Building & Restoring Dreams in NJ for 20 Years…RREM Rebuilding Specialists

Helping Homeowners Build, Remodel & Restore their Homes After Storm Sandy privately & RREM, HMGP & other Programs


Leave a comment

Dream Homes – Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog – 11-6-16 – Election 2016 – Rebuilding Seminar 11/16 – RREM & FEMA Fraud – Time out Of House (& Mind)

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –

11-6-16

Election 2016 – Sandsters are proud to be called Sandsters – RREM is putting Builders Out of Business and causing Homeowners Heartache – Time out of House – November 16th Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar – Getting Accurate Estimates & Courtesy – RREM Fraud Update – Contractors & Homeowners

Hello Sandsters –

I hope this blog finds you all well and healthy. It’s been a while since the last real blog, although my open letter to Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno was posted and sent out a couple of weeks ago. Strangely, no one called me to discuss any of my ideas.

Today, we have a bunch of new items for you, but primarily discuss the election and getting out to vote. We mention the term Sandsters – and what it means to people. We outline average times for plans, permits and project completion. We talk again about how RREM (and dishonest home owners) are putting small contractors out of business. We welcome 6 new clients, 3 more of which are unfortunately victims of bad contractors. We repeat warnings about committing RREM fraud – on both sides – homeowner and contractor. Finally, we mention our next Rebuilding seminar – which is this Wednesday November 16th at 6 pm at Tuscan Bistro & Bar in Toms River.

Note to Sandsters – and those who dislike the term “Sandsters”

I invented the term Sandsters to describe a group of 25,000 – 30,000 people who were affected by Sandy. It was meant to create a feeling of solidarity and offer the knowledge that there were other people in the same boat.

It is not meant to be disrespectful or demeaning.

Most Sandsters like it. A very few people don’t like it.

To those few who are hung up on a term and have time to read a negative meaning into the term, get over yourselves.

I’m proud to be a Sandster and I’ve met a ton of great people in the last 4 years who are all rising above the aggravation, loss and inconvenience of being flooded out of their homes. Most of these people love knowing there is a group of people trying to achieve the same goals.

It’s been great knowing and working with all of you, Sandsters. I hope I can continue helping Sandsters for many years to come.

November (11/16/16) Dream Homes Event & Last Seminar Review:

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar – Wednesday November 16th – 6 PM – Tuscan Bistro in Toms River.   This seminar has been running for 3 ½ years and counting…

Our next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar will be held Wednesday November 16th, 2016 from 6 pm at the Tuscan Bar and Grill on Hooper Avenue in Toms River, across from the Ocean County Mall. Remember we focus on and are only accepting reservations from Sandsters that are early in the process, and have not completed design work, or chosen a builder or architect, and need guidance and direction. 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.

Note: We are only accepting 15 reservations for the 11/16 seminar, since we’ve discovered that is the ideal number of people for us to offer the best advice and counsel. If you want to come, reserve your space early.

Once again, our trade partners and professionals will be speaking. Our project manager Tim Tennis in the north region will be speaking and answering specific questions about your project. Tim Ferguson from Hale Built House Lifting will be available for questions about elevating and moving houses. 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 Dan Wheaton speaking, who is an architect we work with. I’ll be moderating and answering your general questions about the rebuilding process and construction in general. 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.

Election 2016 – Get out and Vote – Give up and Move out!

It’s safe to say that this election has more people disgusted with the antics of our 2 main candidates and waiting impatiently for the election circus to be over. Never have we had such a great degree of apathy, annoyance, aggravation, disdain and impatience for the process to end in a presidential election in this country. People around the world are asking, “What’s going on with those Americans?” We look like a bunch of idiots internationally.

Many people don’t want to vote, since they don’t like either candidate.

I think regardless of who you are voting for, we can all agree with those sentiments.

I know I can’t wait for this insane comic spectacle to be over, but I am writing today on this subject to remind you of why we do indeed have to get out on Tuesday and vote.

We must vote because an independent free electorate is one of the most important reasons why so many thousands have died over the years in defense of our freedom and right to live in a democracy. Simply put, if you exercise an opinion of any type you have a moral obligation to cast your vote and exercise your franchise. If you don’t vote, shut your mouth and don’t complain.

Deciding for whom to vote is almost incidental. If you know who you like, vote for them. Don’t vote along party lines because you should, or your parents and grandparents have – vote for who you think will do the best job. If you don’t like either of the candidates, fine. Vote against the one you dislike more.

You owe it to yourself. You owe it to our country.

Providing a free society is never cheap, and it has been very costly in terms of lives and hardship since this country was incepted.

Your payment for that debt is the vote you cast. It is a moral obligation.

Don’t know who to vote in for president? Don’t feel bad – you’re in good company. By some polls, 22% of the eligible voters have still not decided which presidential candidate to vote for – we’re 48 hours away from the election.

If you can’t decide, show up anyway and cast your vote for state and local candidates. Don’t just stay home with the excuse that you can’t decide which presidential candidate should get your vote. Be counted at the local and state level.

Sandsters, you owe it to yourselves to vote and exercise your sovereign right as a citizen. You also owe it to your country and what it stands for. Don’t miss the opportunity to exercise the most valuable right you have.

Time out of House – Total Time – Running Totals:

Here’s an update on a subject I’ve written about many, many times.

Average total project time: 7-8 months.

Comprised of:

Average time to prepare plans: 4-6 weeks.

Average time to get permits: 4-6 weeks (Brick, Toms River, Manahawkin, Little Egg – 2-4 years. Just kidding).

Average construction time: 3-4 months.

Important Note: Time you should be out of your house: 3-4 months

Do not order disconnects until you submit your permits. When they come in, they are the last item the building department needs to issue the permit. If you leave your house when you first sign a contract and start preparing plans, you’ll be out of the house an extra 3 months. Unnecessary.

A warm welcome to some additional new clients in Toms River, Lavallette, Ocean Beach and Bayville… Please note: we are now Spring 2017 projects so give us a call so we can have you in before next summer.

In the last month, we’ve been retained by 6 new clients – thanks for your confidence and trust in us at the Dream Homes team!

Note: Schedule your project: The market is heating up again, due to a number of factors (dishonest contractors going bankrupt or being indicted, honest contractors going out of business because of RREM and homeowner fraud, out of state contractors moving back out of state to purportedly greener pastures) so if you haven’t retained a professional for your project, expect delays.

At this point, the only way you can still lift in 2016 is if you have plans ready to be submitted or already approved.

If you want to be in for Summer of next year, it’s time to get moving. Stop dithering. He or She who hesitates is lost (or at least delayed).

Open Letter to Kim Guadagno – Last Blog.

No response to my letter. RREM still lethargic about payment and process, still approving contractors who are about to be indicted or arrested and allowing them to keep ripping people off, still not policing homeowner disbursement of funds.

Note to NJ Government: The RREM program is, once again, off the rails and heading merrily off into the field. Help.

Projects – Good – Cheap – Fast – Pick any 2

It’s an old saying but fairly accurate. You can usually get 2 of the three. It’s impossible to get good and cheap and fast.

Repeat: RREM causing small contractors to go out of business – and helping dishonest homeowners to rip off their builders.

Fact #1: RREM through their direct actions is putting small contractors out of business. Their bizarre, Byzantine payment terms, their insane clawback provisions and their incessant change in policy, has made it completely impossible for a 3-5 home a year builder to work for anyone in the RREM program.

Fact #2: RREM through their indirect actions is putting small contractors out of business. They are assisting tacitly in the systemic, continuous perpetration of homeowner fraud, by not requiring payment to contractors for work that has been completed. This is illegal, immoral and truly counterproductive to the macro intent of the RREM program.

Thankfully, this is not affecting Dream to too great of a degree. We carry no debt and are in a very strong financial position. Out of 160 clients in the last 3 years, we have only 4 people who we’ve had to pursue through litigation. All of them have eventually paid, including legal and late fees. All of them have been audited (FINALLY!) by RREM. All of them are subject to civil penalties. All of them had added significantly to the RREM scope of work and decided they didn’t want to pay for any of their extra work when they couldn’t scam RREM out of the money.

This is atrocious individual behavior and incredibly bad oversight by the RREM program.

The fact that there is no RREM mechanism to prevent this from occurring is absurd. Instead of fostering competition which leads to better consumer pricing and choice, it has had, and will continue to have, the opposite effect of destroying smaller builders due to nonpayment.

Facts, Facts, Facts – Repeat about Shore House Lifters and others

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 this company. I’m tired of cleaning up their messes. And Price Home Group’s. And G&L Construction. And Axis Builders. Colmyer. Central Construction. And the list goes on and on…Be careful who you are dealing with.

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.

What you SHOULD ask before you 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?? Important Repeat:

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. Misunderstanding is materially different from contractor fraud, abandonment, mismanagement or incompetence.

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.

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.

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.

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 HYPERLINK “http://www.stopfemanow.com” http://www.stopfemanow.com

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

You can now log onto HYPERLINK “http://www.dreamhomesltd.com” http://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:

RREM Program Manager: 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 (try to) lead you through the confusing RREM maze. That’s it. Nothing further.

They do not consult with you on construction process, give legal advice or comment on who you should choose as your builder, or advise if they are competent and stable.

You are the only person responsible to oversee the professionals you hire. A sobering truth, but one worth remembering.

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 a number of 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, find us on You Tube.

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!

Regards,

Vince

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

Email: vince@dreamhomesltd.com

Website: www.dreamhomesltd.com

Blog: http://blog.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: #foxbuilder


2 Comments

Letter to Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno

October 24, 2016

Kim Guadagno

Lieutenant Governor

State of New Jersey

Re: Recommendations

Improvements to the RREM Program

Builder / general contractor licensing & guidelines to prevent fraud

Dear Mrs. Guadagno:

My name is Vincent Simonelli, and I am the president of several construction and development companies based in NJ. These companies are Dream Homes Ltd. and Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC. In the last few years, my companies have completed numerous RREM and private elevation projects and constructed over 1500 new homes in 200 developments in NJ since 1993. For the last 3 years, I’ve written a blog about rebuilding (blog.dreamhomesltd.com) and host rebuilding seminars to educate homeowners about aspects of rebuilding, new construction, contractor fraud and other important items in the construction process.

I am writing to you in the hope that you can achieve immediate, material changes in the RREM program, as well as the current guidelines in which contractors and builders can pursue the business of home improvement and new construction in NJ. I am writing today in the interest of both assisting NJ homeowners to rebuild and return to their homes, and helping ourselves and other builders and general contractors to more effectively function under the existing regulatory and legal structure.

When I heard you speak at a builder’s convention several years ago, you struck me as being one of the few people in our current administration who was

oriented towards achieving results, as opposed to simply practicing politics.  I am contacting you in an effort to cut through the layers of bureaucracy, with a direct communication from someone who is continually living through the experience of building and rebuilding in NJ. I feel that you are in the unique position to act on new, pointed information and immediately impact thousands of affected homeowners in NJ.

The three topics I would like to discuss are as follows.

  1. Instituting financial controls and penalties to prevent homeowners from fraudulently spending RREM grant money and not paying their builders and contractors.
  2. Instituting controls to prevent contractor fraud committed repetitively by the same companies or individuals.
  3. Streamlining the RREM payment request and funding process.

Category 1 – Addressing Homeowner Fraud under the RREM program: Unfortunately, a situation currently exists where many RREM homeowners are receiving RREM funds, spending those grant funds on upgraded improvements other than those specified in the RREM scope of work, and failing to pay their contractors for completed work. This is obvious, egregious fraud and is unfortunately prevalent throughout the RREM world. Though this may seem like a self-serving point, I am writing to inform you that I personally know of dozens of small builders and contractors who are being either put out of business completely or are being harmed significantly by this very disturbing trend. A continuation of this situation will be very detrimental to the overall rebuilding process. Homeowners should not be permitted to utilize state or federal funds to upgrade the finishes in their homes, through defrauding contractors. This is occurring daily throughout the state of NJ.

This disturbing trend delays the rebuilding process, specifically harms small business people who are the backbone and one of the strongest drivers in the economy and causes a critical delay in returning homeowners to their homes and real estate to the tax rolls.

On a positive note, in the Rebuilding blog that I write, as well as on our Facebook page, numerous honest contractors have weighed in expressing strong support for this position. Addressing this issue could be a very simple, though quite

important procedural change to the RREM program. This change could be both quickly implemented as well as immediately effective.

Solution: A policy should be immediately placed into effect wherein homeowners who engage in this type of behavior should suffer both financial as well as criminal penalties.

Category 2: Addressing repeated contractor fraud: While the overwhelming majority of contractors and builders are fundamentally honest, there is a very disturbing trend towards dishonest contractors who repeatedly defraud homeowners. Unfortunately, these contractors are not being sanctioned by the state in any manner, and thus are not being prevented from committing the same types of fraud. Though due process is an integral part of our legal code, there is something inherently wrong with public policy that permits the continuous perpetration of a fraudulent activity, especially where it concerns a professional interacting with a layperson.  If a builder or contractor has numerous recorded instances of consumer fraud, allegations of consumer fraud or misrepresentation or complaints to the attorney

general, local authorities or county prosecutor, that company and individual should be sanctioned and not permitted to pursue their trade until due process has time to occur. In the

meantime, licenses should be suspended and additional contracting work should not be permitted.

 By doing nothing, the state of NJ is passively sanctioning this type of fraudulent behavior. Statistically, those who commit fraud in the building and contracting business have a much greater likelihood of repeating that type of behavior, than those who have had few or no complaints lodged against them.  Many consumers have fallen prey to this type of behavior and this should not be allowed to continue.

Solution: Implement an immediate policy change regarding contractor licensing which prohibits builders or contractors from filing for new permits if numerous open complaints exist at the Department of Consumer Fraud, the county prosecutor and/or the state attorney general.

 Category 3 – Payment schedule, Clawback & Final Payment – RREM program:

The 3rd item that I listed above concerns the administration of the payment process as well as the claw back provisions within the RREM program.

Currently checks are being written to homeowners once per month. Increasing the frequency to weekly would substantially assist homeowners return to their homes, through being able to more correctly fund their rebuilding projects. This simple solution would improve the situation tremendously and should be fairly straightforward to implement.

The clawback provision under the RREM program is being administered in a very arbitrary, haphazard manner. Homeowners should not be subject to having their grant funds recalled if all items on their scopes of work have been completed, and a certificate of occupancy, flood elevation and correct final survey are in good order. Homeowners live in fear of this occurrence, which shouldn’t be the case.

Finally, the payment of the final 10% of the grant should not take 3-12 months to process. As stated in the above paragraph, once all items are obtained at the township level, the scope of work has been completed and the final inspection is scheduled, the payment should be made, deed restrictions lifted and the file closed in a timely manner.

Solution: Change RREM payment schedule to weekly from monthly, revise clawback provisions to accurately reflect completed work and tender final inspections and payments in a more timely manner.

 Feel free to contact me directly at any time for further discussion at 732 300 5619. Thank you for your attention to these matters.

Regards,

Vincent Simonelli

President

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

 


Leave a comment

9-24-16

Welcome to Fall 2016 – Is RREM Putting Builders Out of Business – Note to our Esteemed Governor Christie… Dream Building $2000 Discount to Fraud Victims – Why Exactly Are We Lifting Our House? Review September Rebuilding Seminar & November 16th Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar – Getting Accurate Estimates & Courtesy  – RREM Fraud Update – Contractors & Homeowners

 

Hello Sandsters –

A little late, but welcome to fall. In the rebuilding world it is shaping up to be a busy season.

Today, we have a number of items for you. We talk about how RREM (and a numerous dishonest home owners) are putting small contractors out of business, which is a sleeping dog that is starting to bite….We welcome 6 new clients, in the last 10 days! (2 of them are sadly victims of bad contractors). An important item 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 and remind you of common courtesy. We review our September 14th Rebuilding Seminar, which was simply the BEST EVER! Finally we mention our next Rebuilding seminar – which is  Wednesday November 16th at 6 pm at Tuscan Bistro & Bar in Toms River.

November (11/16/16) Dream Homes Event & Last Seminar Review:

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar – Wednesday November 16th – 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 Wednesday November 16th, 2016 from 6 pm at the Tuscan Bar and Grill on Hooper Avenue in Toms River, across from the Ocean County Mall. 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.

Note: We are only accepting 15 reservations for the 11/16 seminar, since we’ve discovered that is the ideal number of people for us to offer the best advice and counsel. If you want to come, reserve your space early.

 Once again, our trade partners and professionals will be speaking. Tim Ferguson or Eve Burritt from Hale Built House Lifting will be available for questions about elevating and moving houses. 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.

A special thanks….

To all who attended the September 14th seminar, as well as the fantastic group of speakers we had presenting. It was simply our best seminar ever, and the culmination of 3 years of practice and numerous rebuilding projects.

The comments and reviews we received were uniformly extremely positive and showed clearly that our efforts to bring a diverse professional team to the table continue to be successful. A huge Thank You to Dan Wheaton (architect), Kathy Dotoli (attorney), Tim Ferguson (Hale Built House Raising), Tim Tennis (project manager, northern region), Valerie Jones (VP Human Resources and RREM expert) and Michelle Hendley (office support staff). The combination of input from everyone helped 5 groups of people clearly chart their way towards moving forward with a rebuilding solution.

A warm welcome to our new clients…and new Atlantic County clients! We now have limited space remaining for Fall 2016 and Spring 2017.

In the last 10 days, we’ve been retained by 6 new clients and thank you all for your confidence and trust in us at the Dream Homes team!

We’ve also done 8 new client intakes, which is a record for a 10 day period!

We’ve also (after repeated requests for the last 2 years) decided to open an Atlantic County region and start helping people in the southern New Jersey area. Not something we’ve decided lightly, we now have an excellent support team in place and have begin accepting commissions  in Atlantic City, Brigantine, Egg Harbor and surrounding areas.

Now that some of the rubbish has been cleared out, we can focus on helping people rebuild their homes in a timely, cost-effective, efficient manner.

You can read the last few blogs for more detail, but suffice to say, the 2 largest elevation and general contractors in south Jersey (defined as south of Toms River) are not solvent, and generally unable to complete projects.

That is one of the biggest reasons we decided to open up in Atlantic County. The Sandsters of Atlantic County deserve better treatment than they have been receiving. Bring us your tired, your poor, your hungry….and we will fix their houses and make them happy again!

 Note: Schedule your project: The market is heating up again, due to a number of factors (dishonest contractors going bankrupt or being indicted, honest contractors going out of business because of RREM and homeowner fraud, out of state contractors moving back out of state to purportedly greener pastures) so if you haven’t retained a professional for your project, expect delays.

We can accept only 1 additional client into our schedule for a Fall 2016 start, and only 3 more for Spring of 2017. It’s nice to be appreciated and in demand.

If you want to be in for Summer of next year, it’s time to get moving. Stop dithering Nero – Rome is burning.

Have you been ripped off by Shore House Lifters or any other dishonest contractor?

We are continuing our offer of a $2000 discount to any homeowner who has been left in the lurch by a crooked builder. It’s not a ton of money, but every little bit helps when you’ve give someone $60,000 and received only $30,000 worth of work before your builder retired to Bimini on his new boat.

Facts, Facts, Facts – Repeat about Shore House Lifters and others

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 this company. I’m tired of cleaning up their messes. And Price Home Group’s. And G&L Construction. And Axis Builders. And the list goes on and on…Be careful who you are dealing with.

Hall of Shame: If Governor Christie wasn’t kanoodling down in Washington with Mr. Trump….

He actually might be able to work on some issues here in NJ. As it is, we have a Washington Theatre of the Bizarre, and little work being done in NJ. We’re not interesting enough for our Governor, since he can’t be elected governor again (for myriad reasons), is busy putting out Bridgegate fires and is busily planning his next career path.

Thank God Kim Guadagno is doing what she can to help – she is the only person in the current administration that has any idea what the RREM program is supposed to accomplish. Reminds me of a one-armed paper hanger though…only so much she can do. It is difficult soaring with eagles when one is mucking around with turkeys.

Note to NJ Government: The RREM program is, once again, off the rails and heading merrily off into the magic mushroom field.

Is RREM actually causing small contractors to go out of business? Is RREM helping dishonest homeowners to rip off their builders?

Fact #1: RREM through their direct actions is putting small contractors out of business. Their bizarre, Byzantine payment terms, their insane clawback provisions and their incessant change in policy, has made it completely impossible for a 3-5 home a year builder to work for anyone in the RREM program.

Now I am an absolute capitalist and a firm believer in “May the best man – or woman – win”, but when a state sponsored program has an insidious design, which serves to bankrupt small business owners, there is nothing good about that for anyone.

It hurts the economy and it specifically hurts homeowners by removing choices in a free market, and directly causing honest small builders to go out of business in the middle of projects.

Fact #2: RREM through their indirect actions is putting small contractors out of business. They are assisting tacitly in the systemic, continuous perpetration of homeowner fraud, by not requiring payment to contractors for work that has been completed. This is illegal, immoral and truly counterproductive to the macro intent of the RREM program, which is to efficiently rebuild NJ after Sandy, and put people back to where they were before as quickly as possible.

The sad truth is that many RREM homeowners (certainly not all) are deliberately delaying payment, or not paying contractors, over completely insignificant matters. If a homeowner is living in their house with a certificate of occupancy and a homeowner has received their RREM funds and is not paying their bills, they are directly contributing to the insolvency of honest small contractors.

Thankfully, this is not affecting Dream to too great of a degree. We carry no debt and are in a very strong financial position. Out of 160 clients in the last 3 years, we have only 4 people who we’ve had to pursue through litigation. All of them have eventually paid, including legal and late fees. All of them have been audited (FINALLY!) by RREM. All of them are subject to civil penalties. All of them had added significantly to the RREM scope of work and decided they didn’t want to pay for any of their extra work when they couldn’t scam RREM out of the money. 

This is atrocious individual behavior and incredibly bad oversight by the RREM program.

The fact that there is no RREM mechanism to prevent this from occurring is absurd. Instead of fostering competition which leads to better consumer pricing and choice, it has had, and will continue to have, the opposite effect of destroying smaller builders due to nonpayment.

 Again – Why 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.

Repeat: How close did we come to another wicked storm event?…This plays right into, “Why are we bothering to raise our homes (below)?” Click on this link and see more detail below.

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2016/09/with_hermine_gone_another_bullet_dodged_on_duneles.html#incart_river_index

 

Summary of the main reasons we are elevating, or rebuilding at a higher level:

  1. To avoid or mitigate flood risk.
  2. To save (a lot of) money on flood insurance.
  3. To protect the value of what is (probably) your single largest investment.
  4. 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.

 

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 – while moving back into their homes with certificates of occupancy. A word to the wise – don’t come under RREM and DCA scrutiny for fraud.

When contractors behave improperly, they are (eventually) arrested, indicted, fined and go to live in 6’ x 10’ rooms.

When homeowners defraud the RREM program, they are at risk of having to return their RREM grant and are subject to fines and penalties.

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?? Important Repeat:

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.  Misunderstanding is materially different from contractor fraud, abandonment, mismanagement or incompetence.

 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.

 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: Does Anyone (Carpenters, laborers, helpers, contractors) Really Want to Work Rebuilding New Jersey?  We run 7 crews for our elevation projects 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.

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.

 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 HYPERLINK “http://www.stopfemanow.com” http://www.stopfemanow.com

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

You can now log onto “http://www.dreamhomesltd.com” http://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:

RREM Program Manager: 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 (try to) lead you through the confusing RREM maze. That’s it. Nothing further.

They do not consult with you on construction process, give legal advice or comment on who you should choose as your builder, or advise if they are competent and stable.

You are the only person responsible to oversee the professionals you hire. A sobering truth, but one worth remembering.

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 a number of 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 HYPERLINK “https://mail.foxmoorhomes.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=k5TFzkRAAkGU8ZY4NsMK_eZZ0s4wMNEI4fjCWNZ1F5euRIUWkyL5Y3FT1L0r7zXdkG1ZrUuQQlA.&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.youtube.com%2fchannel%2fUCVI69KoM8DRXqoEblHd94xg” \t “_blank” 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!

Regards,

Vince

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

Email: HYPERLINK “mailto:vince@dreamhomesltd.com” \t “” vince@dreamhomesltd.com

Website: HYPERLINK “http://www.dreamhomesltd.com/” http://www.dreamhomesltd.com

Blog: HYPERLINK “https://blog.dreamhomesltd.com/” \t “” http://blog.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: #foxbuilder

 

 

 

 


1 Comment

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog – 9-11-16 – In Memory of 9/11 – Rebuilding Seminar Wednesday 9/14 – RREM Contractor & Homeowner Fraud Alert -RREM Program Manager – Manage Your Project Correctly

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –

9-11-16

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.

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2016/09/with_hermine_gone_another_bullet_dodged_on_duneles.html#incart_river_index

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, our trade partners and professionals will be speaking. Tim Ferguson or Eve Burritt from Hale Built House Lifting will be available for questions about elevating and moving houses. 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…

http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddessig/2016/09/10/15-years-later-september-11-is-not-just-a-memory/2/#41b718aa767e

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:

  1. To avoid flood risk.
  2. To save (a lot of) money on flood insurance.
  3. To protect the value of what is probably your single largest investment.
  4. 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??

Important Repeat:

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!

Regards,

Vince

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

Email: vince@dreamhomesltd.com

Website: www.dreamhomesltd.com

Blog:http://blog.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: #foxbuilder


Leave a comment

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog 8/27/16 – RREM Program Manager Defined – Contractor Fraud Warnings – RREM Rebuilding Seminar 9/14/16 – Foundation System #3 – Retaining Your Own Engineer

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –

8-27-16

Alternate Foundation System – Builder Honorable Mention – Thoughts about Using Your Own Architect or Engineer – Trade Partner Congratulations to Hale Built – September Rebuilding Seminar – Last Look & Working with your Favorite Contractor- What actually is a RREM Program Manager?

Hello Sandsters –

Here’s hoping your summer (and your building project) is going well.

I’m happy to say that things are going well for us. As more idiots stop pretending to be builders and contractors, or run out of money, we’re getting more and more referrals, both from professionals as well as satisfied clients.

They always come back to BryllCreem…. And if you remember that little slogan, you’re probably a card carrying member of AARP (like myself, unfortunately).

I hope you’re not one of the folks stuck cleaning up their project when their builder stops work, runs out of money, declares bankruptcy or simply disappears. Deadbeat builders are dropping like flies out there.

That’s bad for the people it’s happening to, but much better for the market and the economy overall. A smaller pool of competent people is a much better market solution than an enormous pool with a significant degree of thieves. My feelings towards professionals that steal from homeowners are well known. In my opinion, tarring and feathering was retired much too early as an effective deterrent to basic thievery.

Today, we have a few items for you – contractor cautions to be aware of, and warnings (repeated) about having multiple contractors work on your home at the same time. We give honorable mention to a decent, honest builder, who we excoriated in the last blog (fair is fair). We define the term Program Manager, which must be the most misunderstood concept under the sun. We caution you against multiple change orders and their inherent risks to your project in delays and cost overruns. Finally we mention our next Rebuilding seminar – which is Wednesday September 14th at 6 pm at Tuscan Bistro & Bar in Toms River.

September Dream Homes Events:

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar –Wednesday September 14th – 6 PM – Tuscan Bistro in Toms River.

This seminar is going to be great – don’t miss it. We’re giving away a $50 Home Depot Gift Card to a lucky Sandster.

Our next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar will be held 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, our trade partners and professionals will be speaking. Tim Ferguson from Hale Built House Lifting will be available for questions about elevating and moving houses. 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.

Program Manager – What Exactly does that term mean??

For the record, I would like to clarify this term 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.

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.

Opinion – Repeat: For clarity– I want all the good business we can responsibly handle, but I sincerely wish that I never have to rescue another homeowner from a dishonest contractor. No one with integrity wishes to grow their company in that manner. There are too many deadbeats still out there – be careful who you jump in bed with.

Hiring Your Own Architect or Engineer:

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.

Let’s break this down to practicalities and real dollars and sense.

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 to 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.

It takes a Village, or Hire a Team, not a Person – worthwhile repeat

A client recently told me how comfortable they were working with us, since they felt that we brought a team to the table and could handle anything that arose during a project. While this was a (very) nice and true thing for them to say, and for us to hear, it illustrates a deeper point about choosing the company who will build or rebuild your home.

It takes a village, folks. You need a good team to bring the ball from one end of the field to the other.

No one performs complicated projects alone. Your builder is the manager, the ring leader, the conductor and the orchestrator of the process. Ideally, behind him (or her) is a qualified talented team of employees, subcontractors, professionals and advisors who all participate and assist in getting a project completed successfully.

If you aren’t getting that feeling when you interview builders, look elsewhere. Your builder doesn’t have to know everything, or do everything, but he needs to be able to draw from a deep talent pool to effectively complete your project.

Foundation Techniques: Piers versus full walls – Important if you are currently considering options

This is one of the most important (and complicated) topics in rebuilding. When you are trying to decide on the best method, there are numerous options as well as varied cost differences.

Today, I’d like to bring your attention to one design concept which can save you money.

Instead of running a complete concrete block foundation up from your existing block or your new footing, consider 16” x 16” concrete piers on either individual 24” x 24” footings, or on a continuous grade beam.

This option saves you approximately 70% of the concrete block cost, as well as the cost of a continuous footing (if you choose and the soil will permit, individual concrete footings).

Keep in mind that this is an excellent option if you don’t want to enclose the basement/crawl space. If you do want to enclose, you have to factor in the cost of the skirt wall surround. The skirt wall is pressure treated studs with either cement board or exterior plywood and it’s used as an exterior wall.

Even if you choose to enclose, using this method, you can still save between 20% – 30% of the cost of a solid concrete block foundation. The higher you are going with your elevation, the greater the savings.

Honorable Mention – Rare but Positive Behavior

In the last blog we wrote about John Cafiero from Axis Builders, a dishonest cretin who will probably soon be living in substandard 6’ x 10’ housing , and mentioned someone who he sucked into his world of nonsense and talked into posting a picture of our finished home on his web site. As an update, I’m happy to say that we received a call from NJ Home Builder principal Daniel Sachkowsky, who not only removed the pictures of our home from his website, but called us to explain that he was one of the people duped by Axis Builders and apologized for the mistake. Since such civilized intelligent conduct is so rare, I feel compelled to publicly thank Daniel for his decency and let all of you know that I’m happy to know another honest NJ builder. Thanks for the call and the decency, Daniel.

Call to Action – RREM & General Contractor Fraud

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. If you are a realtor, you are monitored closely and made to adhere to a code of conduct. If you are an investment professional, you are held to the highest standards of fiduciary conduct (I know – I had a Series 6, 7 & 3 licenses a long time ago). If you are a building inspector, you are overseen by the DCA and must behave in a proscribed manner by a set of rules. If you sell insurance, the department of banking oversees your behavior. Summary: If you accept people’s money, you should be held to a higher standard, and in any other business other than construction, you are.

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. We could put that together in about an hour in our office. One would think the DCA could do it in 6 months or so or careful deliberations.

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.

Repeat – Partial – Beware of fancy trucks and equipment – You’re paying for it – PRICE HOME GROUP is 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.

 

The real questions are, “How many projects have you completed?” (We’ve finished 145 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??

Important Repeat:

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).

If there are issues to be worked out and personalities are getting in the way of completing the project, do what baseball does (As a note, I am not a sport fan at all) and bring in a designated hitter.

I am blessed with a wonderful team of people around me and we regularly designate different people to deal with different clients, as the situation dictates. (Though it may be inconceivable, some people find me annoying. I know, unbelievable right?) Result: We bring in someone else to deal with that particular client and life goes on.

On the client side, sometimes the husband is very difficult and the wife becomes the voice of reason (or vice-versa) and all moves along swimmingly. As my mother used to say, the train gets back on the track.

The result? The project moves forward, which is the ultimate (and only) valid goal. Once a project is done, everyone is happy, harsh words are forgotten and life goes on.

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.

Trade Partner – Honorable Mention & Congratulations: Hale Built House Raising: Dream Homes and Atlantic Northeast Construction have been working with Hale Built House Raising for about 2 years and have completed over 60 successful lifts with them thus far. From simple 2’ elevations to hairy, unpleasant house moves and 12’ raises, Tim Ferguson, Will, Eve & the rest of the Hale Built team have been one of the most professional and competent organizations we’ve worked with since Sandy the Beast roared into town. We’re proud to say they are our exclusive home elevation contractor and look forward to years of successful partnership. Thanks guys for the continued great advice, and competent timely service. It makes life so much better when we can provide the best elevation service to our clients – and you’re an important part of that package.

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.

Delays – 2 Reasons that cause the Biggest Delays & Biggest Issues:

Excessive change orders and lack of, or slow, payment 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.

See the June 5th blog for more detail.

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.

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 for 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 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.

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 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!

Regards,

Vince

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

Email: vince@dreamhomesltd.com

Website: www.dreamhomesltd.com

Blog:http://blog.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: #foxbuilder


Leave a comment

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog – 8-6-16 – Builder Hall of Shame – September RREM Seminar – Bizarre RREM & FEMA Behavior – Change Orders & Cost Overruns

Dream Homes Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –

8-6-16

Builder Hall of Shame Blog – Trade Partners – Hale Built – Caution Bankrupt Contractors – September Rebuilding Seminar – Deadbeat Contractors and Warnings – Last Look & Working with your Favorite Contractor-

Hello Sandsters –

Long time no speak. I’ve been getting a lot of heat from my fans (bless their hearts) for not blogging regularly, so you have a double blog here for your bathroom reading.

Here’s hoping your summer (and your building project) is going well.

With any luck, you are not one of the (many, many) folks stuck cleaning up their project when their builder stops work, runs out of money, declares bankruptcy or simply disappears. To say that the landscape is bizarre is a vast understatement.

Today, we have a new one for you – a builder who abandoned a job after 15 months of inaction, waited until we finished the project and then posted pictures of our (lovely) completed project on Facebook (you can’t really make this stuff up). John Cafiero and Axis Builders get honorable mention in the Hall of Shame and the Deadbeat Contractor Category. Again we have bankruptcy cautions you should be aware of, and warnings (repeated) about having multiple contractors work on your home at the same time. We define the term Program Manager, which must be the most misunderstood concept under the sun. We caution you against multiple change orders and their inherent risks to your project in delays and cost overruns. Finally we mention our next Rebuilding seminar – which is Wednesday September 14th at 6 pm at Tuscan Bistro & Bar in Toms River.

September Dream Homes Events:

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar –Wednesday September 14th – 6 PM – Tuscan Bistro in Toms River.

This seminar is going to be great – don’t miss it. We’re giving away a $50 Home Depot Gift Card to a lucky Sandster.

Our next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar will be held 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, our trade partners and professionals will be speaking. Tim Ferguson from Hale Built House Lifting will be available for questions about elevating and moving houses. 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.

Facts, Facts, Facts

I’ll keep this paragraph brief and stick strictly to the facts, for several reasons. For one, I do not wish to delve into my opinions on the matter or bore you with rhetoric (more than enough of that below). For the second, I don’t want Steve Smith from Shore House Lifters to file suit against me for slander.

Fact: In the last month, we have had 3 clients bring their unfinished projects to us from Shore House Lifters.

Fact: In the last 2 years we’ve had 17 clients come to use with unfinished projects from Shore House Lifters, which we completed.

Fact: In all cases, Shore House Lifters had accepted very large deposits and had left unfinished projects for 6-15 months.

Fact: Shore House Lifters has a very strong contract – to protect them from clients.

Fact: Shore House Lifters payment schedule requires a project to be 80% paid prior to the house being lowered onto a new foundation.

Fact: Shore House Lifters is the only company that regularly underbids us and other reputable companies to be awarded projects. Their projects are bid incorrectly – they are priced too low to be finished correctly in a timely manner.

Those are all facts, folks. My opinions are another story and would be much stronger and decidedly more colorful.

Be advised accordingly.

Final Fact: It’s disheartening to continue to have clients come to us when others have failed them and left them in limbo.

Opinion: For clarity– I want all the good business we can responsibly handle, but I sincerely wish that I never have to rescue another homeowner from a dishonest contractor. No one with integrity wishes to grow their company in that manner. Thank God we’re here to help, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if this type of help wasn’t required?

It takes a Village, or Hire a Team, not a Person

You know, on a side note before I get into other business, a client recently told me how comfortable they were working with us, since they felt that we brought a team to the table and could handle anything that arose during a project. While this was a (very) nice and true thing for them to say, and for us to hear, it illustrates a deeper point about choosing the company who will build or rebuild your home.

It takes a village, folks. You need a good team to bring the ball from one end of the field to the other.

No one performs complicated projects alone. Your builder is the manager, the ring leader, the conductor and the orchestrator of the process. Ideally, behind him (or her) is a qualified talented team of employees, subcontractors, professionals and advisors who all participate and assist in getting a project completed successfully.

If you aren’t getting that feeling when you interview builders, look elsewhere. Your builder doesn’t have to know everything, or do everything, but he needs to be able to draw from a deep talent pool to effectively complete your project.

America is Good – and getting Better! Repeat

This was such a great article in the January 24, 2016 Sunday Star Ledger, that I summarized it in the last blog on 7/3/16. Go back and reread it for inspiration, or better yet, dig up the article online and read that. It makes you proud to be an American.

Deadbeats and Disreputable Contractors – Good Lord, does this song ever change??

Moving on to a topic in the same vein, I bring you today one of the more egregious, absurd occurrences in this rather bizarre business. I mean, we’ve been regularly underbid by builders who later abandon their projects, take their clients money or declare bankruptcy, only to have the poor Sandster contact us in tears to come fix things.

We do that regularly. I should be called The Cleaner. We have 26 active projects and 7 are “rescues”.

Usually they skulk off into the mud like the cretins they are and leave broken houses and lives, depleted bank accounts and manna for the attorneys.

But this is a new one. A builder who abandoned a job in Ship Bottom after 15 months of inaction (Hello John Cafiero from Axis Builders, now working under NJ Home Builder with Daniel Sachkowsky, who is now listed as the owner of Axis, and formerly of several other companies which have gone out of business) posted really nice pictures on Facebook of the wonderful completed project – that we finished for the homeowner after they fired Axis and instituted litigation. The poor woman called us for 8 months in tears while we finished the house next store, while waiting for the Axis shell game to wend its course through her life.

To add to the litany of the bizarre, John and his lovely wife are life coaches as well as being dishonest builders. Outstanding! How about this for some life coach advice, John? Perhaps a quick perusal of the Ten Commandments or maybe just the Boy Scout Motto would be appropriate.

Come on, really? If we must be deadbeats, must we also denigrate the work of decent folk? Is it not enough to steal, defraud, and not perform, without consideration for a person’s life, property, assets or sanity?

I’ve been building and developing for 23 years and in my entire career I have never seen this type of nonsense regularly being perpetrated upon the citizenry.

To say that our justice system is broken is an incredible understatement. How in God’s name can contractors and builders regularly defraud laymen, and not have the immediate might of our judiciary pounce upon them? How many times does one have to steal money from clients before they are not permitted to continue to pursue their craft?

Folks, we have greater oversight in a vast number of other professions. If you are a realtor, you are monitored closely and made to adhere to a code of conduct. If you are an investment professional, you are held to the highest standards of fiduciary conduct (I know – I had a Series 6, 7 & 3 licenses a long time ago). If you are a building inspector, you are overseen by the DCA and must behave in a proscribed manner by a set of rules. If you sell insurance, the department of banking oversees your behavior. If you accept people’s money, you should be held to a higher standard.

Why can people who can’t do simple math in their heads are permitted to accept a 40% deposit on a $150,000 projects without any oversight? (The real question is WHY ARE SANDSTERS STILL GIVING BUILDERS 30%-40% DEPOSITS TO START PROJECTS, but that is another, recurring topic).Why can builders who regularly defraud clients permitted to continue being contractors and accepting client’s money without any requirements as to probity, honesty, performance history or solvency?

It’s pathetic.

Those of you who know me, know that I am absolutely not a proponent of big government, or most government for that matter. I feel that when one is free adult of majority age, one should be permitted to harm oneself however one pleases, without government protecting us from our own foibles. Our government was originally intended to provide for the common defense and maintain a republic where capital crimes were not permitted, and not a heck of a lot else.

That being said, when there is such a ridiculous preponderance of criminal behavior that it becomes a material percentage in an industry, the case could be made that there should be some oversight and guidance, and a barrier to entry that is higher than a $200 yearly fee and production of a general liability policy.

We should absolutely have different levels of home improvement contractor registrations, and they should be 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.

As they say, while on a rant, stay on it….

How about a simple registry where all building projects over $25,000 must be registered, with the contractor, license number, start (and completion) date and the status of the project are listed? We could put that together in about an hour in our office.

If the builder abandons a project, becomes insolvent or has numerous complaints lodged against them, it is simply noted. An objective reference point, as opposed to a subjective forum (like Facebook).

That way laymen 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 work, 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 amount or sophistication of various projects. All of this accretes to the consumer’s detriment.

Moving on in the same disgusting path, be aware that dishonest contractors are most often serial misfits. Talk about a sad fact of life. That means that the idiot that took your money took your neighbors last month and will take your other neighbors next month.

It’s true – most contractors who defraud people have done it over and over and over….and over….and over again. It’s like heroin addiction. “Let’s see how many people we can rip off this month!” “How much of a deposit can we get from this client so we can pay our subs for the last job?” “Once we have their money, let them sue us”.

It’s deplorable that we allow serial dysfunction on this level, to this degree, in this monetary magnitude. By my simple calculation, and based on an extrapolation of clients we have rescued over the last 3 years, there is $45,000,000 in fraud out there, whether in the midst of prosecution or simply abandoned due to lack of energy or resources.

That is simply abysmal oversight on the part of our regulatory system. RREM has a fraud fund with a $20,000,000 budget, to assist homeowners who have been victims of fraud or insolvency. The real question is why can’t we be able to access a list of projects that have failed and contractors who are guilty of this behavior?

Aggghhhh. Groan. What pathetic nonsense.

To all of the completely nefarious assholes out there that are taking Sandsters money and leaving their lives in shambles, a scourge and a pox on you, and a wish that karma will visit you with your just desserts. You deserve to be relegated to (at least) the 7th rung of hell in Dante’s Inferno. You are lousy, criminal, vile creatures.

Come pick on me – all 5’ 6” 150 pounds of me. Fight someone who can fight back. I’ll set you straight. Someone has to defend those who cannot defend themselves. Play in the Bigs – leave the innocents off the battlefield. Go out honestly and fight on the capitalist field of battle. Stop stealing money, peace of mind and sanity from innocent people.

It’s tragic Sandsters. We’ve been retained by 4 new clients in the last month, who’ve had their lives ruined by people such as this. BE REALLY CAREFUL WHO YOU WORK WITH.

Onward and upward but staying in the same pig slop.

Beware of fancy trucks and equipment – You’re paying for it – PRICE HOME GROUP is a notable example

The boys at Price Home Group were recently indicted for fraud and misappropriation of RREM funds, to the merry tune of $880,000 from RREM and $280,000 of clients’ money. That’s a lot of spoiled fish.

3 years ago they popped up out of the weeds – an attorney, a salesman and a small remodeling contractor. They decided they were going to (here we go again) open nice new offices, get a bunch of nice new trucks, pay everyone nice big salaries and – most importantly – take a whole big pot of money in deposits for modular homes they were going to build. We know how this worked out.

There are 17 victims named in the indictment. The principals and the company have declared bankruptcy. They had 100+ other clients who were also defrauded in one manner or another. Many houses are sitting unfinished. Many were never even delivered.

Modular builders rarely know how to build or manage a building company. I say rarely as opposed to never because I’ve recently met a good modular builder who actually knows how to stick build and renovate. .That’s a rarity. Most modular builders are order takers.

Side note: 3 years ago PHG called us in and offered us the opportunity to finish a number of their modular homes, since they had sold so many in such a short period of time. (They sold that many because the homes were under priced by $40,000, which took me about 2 seconds to figure out. You can’t sell a house for $100 per square foot when finished cost is between $110 – $120 in NJ. Call me a genius). I went and met with them and said, “Sure I’ll take as many as you want. I’m a production builder. I’ll take 20-30 – whatever you need done.” I asked for a scope of work. 3 weeks later I got a rambling 2 paragraph email listing all the things needed to finish a house. I went to see several of their jobs. I remember coming back to my office and saying, “These guys aren’t going to be around in 2 years. They have no idea what they’re doing”. Chalk up one smart prediction for me – and chalk up 100+ miserable people who had their lives disrupted from PHG.

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.

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.

The real questions are, “How many projects have you completed?” (We’ve finished 145 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).

(Note: we do have several active lawsuits against fraudulent clients, who took RREM funds and decided they wanted to keep them for vacations and new furniture, and have decided not to pay us. Aside from being quite illegal to misappropriate federal funds, this behavior is pathetic and was unheard of prior to Sandy. People who work for their money don’t rip other people off. People who are given money may not be up to the task of responsibly disbursing it, but that’s another subject entirely.)

As they say, while on a roll, stay on it and bring out the cream cheese (actually no one says that since I just made it up, but it is pretty catchy…)

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.

Sandsters, there’s a world of difference between the two and you are well served to understand this point prior to embarking on a renovation project.

Notwithstanding any of the drivel regularly posted on the evil monster Facebook (although I have to thank FB for making us aware of Dear John Cafiero, since within hours of his post, no less than 8 of our clients alerted us to the fact that since he couldn’t finish any of his own projects, he was taking pictures of ours), 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.

Let’s all say this again: 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 vague.

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 may be one of the more important take-aways from this blog, other than the cream cheese joke above).

If there are issues to be worked out and personalities are getting in the way of completing the project, do what baseball does (I am not a sport fan at all) and bring in a designated hitter.

I am blessed with a wonderful team of people around me and we regularly designate different people to deal with different clients, as the situation dictates. (Though it may be inconceivable, some people find me annoying. I know, unbelievable right?) Result: We have someone else deal with that particular client (Tim, Valerie, George) and life goes on.

On the client side, sometimes the husband is very difficult and the wife becomes the voice of reason (or vice-versa) and all moves along swimmingly. As my mother used to say, the train gets back on the track.

The result? The project moves forward, which is the ultimate (and only) valid goal. Once a project is done, everyone is happy, harsh words are forgotten and life goes on.

That is materially different from contractor fraud, abandonment, mismanagement or incompetence.

PLEASE Sandsters – learn and understand the difference, and it will serve you well.

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.

Foundation Thoughts: Repeat but Important if you are currently considering options

This is one of the most important (and complicated) topics in rebuilding and one we don’t spend enough time discussing. When you are trying to decide on the best method, there are numerous options as well as varied cost differences.

Without discussing the entire range of options (which is a book in and of itself) I’d like to bring your attention to one design concept which can save you money and help you with some of your exterior finish decisions.

Instead of running a complete concrete block foundation up from your existing block or your new footing, consider partial or full wood framing for your above ground foundation system.

Though it is not a traditional concrete block foundation, wood framing affords different options for interior as well as exterior finished. It also weighs significantly less than concrete block, which may be the difference between constructing a completely new foundation and adding on to existing block.

Wood frame construction for your foundation walls costs less than block (15% – 20%) but must be finished on the exterior in some manner. Concrete block is usually parged with 2 coats of mortar and is in itself a finished surface.

On the other hand, frame walls need either cement board as an exterior sheathing material, need siding extended down from existing siding, or need to have some other wall treatment such as cultured stone.

Summary and take – awayFoundation choices: Frame construction above grade is a good alternative to using only concrete block, and has advantages in weight, but to get a true financial and practical picture of your foundation choice, you have to consider both the inside and outside finishes you will want to use.

Trade Partner – Honorable Mention & Congratulations: Hale Built House Raising – a Great Trade Partner: Dream Homes and Atlantic Northeast Construction have been working with Hale Built House Raising for about 2 years and have completed over 60 successful lifts with them thus far. From simple 2’ elevations to hairy, unpleasant house moves and 12’ raises, Tim Ferguson, Will, Eve & the rest of the Hale Built team have been one of the most professional and competent organizations we’ve worked with since Sandy the Beast roared into town. We’re proud to say they are our exclusive home elevation contractor and look forward to years of successful partnership. Thanks guys for the continued great advice, and competent timely service. It makes life so much better when we can provide the best elevation service to our clients – you’re an important part of that package.

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.

Delays – 2 Reasons that cause the Biggest Delays & Biggest Issues:

Excessive change orders and lack of, or slow, payment are the most common causes for project delay.

If you don’t have money on hand to fund your project and are depending on RREM, 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.

See the June 5th blog for more detail.

BANKRUPTCY – FRAUD ALERT –

Alert!! A LEADING NJ ELEVATING COMPANY IN THE SOUTHERN HALF OF THE STATE HAS DECLARED PERSONAL BANKRUPTCY WITHIN THE LAST 2 MONTHS.

They are still in operation while reorganizing.

BEWARE. BE CAUTIOUS. WHEN IN BANKRUPTCY ALL EXECUTORY CONTRACTS OF ANY TYPE CAN BE VOIDED IF THE TRUSTEE DEEMS IT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CREDITORS. Your elevation contract is an executory contract and could be voided.

Definition: You can lose your deposit, or money invested if the federal bankruptcy trustee deems the contract invalid for any reason.

Again, in the “I can’t believe these people are not in jail” category, a HOUSE LIFTER at the SHORE (READ BETWEEN THE LINES HERE SANDSTERS) who is a very popular (read: cheap) elevation company, which I have been writing about forever, chose the inventive path of declaring personal (instead of corporate) bankruptcy. They are screwing their clients throughout NJ and under investigation by the Department of Justice and the Attorney General’s office – We signed 4 clients in the last month who instituted suit for lack of performance.

BE CAREFUL Sandsters. Make sure the people you are dealing with are representing solid, real companies.

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 blog – this blog is already approaching novel length.

Last Look or If you don’t ask, you’ll get no where: 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 estimate.

I recommend this particular technique for discussion 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 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.

That being said, your 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.

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 blog – this blog is already approaching novel length.

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 – 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. 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. George Kasimos does a great job and needs your help also. 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 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.

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 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, 125 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!

Regards,

Vince

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

Email: vince@dreamhomesltd.com

Website: www.dreamhomesltd.com

Blog:http://blog.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: #foxbuilder


1 Comment

Happy 4th! – Testimonial to the USA – RREM Rebuilding Seminar 7/13 – Foundation Ideas – Trade Partners – “Last Look”

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –

7-4-16

Testimonial to the USA – We’re Great & Getting Better!

Trade Partners – Hale Built – Foundations – Caution Bankrupt Companies – Rebuilding Seminar & Giveaways – Last Look & Working with your Favorite Contractor

Hello Sandsters and Happy 4th of July!

Hopefully your 4th of July weekend is going well and you’re enjoying your summer so far.

In honor of the 4th, we have a testimonial to the USA to remind us that things aren’t so bad and actually a bit better than we may think. We have some bankruptcy cautions you should be aware of, and cautions about having multiple contractors work on your home at the same time. We have some foundation design ideas and options, and we once again talk about the concept of “Last Look” when you are getting estimates for your project. We talk about cheap money and foolish behavior and stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. Finally we mention our next Rebuilding seminar – which is Wednesday July 13th at 6 pm at Tuscan Bistro & Bar in Toms River. This one is going to be great so if you haven’t reserved a space, call today.

July Dream Homes Events:

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar –Wednesday July 13th – 6 PM – Tuscan Bistro in Toms River.

This seminar is going to be great – don’t miss it. We’re also giving away a Klein Tool Bag & a $50 Home Depot Gift Card to 2 lucky Sandsters.

Our next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar will be held Wednesday July 13th, 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, our trade partners and professionals will be speaking. Tim Ferguson from Hale Built House Lifting will be available for questions about elevating and moving houses. Rich McGowan from Prospect Mortgage will talk about financing options with the SBA to help bridge the gap from your RREM and ICC funding. 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.

America is Good – and getting Better!

This was an article in the January 24, 2016 Sunday Star Ledger, that I thought was so good that I’ve been carrying it around for 5 months, with the intention of putting it in a blog. Like many other things, I get there eventually…today is a perfect day to summarize this inspiring piece. I hope you enjoy my summary, but please go online and find the full article. It was written by Michael Grunwald and was in the Politico section of that week’s paper. Much of Mr. Grunwald’s article was so well written that I quoted directly and didn’t add a single note.

Entitled “Ignore the Haters. America is great and getting greater” and starts with a recap of the miasmic, bizarre presidential primary race and how 25% of the public believe the US is headed in the wrong direction. As is the case often in life, and with many other loud unpleasant stimuli, we should ignore the noise and focus on the substance.

Unemployment is down to 5%, from a high of 10% in 2011. Private sector jobs have grown for 72 consecutive months, making this period the best for job creation in the 21st century.

The housing market rebounded.

Growth is modest but steady. Inflation is low. Interest rates are low. Corporate profits are at an all time high.

Most importantly, all the doomsday scenarios have failed to materialize – double dip recession, runaway inflation, runaway interest rates, out of control energy prices, a health insurance death spiral, and a run-on or failure of the dollar. None of these things have occurred.

Gas is $2 a gallon. The federal deficit is down to $500 billion from $1.4 trillion.

Crime in big cities actually dropped an additional 5% in 2015. The teen birth rate is down 60% since 1990 and that’s not due solely to abortions, which have fallen by 33%.

We’re importing significantly less oil from our peaceful gun-toting Arab friends, which is a wonderful thing. Wind generation is up 300% and solar generation is up 2500% since 2008 (remember – these usage numbers were very low to begin with, but still….)

The financial markets are much safer. Banks have more capital on hand and have begun responsibly lending again. The number of undocumented immigrants crossing our borders has been stable for 5 years.

Though we have had tragedy, only 85 Americans have been killed by terrorists or jihadists since 2001, ,which is significantly less than lightening, toddlers with guns, or any disease you have ever heard of.

It’s generally an exciting time to be a human being. We’re living longer, there’s less war, less infant mortality, less abject poverty. We carry phones in our pockets that are more powerful than supercomputers of 2 decades ago through which we can access the accumulated world knowledge 24/7.

There’s still no better place to live than the United States – we have the most dynamic economy, the most powerful military and one of the highest overall qualities of life anywhere on the planet.

The point is not that things are perfect, because they are never that. The point is that things are better than they have been and will hopefully continue getting even better in the future.

Happy 4th of July to everyone…thank God we live in the United States of America.

Foundation Thoughts:

This is one of the most important (and complicated) topics in rebuilding and one we don’t spend enough time discussing. When you are trying to decide on the best method, there are numerous options as well as varied cost differences.

Without discussing the entire range of options (which is a book in and of itself) I’d like to bring your attention to one design concept which can save you money and help you with some of your exterior finish decisions.

Instead of running a complete concrete block foundation up from your existing block or your new footing, consider partial or full wood framing for your above ground foundation system.

Though it is not a traditional concrete block foundation, wood framing affords different options for interior as well as exterior finished. It also weighs significantly less than concrete block, which may be the difference between constructing a completely new foundation and adding on to existing block.

Wood frame construction for your foundation walls costs less than block (15% – 20%) but must be finished on the exterior in some manner. Concrete block is usually parged with 2 coats of mortar and is in itself a finished surface.

On the other hand, frame walls need either cement board as an exterior sheathing material, need siding extended down from existing siding, or need to have some other wall treatment such as cultured stone.

Summary and take – awayFoundation choices: Frame construction above grade is a good alternative to using only concrete block, and has advantages in weight, but to get a true financial and practical picture of your foundation choice, you have to consider both the inside and outside finishes you will want to use

Repeat – Partial: Money’s So Cheap Now, It’s Almost Criminal to Wait to Improve Your Real Estate….

It’s always a cost/benefit calculation at the heart of it.

Money’s cheap right now so the smart money invests in capital assets, which appreciate when interest rates rise.

Interest rates are definitely going to rise in the short term, although probably very little and very moderately.

 

I wrote about this more extensively in the last blog, so please review that if you are trying to figure out what you should spend money on in your project.

 

A new thought for the Sandsters out there that are thinking of not taking grant money (whether ICC, RREM, LMI, or LRRP) because you cannot improve to a greater extent than what you started with.

This is an extremely short sighted way of thinking.

ICC claims have to be made by October of next year, or you miss the opportunity to claim the $30,000 you are entitled to. Silly behavior to not accept money for an activity you will have to do at some point.

RREM grants are FREE Money. Ignore the grant at your own peril. If you do nothing, you will be penalized when you go to sell or refinance. If you get any RREM money, it is better than not accepting it and doing nothing. If you can’t get that great new deck or the new kitchen you want right now, remember that grant money is meant to put you back where you were before, not turn a $200,000 beach bungalow into a $500,000 shore house.

If you want to improve over and above the grant money you are receiving, you will have to spend some of your own money. See above and the last blog – at 4%, borrowing money for capital improvements is the best choice you can make for your real assets.

Trade Partner – Honorable Mention & Congratulations: Hale Built House Raising – a Great Trade Partner: Dream Homes and Atlantic Northeast Construction have been working with Hale Built House Raising for about 2 years and have completed over 60 successful lifts with them thus far. From simple 2’ elevations to hairy, unpleasant house moves and 12’ raises, Tim Ferguson, Will, Eve & the rest of the Hale Built team have been one of the most professional and competent organizations we’ve worked with since Sandy the Beast roared into town. We’re proud to say they are our exclusive home elevation contractor and look forward to years of successful partnership. Thanks guys for the continued great advice, and competent timely service. It makes life so much better when we can provide the best elevation service to our clients – you’re an important part of that package.

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.

Delays – 2 Reasons that cause the Biggest Delays & Biggest Issues:

Excessive change orders and lack of, or slow, payment are the most common causes for project delay.

If you don’t have money on hand to fund your project and are depending on RREM, 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.

See the June 5th blog for more detail.

BANKRUPTCY – FRAUD ALERT –

Alert!! A LEADING NJ ELEVATING COMPANY IN THE SOUTHERN HALF OF THE STATE HAS DECLARED BANKRUPTCY WITHIN THE LAST 2 MONTHS.

They are still in operation while reorganizing.

BEWARE. BE CAUTIOUS. WHEN IN BANKRUPTCY ALL EXECUTORY CONTRACTS OF ANY TYPE CAN BE VOIDED IF THE TRUSTEE DEEMS IT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CREDITORS. Your elevation contract is an executory contract and could be voided.

Definition: You can lose your deposit, or money invested if the federal bankruptcy trustee deems the contract invalid for any reason.

Again, in the “I can’t believe these people are not in jail” category, a HOUSE LIFTER at the SHORE (READ BETWEEN THE LINES HERE SANDSTERS) who is a very popular (read: cheap) elevation company, which I have been writing about forever, chose the inventive path of declaring personal (instead of corporate) bankruptcy. They are screwing their clients throughout NJ – I just signed another client last week who instituted suit for lack of performance.

 

BE CAREFUL Sandsters. Make sure the people you are dealing with are representing solid, real companies.

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.

Focus on finding someone you like and trust to manage your project. Then get them to your budget number.

It makes a lot of sense to do business with someone you like and are comfortable with.

They don’t have to be the biggest, or the one your friends all like, or have an office around the corner, or be someone who did your deck 8 years ago, but they should be someone you can talk to. Understand and trust.

Last Look or If you don’t ask, you’ll get no where: 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 estimate.

I recommend this particular technique for discussion 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 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.

That being said, your 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.

Signing Blind Contracts

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:

Short version – DON’T DO THIS! Maintain one field point of contact on your project – either the project manager or the owner – and one point of contact in the office.

If you are a couple, one of you can deal with the finance issues with the builder’s bookkeeper and the other can deal with construction issues with the site super or builder. There is nothing wrong with this concept as long as there is one point of contact on your side and one on your builders for both the construction as well as the financial category.

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 – 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. 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 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.

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 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, 125 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!

Regards,

Vince

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

Email: vince@dreamhomesltd.com

Website: www.dreamhomesltd.com

Blog:http://blog.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: #foxbuilder