Dream Homes Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –
Remembering 9/11 – Why Exactly Are We Lifting Our House?? Dodging Another Storm Bullet – September Rebuilding Seminar – Courtesy, Last Look & Working with your Favorite Contractor- What actually is a RREM Program Manager? RREM Fraud Update – Contractors & Homeowners
Hello Sandsters –
I hope your Labor Day weekend went well. We dodged a bullet with the whole tropical storm/hurricane/surge thing, which is good. As far as I’m concerned, I did 4 estimates and spoke to a number of clients, so I held true to the whole concept of laboring over the Labor Day weekend. I’m not sure that’s what Labor Day is supposed to be, but that’s how it ended up for me.
See how close we came to another wicked storm event…This plays right into, “Why are we bothering to raise our homes?” Click on this link and see more detail below.
Today, we have a few items for you. We take a moment to reflect on the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and how it changed our world. One of the most important items today is a repeat – Why Exactly are we Lifting our Houses? We repeat warnings about committing RREM fraud – on both sides – homeowner and contractor. We give you some tips on getting a good, accurate estimate. We (again) define the term Program Manager, which is easily the most misunderstood concept under the sun. We talk change orders and caution you their inherent risks to your project in delays and cost overruns. Finally we mention our next Rebuilding seminar – which is this Wednesday September 14th at 6 pm at Tuscan Bistro & Bar in Toms River.
September & November (11/9) Dream Homes Events:
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar –Wednesday September 14th – 6 PM – Tuscan Bistro in Toms River. We’re holding this seminar for 3 ½ years and counting…
Our next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar will be held this Wednesday September 14th, 2016 from 6 pm at the Tuscan Bar and Grill on Hooper Avenue in Toms River, across from the Ocean County Mall. Once again, we’ll focus on Sandsters that are early in the process, and have not completed design work, or chosen a builder or architect. We offer engineering & architectural design advice, RREM guidance at the initial stages, and help with choosing the right builder or contractor. Please call to reserve a space if you would like to attend since refreshments will be served and space is limited.
Once again, professionals will be speaking. Kathy Dotoli, who is a worker’s compensation lawyer in Toms River, will also give her excellent presentation on precautions to take to ensure a smooth relationship with your contractor. We’ll have one of our architects or engineers speaking, though we’re not sure exactly which one. This is a great chance to meet our professional team, and there’ll be plenty of time for discussion about your project so bring your info (or send it to us ahead of time) and get some questions answered.
Remembering 9/11/01… let’s take a few minutes during our day to remember that terrible day, the lives that were lost and forever changed, and how we truly lost our innocence as a society and a county.
Let’s close our eyes and say a prayer in memoriam for the 3000 people that we lost in the horrific attack, and with respect and thanks for the 75,000 others who were and are still victims of the tragedy that was 9/11.
Here is a link to a Forbes article…
That is why you should wake up every morning and thank God for good health and safety for you, your family and loved ones. One never knows what will happen each day and health is the only thing in life that is important. The rest of the nonsense that we regularly become upset about is meaningless in the face of actual tragedy.
Why Exactly Are We Lifting Our Houses??
I’ve written about this topic many times, but it bears repeating and updating. Certainly, we are not elevating our homes because we want to, need an aggressive home project or have nothing better to do with our time and money.
Summary of the main reasons we are elevating, or rebuilding at a higher level:
- To avoid flood risk.
- To save (a lot of) money on flood insurance.
- To protect the value of what is probably your single largest investment.
- To add value to your home by incorporating improvements that will add to the worth of your home. Improvements that add value include (among many others) full height lifts, garages under the house, enclosed space for storage, concrete floors, better views, new or larger decks, and better insulation to create ongoing energy savings.
Some former blog posts about why we’re lifting…
From the 4/23/13 Rebuilding Blog…
In addition to the regular RREM update, I thought I would remind everyone of 2 of the important reasons we are lifting and renovating our homes. The first reason is to mitigate or eliminate flood risk in the future, since it is not a question of if, but a question of when, there will be another flood. The second reason is to keep your flood insurance affordable. If you are at base flood elevation now, stay there and do not elevate, your $1200 insurance policy will be $11,000 in 5 years and will increase by $2000 a year from now until then. Not a happy thought but a good one to keep in mind while going through rebuilding hell. It makes all this aggravation worthwhile.
From the 3/16/13 Rebuilding Blog…
People who choose to do without flood insurance all have one thing in common: they have no mortgage or a small remaining mortgage that they can retire.
Fact: There is no law requiring you to have flood insurance. There is a federal law governing the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Commission), which requires any participating lender who lends money in the form of a mortgage, to require that the borrower obtain and maintain flood insurance. If you have a mortgage, you need to have flood insurance. This is an important distinction, and one worth considering.
These lucky folks without mortgages fall into 2 categories – investors buying for cash and people whose affected home was their second, or vacation home.
If you do not have, cannot borrow, or are not getting enough insurance money to raise and move your home and remodel, or demolish and rebuild your home, your third alternative is to stay where you are and remodel. This will cost you significantly less money initially, but will affect your home value and sale viability when you sell your home.
You will also be accepting the inherent risk of living through another significant storm event – your home may flood again. That is a calculated risk. For a working hypothesis, I am assuming another event within 10-20 years with an average of 2’ of water over finished floor, as opposed to the 4’ we experienced with Sandy.
Call to Action – RREM Homeowner & General Contractor Fraud – Can DCA/RREM Fix This?
To say that our justice system is broken as it relates to contracting is an incredible understatement. We have much greater oversight in a vast number of other professions, often where much less money is at stake.
Ironically, the process of awarding $150,000 grants with no oversight attached to homeowners is also quite flawed.
(Turns out that the moral of the story is that a certain percentage of people in general are flawed and will steal. One can’t legislate that fact out of existence.)
Summary: 1. Contractors: If you accept people’s money, you should be held to a higher standard, and in any other business other than construction, you are. 2. Homeowners: If you accept federal and state RREM money, you should treat it the same way you would want your contractor to responsibly behave and not spend the money you need to finish your job on furniture, a pool or a vacation.
Sandsters, if you take your RREM grant and go on vacation, install a new kitchen, build a new Trex deck, install cultured stone on the front of your house, or do a full height raise with garage and concrete, and don’t pay your contractor, you won’t be able to close out your RREM grant, you will definitely have your entire project file audited, and will be subject to civil and criminal penalties for fraud. We see RREM and DCA eventually catching up with fraudulent contractors and they wind up under indictment. Homeowners are also subject to severe repercussions if they do not pay their contractors and close out their RREM file. If you are living in your home with a CO and have not paid your RREM contractor, you are taking a tremendous chance of having your grant revoked, your file audited and being fined. If you have a valid disagreement with your contractor, escrow the balance of payment due with your attorney and file suit. Otherwise finish your RREM project and get the government out of your life. RREM is finally catching on to homeowners that are holding up $35,000 payments for discrepancies about sheetrock cracks. A word to the wise – don’t come under RREM and DCA scrutiny for fraud.
If contractors behave improperly, they are (eventually) arrested, indicted, fined and go to live in 6’ x 10’ rooms.
If homeowners defraud the RREM program, they are at risk of having to return their RREM grant and are subject to fines and penalties.
Alert – Action Needed from the DCA: We need different levels of home improvement contractor registrations, dictated by dollar amount. The person building your $4000 deck should not be permitted to accept a deposit for a $150,000 elevation project. They most likely are not capable (in numerous ways) to handle the responsibility.
There should be a simple registry where all building projects over $25,000 are posted, with the contractor, license number, start, projected completion date and ongoing status of the project are listed on a constant basis. If a builder abandons a project, becomes insolvent or has numerous complaints lodged against them, it should be available for public review. This creates an objective reference point for evaluation and anyone can simply consult the site and see how many times the company in question has sung the same song.
As a new home builder, we have to offer a 10 year warranty on our new home construction, and if there is an issue and it is not resolved, it is a matter of public record, and our license is not renewed. There is no such device for home improvement contractors, nor is there a distinction in the financial amount or sophistication of various projects. This procedure hurts the consumer.
For further detail and fiery rhetoric, see the last blog.
RREM Program Manager – What Exactly does “Program Manager” mean and What Do They Do?
Note: Repeat but an Important One
For the record, I would like to clarify the term “Program Manager” for all the RREM Sandsters who are confused about exactly what it means.
RREM Program Managers DO NOT supervise the construction of your project. You do, as you should, since it is you that is responsible for how the money is spent.
RREM Program Managers manage the paper flow for your project, authorize payment disbursements and lead you through the confusing RREM maze. That’s it. Nothing further.
The do not consult with you on construction process, give legal advice or comment on who you should choose as your builder, or even if they are good (or even solvent).
You are the only person responsible to oversee the professionals you hire. A sobering truth, but one worth remembering.
Delays – 3 Reasons that cause the Biggest Delays & Biggest Issues:
Excessive change orders, lack of, or slow payment, and inability to make decisions during the project are the most common causes for project delay.
If you don’t have money on hand to fund your project while waiting for RREM reimbursement, it’s really important that you keep on your RREM Program Manager about the progress of your payment requests. If you don’t say anything, disbursements take much longer and this can translate to delays in paying your builder, which could slow your project.
If you can’t decide on the most basic selections or give conflicting direction, you will significantly delay your project.
See the June 5th blog for more detail.
Hiring Your Own Architect or Engineer: Pros (none) and Cons (many) I’ve written about this in the past, and have shared various thoughts. This is an update which reflects my most recent experiences.
The upshot, though a general statement, is that dealing with your own design professional does not save you any money and generally costs you time and stress.
1st, the reality is that the architectural/engineering cost to you is the same (usually less), whether you deal with the professional yourself or retain your builder to handle this aspect of the project.
2nd, you will save yourself a tremendous amount of time, since you will avoid the constant interaction between your professional and your builder. Your builder will handle the professional discussions and break it down for you in simple language you can understand.
3rd, you will avoid excess costs which are incurred when you design your plan with your architect without input from the person who will be building your project. Remember – architects and engineers draw pretty pictures, which sometimes are not the most cost effective methods to achieve your objectives. Sometimes (too often) the plans cannot be actually constructed as they are designed.
Last but not least, if there is an error and you’ve designed your own plan, you’re responsible for your architect’s errors. When you give a plan (that you’ve designed) to a builder to estimate, any errors in the plan are ultimately your responsibility and will cost you money.
Points to ponder, Sandsters. Sometimes we try to save money – and end up stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.
Repeat – Partial – Beware of fancy trucks and equipment – You’re paying for it – PRICE HOME GROUP was only one notable example and is symptomatic of many other contractors;
Debt is a killer, Sandsters. Though it is relatively impossible to determine, the amount of debt a company carries on depreciable assets (vehicles, equipment, furniture and fixtures) as well as their fixed overhead, dictates behavior. You can request a balance sheet and income statement but you might not get one. If it’s not audited, it means little anyway.
We have no debt. We own everything outright. We don’t buy new vehicles – ever. We very rarely buy new equipment. We have the same office we’ve had for 14 years. We have low overhead. Everyone rows or we throw them out of the boat. We are not flashy. I may be one of the most boring people on the planet – and my clients like that. We’re quietly competent. We don’t need to impress anyone with anything but our performance.
Ultimately, you want to work with someone who is not taking your deposit to make truck payments, pay high salaries, support a fancy office and dazzle you with nonsense.
What you SHOULD be asking before your hire a builder or general contractor:
The real questions are, “How many projects have you completed?” (We’ve finished 155 in the last 3 years, and over 1500 new homes in 200 + developments in the last 2 decades)
“How many projects are unfinished?” (We have 0 unfinished projects)
“How many clients are suing you for misappropriation of funds, fraud or consumer fraud?” (We have 0).
What is the Difference between Non-Performance & Fraud versus a Difference of Opinion??
I’ve written about this in the past several times but the topic bears repeating (over and over) again.
Sandsters, there’s a world of difference between the two above categories. You are well served to understand this difference prior to embarking on a renovation project.
Notwithstanding any of the drivel regularly posted on Facebook, having a disagreement
with your builder, does not mean they are defrauding you or abandoning your project.
Avoid drama, take a deep breath and focus on the issues.
Here’s the analogy: You don’t get divorced because you had an argument with your spouse about where to go for dinner. You don’t fire your builder because your interpretation of the trim on the deck is different from his and the contract is not exactly clear.
What you do in that situation is behave like an adult, put personalities aside and come to a common ground that everyone might be slightly unhappy with.
(That is one of the more important take-aways from this blog).
Misunderstanding is materially different from contractor fraud, abandonment, mismanagement or incompetence.
PLEASE Sandsters – learn and understand the difference – it will serve you well and keep you sane.
The objective is to complete the project and move you back into your home. It is not about personalities, or who is right or wrong. It is about dealing with, and accepting, that human communication is complicated and fraught with misunderstanding.
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog – Reader Survey: Do you have any specific topics you would like covered in the Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog that I haven’t mentioned? Send me an email or give me a call and I’ll try to include them in one of the upcoming bogs. Construction science is a pretty varied field and there is always something new, whether it is a method, a material or a design technique. Let me hear your questions, especially if it’s an item I haven’t written about.
Bankruptcy & Insolvency ALERT –
Read the last few blogs for more detail, but suffice to say, the 2 largest elevation contractors in south Jersey (defined as south of Toms River) are not solvent, and generally unable to complete projects in a timely manner.
If you are considering an elevation project south of Toms River, make very certain you are dealing with a company that can complete your project. If you are not sure and have no one to advise you, call or text us for assistance.
Facts, Facts, Facts – Repeat about Shore House Lifters
If you are one of those unfortunate folks who isn’t hanging on my every written word, (can you believe there are still people out there like that??), you missed the last blog, and you’re dealing with, or considering dealing with Shore House Lifters, stop reading this blog right now and click on the 8/14/16 blog for a very detailed warning and caution before proceeding any further with that company. I’m tired of cleaning up their messes. And Price Home Groups. And G&L Construction. And Axis Builders. And the list goes on and on…
Finding the Right Builder…Repeat – And the Really Interesting Last Look Method that works!
I’ve written about this several times in the past, but it bears repeating. See the last 2 blogs.
Last Look or If you don’t ask, you’ll get nothing: If you are making a final decision and are between 2 builders that you like, where one is slightly more expensive but you like them much more and one is cheaper but you have concerns over him,
Ask the builder or contractor you like and want to use to meet your proposed budget number or the other written estimate.
I recommend this particular technique because it is easier for you. There is less detail and discussion about particular pricing and ultimately you don’t really want or need to know all the whys and why nots and details of a particular estimate.
If your first builder choice can meet the price you need or at least the other valid estimate from another contractor, that’s good enough for you.
Anyway, you have nothing to lose by asking your 1st choice builder to meet your budget number.
That being said, your builder choice should also:
1) Have an office that you can visit
2) Has been in business for long enough time to have learned how to do what you are contracting for
3) Have completed numerous projects similar to yours
4) Have current insurance and licensing and
5) Not be asking you for a huge non-refundable deposit up front.
This category, as well as worker’s compensation and social security disability, is something Kathy Dotoli, who is an attorney in Toms River, covers in depth at our Rebuilding seminar. Feel free to call her directly at 732 228 7534 for further discussion. Come to the seminar or call us and we will send you the handout.
Signing Blind Contracts – PLEASE STOP DOING THIS SANDSTERS!!
If a builder or contracting is asking you to sign a contract with a non-refundable deposit, without plans or a defined scope of work, be careful. If an estimate is based on a set of assumptions which turn out to be inaccurate, you should have the right to cancel the contract and have the unused balance of your deposit returned to you.
Further detail in past blogs.
Repeat: Good Advice – Contractor’s Corner
– Tips and Warnings about Speaking Directly to Workers and Sub-Contractors on Your Project:See the last three blogs.
Repeat: Does Anyone (Carpenters, laborers, helpers, contractors) Really Want to Work Rebuilding New Jersey? Atlantic Northeast Construction is running 6 RREM crews for elevation work and 3 crews for new home construction and we’re constantly hiring (and firing!!) at least 2 new people a week. We’re one of the best builders out there (we pay promptly and are very honest) and always have room on our team for the right people, but good people are 1 in 10 at best. If you are competent and positive and looking for work or know someone who is, give them my email or phone number and have them call me.
Note: If you are looking for a part time job for which you will not show up, DON’T CALL US.
New Townhome Announcements: Some great news for Sandsters on the new home front – we’re planning an 88 unit town home waterfront community locally which will open at the end of 2017 and be very affordably priced.
Facebook: Please visit us and like us on Facebook! I am a social media illiterate but thankfully there are some great people on the Dream Team that are Facebook addicts and will communicate with you on Facebook 25 hours a day…
Dream Homes – 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. 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.
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 directly. 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 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. The numbers on your Flood Elevation Certificate indicate how high in vertical feet your crawl, finished floor and grade are above the sea level at the ocean beach. 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.
These two items 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 elevate & move homes, demolish and build new homes, and develop and build new neighborhoods. In the past 23 years, we’ve having completed over 1500 new homes, 150 elevation projects and 500,000 square feet of commercial buildings. We work with private clients as well as 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.
Good luck and good building!
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