situation for thousands of Sandsters and that is an effort we wholeheartedly support. If you want to get involved and either donate or volunteer your time to this worthy effort, please visit their web site, which is listed above in this paragraph.

Repeat and update from the latest “If you wanna get really annoyed” category, the latest RREM audit findings have concluded, among other aggravating tidbits, that 12 of the original Path C contractors were not properly vetted by the state of NJ and may have improprieties in their backgrounds! That is really shocking news. (the link is in the last blog). What is even more interesting is that 9 of these contractors are from out of state. Be careful.

A reminder to Sandsters still considering Path C, “Time is much more valuable than money. Don’t waste one minute of your life on a pursuit (Path C) where the guidelines are completely unclear and subject to change.” Put in simple language, “If you don’t understand the rules of the game, don’t play.” As we’ve said, you are much better off trusting the potential level of your skill and attentive common sense than a government entities’ fairly certain non-interested incompetence.

Finding and Working with Experienced Contractors – Part II

We’ve said many times that it is vitally important that your contractor or builder have experience with actual elevation projects, as well as experience dealing with RREM paperwork and payment delays. The contractor who did your interior renovation after Sandy is probably not the person who should do your elevation project. That is not because they are not a good contractor. They might be a great contractor, but not familiar with elevation and RREM work. Ask specifically if they are familiar with RREM paperwork requirements as well as the delays in payment. You don’t want your contractor or builder to stop working because RREM is paying slowly and they can’t fund operations on your house. You also don’t want them to stop because an issue comes up (which it inevitably will) and they don’t know how to deal with it.

Tip: Find a builder you trust, who has significant elevation experience (at least a dozen completed elevation projects), who you can vet sufficiently (references, other projects, local offices, active jobs) rather than use a big name you don’t know or an out of state company. Competence, continuity in business, reputation and company history are very important. Size should not necessarily be the only deciding factor – good builders and contractors come in all shapes and sizes (although your choice should be large enough to have sufficient experience with home elevations or new construction).

New development: Dream Homes Mobile Web Site is now Live!

You can now log onto www.dreamhomesltd.com from your mobile device and see a mobile site tailored to a smaller screen. Hopefully this is helpful to mobile Sandsters.

Design work and timing: Summer & Fall 2015. If you have your design work complete and you hurry, you can just about be back in your house mid summer if you can file for permits in the next few weeks. If that’s your goal, call us so we can help you make that happen. If you aren’t quite ready to file or are just starting your design scope, it is a great time to schedule for a September start to your project. We currently have a dozen Sandsters who we are starting in the fall – it’s too much stress for them to get it done before summer and there are much cheaper rentals in the fall/winter at the shore.

Definitions & Important Considerations That Can Delay Your Project:

Lowest adjacent grade (LAG): This is an important elevation since the lowest point in your crawl space has to be even or above the LAG. That is important because even if you don’t want your crawl filled that much (so you have more storage space) you will not pass final zoning / final building if this condition is not met. LAG is defined as the lowest grade immediately next to your house. There can easily be a foot or more difference between one side and the other, or back to front, so if you wish to use the least amount of fill (maximizing room in the crawl) make sure you find the lowest adjacent elevation.

Elevation: Elevation refers to “height above sea level” and not the height above grade at the house or distance the house is being elevated. It’s easy to make a mistake with these descriptions and it causes much confusion. Example: If you are raising your home to elevation 11, your finished floor is 6 and your grade is 4.5, you are raising your house 5’ to elevation 11, or 6.5’ above grade. When you use the expression “elevating my home 5 feet” that means you are lifting it 5’ from where it is now. The expression “building or raising the home to elevation 11” refers to the height above sea level, not the distance you are lifting.

Survey: An exact depiction of what exists on your lot, from a top view.

Plot plan: A top view of what you are proposing to build, including new heights, stairs, entries, decks, etc.

They are not the same and you will need both for your project.

HVAC Elevation height in crawl space: This must be considered when planning your lift. This is the elevation of the lowest duct, furnace or air handler in your crawl space. Most townships require a minimum elevation of base flood, some townships have no restriction, some are at minimum BF+1 to the bottom.

You Tube Link to a Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar: If you’ve missed our seminars and can’t easily attend, here is a link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVI69KoM8DRXqoEblHd94xg

It is not edited and is about 2 hours so feel free to fast forward and skip around to watch what you like and need to know.

Remember – if you have a specific question, send me an email or a text. Don’t wait for a seminar or a site visit to clarify a point. Whether or not you are Dream Homes/Atlantic Northeast Construction client or not, I’ll always try and help you or guide you in the right direction. If you’ve sent an email or left a voice mail and haven’t received a response, try and contact me again. Messages are lost occasionally.

Note to Sandsters: Though I write this blog to help as many Sandsters as possible, Dream Homes Ltd. and Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC are new home builders and general contractors who are actively renovating and reconstructing projects up and down the shore. We actually do all of the work that I talk about in the blog. We work with private clients and Path B clients in the RREM program. Call, text or email to set up an appointment for an estimate on your rebuilding project.

That’s all for today Sandsters. I hope it helps you move forward. As always, call or write with any questions.

Stay well.

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://blog.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: foxbuilder

Monmouth & Atlantic County · New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean

Important: Superstorm Sandy Fraud & Rebuilding Seminar Rescheduling – Please pass along to other Sandsters affected by SUPERSTORM SANDY

Hello Sandsters –

Hope you are well and on your way home before the latest blizzard tonight. Hasn’t winter been a joy?

Today, I have some important (great) news concerning the FEMA insurance scandal and wanted to get it right out to you. Details are below and there is also a link  to an amazing CBS report that you have to watch.  (If the links don’t work, cut and paste them into a browser).

Update regarding our Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar: Because of the latest snowstorm warnings, I was going to wait until tomorrow to reschedule the Rebuilding seminar. However, the Toms River Library ladies called earlier and said, “Look, we’re going to close tomorrow afternoon since it will have been snowing for 12 hours in dropping temperatures, so do you want to reschedule your seminar or shall we just cancel it for you now? Hmmm?”

So I took the 26th of March and just rescheduled the seminar for the 2nd time.

Meanwhile, I am working on a webinar and video recording for tomorrow night’s seminar so you may be able to enjoy it with popcorn in the comfort of your living room. Stay tuned.

More importantly, regarding the FEMA insurance issue, I received the email below from Kathy Dotoli, who is an attorney and former client from Toms River. Kathy specializes in worker’s compensation and social security disability and is a frequent speaker at our seminars. Her email below is an excellent summary of the latest news, so I am forwarding it to you almost in its entirety. This is important news for a lot of people.

Kathy Dotoli writes,

“As you know, we lost our family house due to flooding from Superstorm Sandy.  Though you have since demolished the old home and built us a new one, I still continue to stay current on the issues facing Sandy victims today and try to pass along information from which Jersey Shore residents can benefit.  This week’s REALLY BIG NEWS confirms what many of us have suspected about the engineering reports prepared by insurance adjusters….that the reports were OFTEN and SYSTEMATICALLY ALTERED to show less damage than what had actually occurred as a result of the storm.  Examples focus mostly on the element of structural damage which, if found, would result in the most amount of money paid on a claim.  Altering the reports to state “no structural damage” significantly reduces the amount of money an insurer must pay to repair a home, leaving the homeowner with few options.

Thanks to a handful of homeowners and a few honest adjusters, this fraud has been discovered and FEMA is finally taking action to correct this.   The following link to the CBS news story will better explain what is happening.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/senators-fema-has-questions-to-answer-on-superstorm-sandy-claims/

If one of your clients thinks they have been issued a bogus engineering report resulting in less money to fix their home, the time is NOW to contact your Senator or Congressman to make sure they are included in the FEMA settlement.  And please note, even if a settlement has already been reached with FEMA, if one can prove that the structural report was fraudulent there should still be opportunity to reopen the matter.    Here are links to their names and addresses:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/NJ\

Hopefully you or someone you know can benefit from this major breakthrough in settlement negotiations.  If you have any questions or comments, please give me a call to discuss them.

Kathleen M. Dotoli, Esq.

Workers’ Compensation & Social Security Disability Law kmdotoli611@aol.com

www.jerseyshoreworkerscomp.com

Law Office of Kathleen M. Dotoli

225 Washington Street

The Cottage

Toms River, NJ  08753

Phone:  732-228-7534

Fax: 732-228-7861  “

End Quote

Thank you Kathy for that excellent email and link to the article.

Sandsters, hopefully this post helps you in some way.

Meanwhile, stay safe and warm. Be careful driving. Spring is coming soon.

Regards,

Vincent

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

C:732 300 5619

609 693 8881 x102

Fax: 609 693 3802

vince@dreamhomesltd.com

http://www.dreamhomesltd.com

http://blog.dreamhomesltd.com

http://www.Twitter.com: foxbuilder

New Home Builder License # 045894

HIC License # 13VH07489000

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes / Atlantic Northeast Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog – 3-1-15 – Rebuilding Seminar 3/5/15 – RREM Payment Nightmare & Rental assistance extended – Working with Contractors in RREM – Path C Sadness – HVAC under the house – Winter Misery

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –

3/1/15

Hello Sandsters –

I hope this blog finds you and your families well.

It’s sunny and 75 here (in my dreams) and if you’re really fortunate, you’re somewhere warm and sunny in real life. I’ve had so many Sandster clients decamp for the south in the last 2 months that I’ve almost started to take it personally. If I had feelings I would be hurt. (I do have one Multi-Feeling I use for all purposes, but that doesn’t really count here.) For some odd reason, folks just get uncomfortable in 10 degree weather and would rather be in Lauderdale where it’s 77. Go figure.

We’ve all been getting hammered with the cold weather the last few weeks but working outside has been particularly lousy. We have freezing temperatures, slush, ice, snow and frozen ground. I’ve been making futile offerings and conducting prayer sessions to the Construction Gods to give up a footing inspection every now and then. We’re heat taping, torching, blanketing, pumping, salting and de-icing – and essentially achieving little except furious activity, broken tools and really unhappy team members. The glass is consistently murky, and only slightly full. When one is going through hell, one must keep going. Men are unhappy but are not permitted to quit on my watch (dying is ok – quitting isn’t), so many people currently dislike me. Such is life.

Warm weather update: Spring 2015 is occurring in 20 days and not a moment too soon. We have suffered enough with this winter. For more on that subject – see detail above and later in this blog.

Today we have some interesting RREM news, and a much needed extension of the Rental Assistance Program. We talk about considerations for HVAC duct work under your house, working with experienced RREM contractors who can handle awful RREM payment delays, the joy of winter construction, and an update on our Rebuilding Seminar this Thursday, March 5. It’s a pretty aggressive schedule, so maybe I’ll do a few bloglets today instead of a novel. Probably not though. Writing discipline is something I have not mastered as of yet.

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar schedule: We’ll be holding our (rescheduled) Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar in Toms River this Thursday March 5 at the Ocean County Library. (One of the few intelligent decisions I made this winter was to postpone the seminar 2 weeks ago, when it was 8 degrees at 6 pm.) It is on Washington Street from 6-9. We’ll have great speakers, including Evan Hill, PE, Kathy Dotoli, Esq., Scott Lepley, AIA. George Kasimos from Stop Fema Now will be there as well. As always, I’ll be moderating and providing general construction commentary and we’ll tell you how to design it, survey it, build it and protect it. We’ll be serving light refreshments. As a note, we’ll be upstairs in the Home Town Dairy room, as opposed to the Green Room where we normally hold court. Please drop me a note or give me a call if you plan on attending, so you don’t have to stand out in the hall and sneak in for cookies…JJ 732 300 5619 or vince@dreamhomesltd.com.

Tip: If you don’t want to miss any of my blogs, go the blog and “follow” it. Sometimes I don’t send email alerts when I blog but if you “follow” the blog you will get an email reminder when I scribble away. We’re also on Facebook if you want to Friend us or post a comment.

Here’s some great news from the State of NJ – an extension to the rental assistance program. The program opens on 3/16/15 and will pay up to $825 per month going forward. It is for 3 months and you can apply for one extension. You have to have a mortgage on your house being elevated and you must not have completed your project. Details are below.

As a note, thank you Governor for paying a bit of attention to us out here in SandyLand. Any crumbs of attention that you sprinkle upon us are truly appreciated while you are trying to get elected as our next President. Good luck with that. Here’s the link.

http://www.renewjerseystronger.org/february-26-2015-christie-administration-announces-short-term-rental-assistance-for-sandy-impacted-homeowners-in-the-rrem-and-lmi-homeowners-rebuilding-programs-while-they-repair-their-homes/

You can also go to www.renewjerseystronger.org for more info.

Stop Fema Now Association: We are now a proud sponsor of Stop Fema Now (www.stopfemanow.com) which is an outstanding organization trying to save and protect NJ Sandsters from FEMA misery. We think those folks are doing more to try and protect the interests of Sandsters than all the HUD and DCA committees combined. While we help people on an individual basis, they are trying to improve the system, which is a much more worthy pursuit. We’ve been trying for 2 ½ years to educate and assist people through their Sandy trials and SFN is an organization with whom we are in complete agreement. I had another great conversation recently with George Kasimos, the organization president, and again I was thankful for people who try and beard the proverbial tiger in his den. George and his organization are actually attempting to change policy to improve the situation for thousands of Sandsters and that is an effort we wholeheartedly support. If you want to get involved and either donate or volunteer your time to this worthy effort, please visit their web site, which is listed above in this paragraph.

Repeat – Elevation height – Make Sure you consider your HVAC duct below the house: This item is critically important and often overlooked by (almost all) engineers, architects and builders who haven’t done many lifts.

Simply put, determine what your township will allow as far as elevation of the HVAC duct in the crawl space. Some townships have no restriction, some are at minimum Base Flood to the bottom of the duct, some are at BF+1 to the bottom. See the last blog for much more detail on this item. From this point forward I will include this item in the Definitions section at the end of the blog.

Must repeat: “C” is for Catastrophe – I just have to reprint this from two blogs ago, along with a very sad letter from a fellow Sandster who has been completely abused by Path C.

In the “If you wanna get really annoyed” category, the latest RREM audit findings have concluded, among other aggravating tidbits, that 12 of the original Path C contractors were not properly vetted by the state of NJ and may have improprieties in their backgrounds!

Shocking news.

(Author’s Note: To all of you reading this who have chosen to convert or stay in Path C, remember that when one lies down with dogs, one must expect fleas. If you are stuck in Path C through no fault of your own and couldn’t choose Path B or convert, God be with you.)

(Author’s note #2: Believe it or not, there are still people that are switching out of Path B into Path C which is foolish in the extreme. Choose Path C over Path B be only if you are really masochistic.

Note: You are probably much better off trusting the potential level of your skill and attentive common sense than a government entities’ fairly certain non-interested incompetence.)

To any Sandsters trying to decide if making your own decisions about your rebuilding project and staying in Path B is the intelligent way to proceed, read this article and the email below from a fellow Sandster. Think long and hard about trusting someone the state inflicts upon you in the hopes that all will be jes’ peachy. Blaze your own trail – you’ll ultimately be happier.

http://www.app.com/story/news/local/2015/01/20/report-state-thoroughly-vet-rrem-contractors/22066943/

Sad email: A partial email from a Path C Sandster: Vince…I am on Mystic Island in Ocean County and with Pathway C for about 2 years now. My wife and I now are selling out and have given up . The promises of funds and lies of RREM have come to an end. I have been following you for quite some time now and wanted to switch to B from C but were told, we could not change paths. (Author’s note: You can always change Paths if you insist long and hard enough.) 

In the 11th hour (Nov 2014) we were told we did not have enough money to fund our project. The contractors told us they couldn’t lift our home and it needed to be knock it down and one of their modular homes be put up. Homes are being lifted all around us. This was after we received an award letter from RREM to lift and finish our home in Dec. 2013. The estimate award was $128,000.  

I put approx. $30,000 into it after the flood from an (SBA loan) and there was $70,000 put into it 7 or 8 years ago 2 or 3 years before Sandy. If you drove past and walked around my property you would never know there was a flood. It’s in great shape. The contractors in Pathway C told us they would have to knock it down and build one of their homes on site and they assured me I had the funds for over a year “no problem” to do this. Over the holidays RREM ran out of money. Gap funds or reimbursement for the money I put in for repairs was depleted. When they asked if I wanted reimbursement almost 2 years ago, I said no. I wanted to make sure they knew we had good intentions. We wanted our home back and nothing more.

 We got the $150,000 grant award a year or so (Dec 2014) after the first award letter (Dec 2013). The only problem is the contractor wanted me to come up with $40,000 dollars more. We have been out of my house since Sandy. My health gave in- we gave up, and now we are about to sell for peanuts. The last thing I heard just last night, through an email by the contractor was “we could switch to pathway B”  After 2 years with RREM in pathway C which we were advised to take because of extra funds like the GAP fund and the trust that the state was selling, we tried to stick it out. We are now truly, victims of hurricane Sandy.  Please tell others don’t rely on these promises and take matters into your own hands. Time is just as important as money.”

To which I will simply add, “Time is much more valuable than money. Don’t waste one minute of your life on a pursuit (Path C) where the guidelines are completely unclear and subject to change.” Put in simple language, “If you don’t understand the rules of the game, don’t play.”

Which brings us to….Working with Experienced Contractors, Part 2 – (Important) Partial Repeat

We’ve said many times that it is vitally important that your contractor or builder have experience with actual elevation projects, as well as experience dealing with RREM paperwork and payment delays. The contractor who did your interior renovation after Sandy is probably not the person who should do your elevation project. That is not because they are not a good contractor. They might be a great contractor, but not familiar with elevation and RREM work. Ask specifically if they are familiar with RREM paperwork requirements as well as the delays in payment. You don’t want your contractor or builder to stop working because RREM is paying slowly and they can’t fund operations.

Repeat – Dismal, Sade Winter Weather Repeat – Part III – A nod to anyone working in this weather and a special thanks to all our guys:

We don’t like it, but we do it. Neither rain, nor snow, nor idiotic bureaucracy shall slow us down. We work 7 days a week when needed and in all kinds of crappy weather when we have to. Being out in the field gives one a great appreciation for how difficult working in harsh weather can be.

Otherwise, it’s the same old, same old unpleasant nonsense. It’s a mess and everyone feels the same – cold, annoyed and aggravated. Ground is frozen so you have to drill, jackhammer or use frost teeth on a machine just to break through the frost and dig. Getting footings inspected and poured (usually 2 separate days unless you’re really lucky) is an exercise in frustration involving ice, mud, slush and frozen pipe.

There is always darkness before the proverbial dawn, and we look forward to the sunlight of warmer times.

New development: Dream Homes Mobile Web Site is now Live!

You can now log onto www.dreamhomesltd.com from your mobile device and see a mobile site tailored to a smaller screen. Hopefully this is helpful to mobile Sandsters.

Design work and timing: Summer & Fall 2015. If you have your design work complete, you can just about be back in your house mid summer if you can file for permits in the next few weeks. If that’s your goal, call us (or someone else able to accommodate your schedule) so we can help you make that happen. If you aren’t quite ready to file, it is a great time to schedule for a September start to your project. We currently have a dozen Sandsters who we are starting in the fall – too much stress for them to get it done before summer and there are much cheaper rentals in the fall/winter at the shore.

Worst Town and Most Improved at the Shore, weekly update: I am taking a pass on this item this week. We’ve failed so many footing inspections everywhere that I think we are in the running for a new Guinness record. There is no professional courtesy in the winter and the chances of getting 2 consecutive winter days of dry weather above 25 are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Sometimes the inspector just sits in his car and laughs at us (4 guys standing there like idiots with pumps, salt, propane torches and thermal blankets). “Are you guys serious? There’s 3 inches of snow on the ground and I see you’re pumping icy water, thermal blanketing and sacrificing Abyssinian chickens….I really appreciate your efforts, but do you really think I am getting out of my car so I can break my ankle (and my ass) in a snow covered footing trench? Heeheehee. Try again next week boychik.” ‘Tis a sad, sad state of affairs, truly it is. LL We soldier on, unappreciated and severely unhappy.

Definitions & Important Considerations That Can Delay Your Project:

Lowest adjacent grade (LAG): This is an important elevation since the lowest point in your crawl space has to be even or above the LAG. That is important because even if you don’t want your crawl filled that much (so you have more storage space) you will not pass final zoning / final building if this condition is not met. LAG is defined as the lowest grade immediately next to your house. There can easily be a foot or more difference between one side and the other, or back to front, so if you wish to use the least amount of fill (maximizing room in the crawl) make sure you find the lowest adjacent elevation.

Elevation: Elevation refers to “height above sea level” and not the height above grade at the house or distance the house is being elevated. It’s easy to make a mistake with these descriptions and it causes much confusion. Example: If you are raising your home to elevation 11, your finished floor is 6 and your grade is 4.5, you are raising your house 5’ to elevation 11, or 6.5’ above grade. When you use the expression “elevating my home 5 feet” that means you are lifting it 5’ from where it is now. The expression “building or raising the home to elevation 11” refers to the height above sea level, not the distance you are lifting.

Survey: An exact depiction of what exists on your lot, from a top view.

Plot plan: A top view of what you are proposing to build, including new heights, stairs, entries, decks, etc.

They are not the same and you will need both for your project.

You Tube Link to a Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar: If you’ve missed our seminars and can’t easily attend, here is a link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVI69KoM8DRXqoEblHd94xg

It is not edited and is about 2 hours so feel free to fast forward and skip around to watch what you like and need to know.

Remember – if you have a specific question, send me an email or a text. Don’t wait for a seminar or a site visit to clarify a point. Whether or not you are Dream Homes/Atlantic Northeast Construction client or not, I’ll always try and help you or guide you in the right direction. If you’ve sent an email or left a voice mail and haven’t received a response, try and contact me again. I miss messages here and there.

Note to Sandsters: Though I write this blog to help as many Sandsters as possible, Dream Homes Ltd. and Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC are new home builders and general contractors who are actively renovating and reconstructing projects up and down the shore. We actually do all of the work that I talk about in the blog. We work with private clients and Path B clients in the RREM program. Call, text or email to set up an appointment for an estimate on your rebuilding project.

That’s all for today Sandsters. I hope it helps you move forward. As always, call or write with any questions.

Stay well.

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://blog.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: foxbuilder