Dream Homes Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –
Happy New Year Sandsters!
I hope you’ve all had a wonderful holiday season, and are looking forward to a healthy, productive, peaceful New Year!
Today we’ll talk Happy New Year wishes and we’ll remind you about our 2 upcoming events, including our next Rebuilding Seminar this Wednesday and the NJ Home Show on 1/22/16, later this month. Both events are in Toms River. Most importantly, today we’ll talk about How to Fire Your Contractor – and if it’s possible or advisable. That is definitely the latest hot issue currently out here in Sandster land.
Upcoming January Events – Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar – This Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 & the NJ Home Show – January 22-24 at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River:
Our next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar will be held this Wednesday January 13, 2016 at 6 pm at the Tuscany Bar & Grill restaurant in Toms River, across from the Ocean County mall on Hooper Avenue. It’s a great way to start the New Year and get ready for your project to start in the spring. We’ll focus on Sandsters that are early in the process, and have not completed design work, or chosen a builder or architect. We’ll offer engineering & architectural design advice, RREM guidance at the initial stages, and information about choosing the right builder or contractor. We’ll be in the Fire Room, which is a great indoor/ outdoor space with a fire pit in the center.
This time, we’ll have Tim Ferguson from Hale Built House Lifting, as well as Kathy Dotoli, Esq., Scott Lepley, architect, and me. Space is almost filled. Please call for reservations if you would like to attend.
Exhibit Schedule: We’ll also be exhibiting at the NJ Home Show on January 22-24 at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River. This is a great opportunity to meet our professional team, since there will be plenty of time for discussion specific to your project. We’ll be scheduling appointments throughout the show so give us a call and bring your plans and surveys for comments and suggestions.
Finally, our Creature Feature of the day…How to Fire Your Contractor…and Can You?
This shouldn’t be the most popular Rebuilding subject on Facebook and in every other venue of social media in NJ, but it is. Every RREM project manager will tell you that the majority of clients are unhappy to some degree, some with valid concerns but most with concerns that are more emotionally than factually based.
Simply put, most people (Sandsters included) have little specific knowledge of construction or general contracting. Though Path C was a complete disaster, laypersons managing their own complicated general contracting elevation projects under Path B is not any kind of a slam dunk either. Combined with the fact that most contractors and builders are not the most adept at communication, there’s a real recipe for stress and miscommunication.
Most people don’t know what they don’t know and what they do “know”, they’ve often learned from 1000 other people on Facebook (who don’t know either). An extremely weird vicious circle, but it is the hand we’ve been dealt and we’ll do the best we can with it.
In any case, I’ve said repeatedly that the most inept private effort is still better than the most “adept” government efforts.
(Case in point: Path C was an unmitigated disaster – for $80 million dollars, I think they managed to elevate 6 houses. Yay)
Based on that, the worst results from the private sector look like a shining example of efficiency.
Anyway, I said repeatedly in the year following Sandy that there would be a number of fly-by-night companies, small local contractors unqualified and in over their head and other companies who tried elevation and rebuilding work and found it too challenging. I predicted that they would work feverishly for a year or so, and then abandon the market, in whichever manner suited them morally. This is all occurring now – the cream does indeed rise to the top and the people still in business are generally qualified to do what they are doing, whether it be elevation work or new construction. The others have either defrauded clients or left the stage.
Lately we’re getting a dozen calls a week from unhappy Sandsters who need guidance in order to be able to finish their projects. I’ll touch on this briefly at the seminar this Wednesday (Kathy Dotoli gives an excellent presentation about steps you can take to protect yourself when retaining a builder, or any professional), but for now, here are some basics.
Sandsters involved in reconstruction who are unhappy with their builder or contractor and want to fire them and retain someone else fall into 2 broad categories.
- Category 1: Good News – You Can Fire Your Contractor (and find someone else you will hopefully dislike less: Your contractor has committed out and out fraud, has taken your money and not done anything, has disappeared, will not communicate, has closed their office, has abandoned your project, or a combination of any or all of the above. Ironically, other than monetary loss, which can be significant, this is usually the best case for you as a consumer. Why? Since they have very effectively breached the contract through abandonment and/or the other factors listed above, you can step in, hire a new contractor or try and finish the project yourself. You can change your permits to a new contractor or yourself, and continue working towards completing your project. While the loss of money is upsetting, at least there is closure, forward movement and an end in sight.
Also, in no way are you precluded from hiring an attorney and pursuing legal remedies, making complaints and reports to the DCA, Dept of Consumer Fraud, RREM, the county prosecutor and the state attorney general’s office.
Lately they have been catching some of these guys and there is a chance of receiving some of your funds back in the form of restitution.
- Category 2: Not so Good News…You can NOT easily fire your builder in the middle of the project: You are unhappy with your contractor for other reasons, which are less severe than those listed above. These reasons and their various iterations and possibilities can be almost too numerous to name. They can range from you being unhappy with the speed of your project, personal issues between you and your contractor, differences of opinion about quantity or quality of products being installed, confusion or misunderstanding about numerous / varied change orders, disagreements about you being constantly on site and giving direction and change order to workers and subcontractors and many other items.
The case is not so clear cut here. Disagreements such as this are often subjective and though there are objective issues, often emotions take center stage at the expense of logic. As with any other commercial agreement over $500, the contract will dictate the procedure in a number of instances. Additionally, since most Sandsters reading this are consumers and not businesses, this type of activity is covered under the Home Improvement Act (of 2008, I believe). If you are elevating, your project and the contracts / agreements fall under the jurisdiction of that act. If you are building a new home, this is not the case and it is more a case of straightforward contract law deciding the facts of the case. If your contractor is not licensed and you have signed a contract with him, they are in serious violation of the law and subject to triple damages under the consumer fraud provision of the act.
Remember, if it is an interpretation issue such as any of the items listed above, you are far better having civilized discussion than choosing to litigate. You cannot simply fire your contractor or builder and hire someone else, because you “think” they’re doing a bad job, or you “feel” they are taking too long. That is a unilateral action on your part and at that point you would be breaching the contract and liable for damages. Your builder can sue you for the balance of the money due under the contract, whether or not the work has been performed, based on your actions.
Winston Churchill said, “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.” A wise commercial real estate broker I knew once said to me, “As long as you’re talkin’, nobody is walkin’…”. Both bits of advice were spot on.
If you cannot manage to deal directly with your builder any longer, let someone else do it. Let your spouse pick up the ball. Let a friend or advisor handle the interaction. Hire an outside professional – attorney – architect – engineer – builder – and let them give you an objective opinion about how to proceed. Take the personal out of the equation and focus on moving the project towards completion. Often if you step back a few steps and remember that the objective is to complete the project and not to win a battle, things fall back into place. Don’t get hung up about being right – focus all your energy about getting through the project until it is complete. Arguments over “being right” cause more work stoppages than you would believe.
Remember… 95% of all construction projects involve an argument or disagreement at some point during the project. Don’t let a minor issue derail a major project. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Don’t let the misunderstanding about the color of the deck material stop the entire project – and delay you getting back in your house.
Do we accept work from Sandsters who come to us to fix other people’s messes? Of course we do. But more often than not, unless the builder is an obvious complete criminal, we counsel them to take a deep breath, make a phone call and open up some dialogue. We love new clients – but we’d rather help Sandsters get back into their homes.
Dream Homes – Top slogan ideas for this week: (Strangely enough, people actually wrote in with their ideas…JJ Lot’s of folks with dark senses of humor)
Dream Homes – We’ll Fix Your Broken House
Dream Homes – They Broke It – We’ll Fix It
Dream Homes – Call Us After The Other Guy Screws It Up
Dream Homes – When You’ve Tried the Rest, Call the Best ( an Oldie, but goodie).
Dream Homes – We Fix Other Builders’ Mistakes
Dream Homes – You’ll Hate Us Less than Them – and We’ll Finish Your Project! (Dark, but good)
For the next 60 days, we’re still offering a $100 prize for the best name & slogan for our new subsidiary…something like the Dream Homes Construction Cleaning & Repair Company!! We’ll need a good slogan or tag line…something like, “Dream Homes – Call Us When Your Other Builder Breaks Your House”, or Dream Homes Construction Clean Ups – After You’ve Suffered with the Rest, Call Us and We’ll Clean Up Your Mess!”, or “Dream Homes – Call Us When Your Builder Runs off to Bimini”. You get the idea.
Give us some suggestions and put your name in the hat for the $100 prize.
We have a number of current clients that have trusted us to finish their projects.
We’re honest…we tell the truth…we know what we’re doing….and we actually finish every project we start.
Dream Homes – New satellite office – 2818 Bridge Avenue in Point Pleasant:
Dream Homes has been so busy in the Point, Brick, Manasquan area in the last year that we recently opened a branch office for client service, sales and construction at 2818 Bridge Avenue in Point Pleasant. We’re still in the process of fitting out the front reception area, but you are welcome to bring your surveys, plans and paperwork to that location if it’s easier than scanning, faxing or bringing documents to our main office on Rt. 9 in Forked River. Please call us for hours if you want to visit this location.
Design work and timing: Winter 2015, Weather Delays & Pouring concrete in the winter: At this point, if you have submitted or are submitting plans to your local building department, you will be lifting in late January or early February. Depending on what type of foundation you are using, you may encounter slight delays due to extreme cold. For some additional notes on building in the winter review some of the blogs last year, where we spoke about pouring concrete in the colder weather. With the addition of calcium hydroxide (anti-freeze), you can pour concrete as long as the temperature is 25 degrees and rising. Here in NJ that generally takes us into January, at which time the weather can be hit or miss until mid-March.
Contingency funds vs. Design scope funding:
I’ve written and spoken extensively about this item but Sandsters are continually confused about it, so I’ve started to include it below in the glossary of definitions which is a part of each blog. See below for more information.
Tip – Follow the Nearly Famous Blog: If you don’t want to miss any of my blogs, go the blog and “follow” it. Some times I don’t send email alerts when I blog. If you “follow” the blog you will get an email reminder whenever I post. We’re also on Facebook if you want to Friend us or post a comment.
Stop FEMA Now Association: We’re now a proud sponsor of Stop Fema Now which is an excellent organization trying to save and protect NJ Sandsters (as well as other states) from FEMA tyranny. To get involved and either donate or volunteer your time to this worthy effort, please visit their web site, which is www.stopfemanow.com
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.
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.
Footprint: A building “footprint” is defined as the disturbed area of the lowest level including the garage.
Ex: a 1200 square foot ranch with a 240 square foot deck has a footprint of 1440 square feet.
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, and some are at minimum BF + 1 to the bottom.
Design scope: These costs are defined as architectural and engineering fees, all survey costs (survey, plot plan, foundation as built, flood elevation certificate and final survey), soil boring & geotechnical costs, cribbing diagrams, permit fees, soil conservation design, and wind load calculations.
Please note – you do not get $15,000 in cash to spend on your design scope. You get up to $15,000, depending on what your actual costs are. So if your design costs are $9,200 you get $9,200. If they are $14,000, you get $14,000. If they are $16,600, you get $15,000. The balance of any remaining money in the $15,000 design scope budget does not go back into your grant and you don’t get to keep the extra cash.
If you signed your grant prior to October 1, 2014, you are not eligible for the extra $15,000 in design scope funding. Note: I have seen a number of clients kick, scream & please enough to have the $15,000 added to their grant, even though they had signed before 10/1/14, but that is not the policy.
Contingency costs: This item is part of your grant package and is designed to provide for unforeseen events or conditions that must be corrected in order to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) and finish your project.
These are not mistakes, omissions or errors on your part, your builder’s part or the design professional that did the plans. Rather they are items that are not knowable or evident in the actual structure until it is elevated, or the result of one of the shore townships deciding arbitrarily to change, invent or augment the existing building code. These items include (but are definitely not limited to) rotten or termite infested sheathing, wall studs or sill plates, twisted, broken or rotten girders, site conditions or changes needed to comply with current codes which were not in place when the house is built, upgrades to water pits or valves required by the MUA, installation of hard wired smoke & CO2 detectors, installation of condensate lines to the exterior from the dryer, and about 50 other items that we’ve encountered. These items should be itemized by your builder in a separate sheet and submitted to RREM. 95% of the time you will be reimbursed.
There is not a monetary limit to this contingency, although it is generally 5% – 10% of the grant amount.
The contingency does not come out of your grant award.
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 Sandsters, 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 a free 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.
Happy New Year!! I wish you the best in every way!
Dream Homes Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
New Home Builder #045894
Home Improvement Contractor #13VH07489000
PO Box 627
Forked River, NJ 08731
Office: 609 693 8881 F: 609 693 3802
Cell: 732 300 5619
Calendar of Events – Join Us: Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar, 6 PM January 13, 2016 at Tuscan House in Toms River.
NJ Home Show – January 22-24, 2016 at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.