New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Rebuilding after Sandy – “Illegitimi non Carborundum!” – Don’t let the bastards grind you down !

Dream Homes Blog 3-29-13 – Rebuilding after Sandy

Greetings NJ –

Hope this post finds you well and getting ready for a holiday weekend with your family. It’s been a few days since I last posted and in keeping with Life After Sandy, the week was definitely challenging.  Each day brings frustration and triumph and sometimes it seems like we are taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back.

The quote above is Latin for “ Don’t let the bastards grind you down!!”  It’s a useful saying to remember when you are being beaten up by circumstance.

Governor Christie spoke last week in Manasquan and reiterated what he has been saying at a number of meetings – we decided to adopt the FEMA guidelines so people could have a basis to move forward.

I like our governor. He has integrity. Whether or not you agree with his politics or his style, he takes positions and sticks with them regardless of popular opinion. If he hadn’t adopted the December 2012 FEMA guidelines, the glacial pace of reconstructing NJ, would be half of what it is currently.

Things are happening though. When I drive any number of streets in Little Egg, Beach Haven West, Lavalette & Ocean Beach, I am finally starting to see some activity. We are working on a dozen projects and only a few are actually active, so it is understandable to me, although still depressing to drive down the street and see through house after house that is stripped to the rafters.

As usual, it comes down to one step at a time, one house at a time. That’s the only way we will get where we need to be.

Getting back to flood insurance for the moment, you may know that the cause of all of the rate confusion and increase is the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.

The Center for Insurance Policy and Research did a nice recap that is only 6 pages and understandable here is the link:

(If you haven’t read War and Peace and need some light reading, you can Google the Act and read all 68 single spaced, titillating, mind numbing pages. I did. I wouldn’t bother if I were you. The summary is fine.)

As a typical dollars and sense example, based on a $250,000 house, if you were paying $1000 a year pre-Sandy, your home is currently at elevation 6 and the new ABFE is 8 (which means for the best rates you would rebuild to elevation 10 and we are recommending ABFE + 4, which would be 12), you are 4-6 feet below the recommended base flood elevation. if you don’t move your house, you are going to be paying $30,000 a year in flood insurance. You will pay a maximum of 25% increase per year until you reach the new rate since you are grandfathered as an existing homeowner, but if you sell your home, your buyer will immediately start paying the new rate.

Obviously not a good workable solution.  You are essentially forced to lift, demolish and rebuild, or move.

If you move your house to ABFE  8, you will be paying about $7000 a year.

If you move your house to ABFE +2, which is elevation 10, you will be paying the lowest rate. That rate might be $3000 a year versus the $1000 you were paying. The reason for this is that that FEMA is essentially bankrupt and they have been subsidizing 90% of the homeowners in coastal regions with the wealthiest 10% for the last 20 years. The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act is meant to try and correct the imbalance and bring rates to the actual, correct non-subsidized levels they would be in a free market.

Once again, I am recommending ABFE +4  to our clients, to allow for FEMA to stumble along at a glacial pace and proceed (possibly) to raise elevations even more than they have already. Worst case you spend a little extra money and get a better view…you won’t have to rebuild again.

A great resource, which I have recommended numerous times, is .That will give you all the information in the world that you need and don’t really want to know.

Don’t hold your breath waiting on the new FEMA elevations, which are supposed to be out in August or September. When they do post their new flood elevations, they are subject to appeal from each municipality, as well as the general public. That process could go on forever. Joining Stop Fema may make you feel better and it is certainly a worthwhile organization, but it’s doubtful it will actually change your individual scenario.

As an additional note, when FEMA does come out with new elevations, it is doubtful there will be changes in advisory elevation, except for them to possibly increase slightly. Best case – if you are in a V zone, you get downgraded to an A. If you are already in an A zone, it’s probably as good as it can be for your location. The only negative thing would be for you to be downgraded to a V zone, which I doubt would happen but one never knows.

On the positive side, for anyone in an A zone, we will be able to just raise your house to the new elevation and block it up underneath. Additional concrete piers (not pilings) may be needed within the perimeter of the foundation if the soils are not as good as they should be. If your house is on a slab, a new floor system must be built after the house is raised. The best case (in a range of lousy scenarios) is if your house was built on pilings which support a concrete grade beam, which supports a block & concrete pier crawl space.

One more comment which bears repeating. I went on 8 site inspections last week and did 5 estimates. Out of the 8 homes, 4 of them were clearly demolish and rebuild scenarios, and none of these homeowners had even considered that option. No sense going through the grief and aggravation of rebuilding if your home is 50 years old , built to ancient building codes, stripped on the inside and not worth more than $250,000.

More soon. Stay well NJ.


Rebuild, Renovate, Raise or Repair Your Home from Storm Sandy

Rebuilding NJ One Home at a Time…

Residential Construction & Development for over 20 years in NJ

314 Rt.9, Forked River, NJ 08731 Mailing: PO Box 627, Forked River, NJ 08731

609 693 8881 x 102 Fax: 609 693 3802 Cell: 732 300 5619

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

SSS – Sucky Storm Sandy & “I Cried that I Had No Shoes, Until I Met a Man with No Feet”

Greetings New Jersey –

Happy Saturday!….we’re a few days into spring and thank God we seem to have moved, albeit painfully, past the winter of our collective discontent. Good riddance to a miserable winter (and fall, for that matter).

Here’s a Shout Out and sincere thank you!! Thank you Tracy Giery for fantastic thoughts and comments about real value and other positive ideas!!

Tracy, you’re not only a super person but a great realtor and a true resource for positive thinking in this environment!! Thank you, thank you for great conversation and illuminating thoughts! Readers, definitely call her right now for help with marketing and valuating your house and more importantly clarifying your thinking about what you’re home is and will really be worth! 609 296 4667.

Another great mention goes to Sandra Guage, who is an excellent attorney handling insurance issues. She’s been volunteering her time to help people negotiate the labrynth of confusion of our insurance policies and can certainly help you with your appeals. Read her blog at Great resource for everyone who is unhappy with their insurance settlement.

Okay, we have a bunch of things today. As a note, I am getting criticism and complaints – on one hand I’m being too specific about construction technique and process and ignoring the social and societal impact of SSS (Sucky Storm Sandy), and on the other getting complaints that I’m waxing too general about attitude, mindset and motivation and not giving enough specific information about how to actually rebuild the damn state as quickly as possible. There are also a number of people (bless your souls) that actually tell me I am being helpful to them in their efforts to rebuild after SSS. (As a note, I’m sending all of those people cookie platters.)

One never makes everyone happy all of the time – such is life. Given that I could never adequately address all issues for all people simultaneously, I’ll just stumble along blissfully continuing to opine and hope for the best. If I was too concerned with other peoples opinions I’d still be waiting tables and getting fired for talking too much…J

So let’s talk about you, today, right now. What should you really be worried about? Probably going to Wawa or WalMart for milk, eggs and maybe coffee. Really.

In NJ, 62 people out of 100,000 die from TMC (This Mysterious Cause – which I’ll reveal in a minute – don’t cheat and skip ahead!). In contrast, 32 people out of 100,000 die of cancer and 26 die of heart attacks.

So you’re almost twice as likely to die of TMC than you are to die of cancer and 2.2 times as likely to die of TMC than a heart attack.

Want to know what TMC is? Ok, here goes.

Car accident. Yup. True. We have much more risk driving to Wawa for gas (or cigarettes) or WalMart for interesting social experiences than we do of dying of cancer or heart attack. Fact. Google it.

So what’s the point?

Start worrying about what you can control and don’t bother with intangible, unresolvable, unknowable issues. Let’s focus on rebuilding your house, not solving world hunger.

If we fix one home at a time, each neighborhood will follow.

Keep your perspective – it is at times like these that you need it the most.

Think “I complained that I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet.”

It can always get worse, folks.

Don’t ever say “oh my God, it can’t get any worse!”. If you do Karma, Mr. Murphy, fate or circumstance will most likely rear their ugly heads and bite you promptly on the ass. Then you will wish things were back as they were, before you started complaining.

Some ideas and concepts bear repeating over and over. For now, until you’re more centered, focus on your situation. Exclusively.

Unless you’re a social worker, a therapist or (God forbid) a builder, architect, engineer, township planner or FEMA genius, stop trying to eat the whole elephant at one time. Focus on your situation.

You have one house (presumably). You have one set of circumstances. Concentrate on them – not the entirety of resolving all of the issues of the Sandy rebuild and the effects on the macroeconomic situation.

So let’s start now.

Get a blank piece of paper.

Draw a box at the top. Write “Fix House” in the box.

There. You’ve started.

Draw a line down and make another box.

Write “Flood Zone & elevation” in the box.

Enter your flood zone, which is probably an A or a V. (reminder: go to to find out, or call me) Your ABFE (advisory base flood elevation) will probably range from 8 – 12.

Draw another line down and form another box.

If you are A, type in the box “Lift House & Block up Foundation”.

If you are in a V zone, type “Lift and Move House, Install Pilings, Set house down.”.

Draw another line and make another box.

Write “Get soil boring to establish bearing capacity for new foundation”.

And on, and on, until you feel some clarity.

Keep going. One step at a time.

Get the idea? Focus on your situation. It will clarify your thinking and help you to move forward, again one step at a time. Remember the elephant. Or think about the Great Wall of China, which was built one brick at a time, starting with one Chinese coolie and a wheelbarrow.

Again, and not to be repetitive, digest and understand your process one step at a time.

There is another expression that’s unusually applicable – “Paralysis through Analysis”.

You don’t have to understand the physics of cell phone usage to make a phone call. Don’t over analyze things. Enough said.

Let’s keep something else in mind. We’re Americans. Digging deeper, we’re from New Jersey. We suck it up, pull together, perform herculean efforts and surmount seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We overcome. If we didn’t, we would still be living in England, or Spain, or Ireland or Portugal. We don’t give up, or give in.  We persevere.

NJ, we’re not going to get through this by wringing our hands. The situation is confusing, difficult, complicated, frustrating, and mind numbing. We’re feeling despair, and grief, helplessness and uncertainty. We can only choose to struggle back to our knees, and painfully up to our feet and look forward to try and see past the clouds.

Keep up! Let’s keep rebuilding NJ one house at a time.

Take care.


New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Getting in your House…Stairway & Elevators to Heaven II

Greetings NJ – 

Hope this post finds you well.  

Today we have some excellent additional comments about accessing your home, compliments of Scott Lepley, who is an excellent architect in Forked River. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Scott for almost 20 years and have found him to be an excellent resource for anything construction or development related.

Thanks to all our new readers for comments and input – every bit of information is helpful.

Our Rebuilding after Sandy seminar was rescheduled due to the fact that we needed to book a larger space based on demand. We will most probably hold it at the end of April at Kate & Ally’s Restaurant in Lacey Township. The good news is I was able to consult directly with a number of people who were going to come, who had specific concerns and questions about their homes. A new date will be forthcoming.

Before we jump back into entrance options, remember that if you are in an A flood zone, providing your existing foundation will support the additional weight of building up, you most probably do not have to install pilings. Your home can be lifted directly up and blocked (as opposed to being lifted and moved) while a new foundation, complete with adequate flood vents, is constructed underneath it. The house is then lowered onto the new foundation. If you are lucky enough to be on a crawl foundation, you have an existing floor system. If you are on a slab, a new floor system must be constructed before the house is lowered back onto the new foundation.

As of this writing, if you are in a V zone, you still have to install pilings for a new foundation. So you generally have to lift and move the house, demolish the slab or existing foundation, install new pilings, construct a floor system and move the house back onto the new foundation. At the rate that FEMA is moving on establishing the new zone classifications, and with the number of townships who are planning to appeal them when they come out later this year, I would estimate it will be at least 1 year before any new zones are promulgated upon us. The good news is we have existing elevations which we can use and you are grandfathered once you receive a building permit, regardless of what FEMA does in the future.

Once again, we are recommending building to Advisory Base Flood + 4 (as opposed to BFE+2), to allow an extra margin if FEMA does make the elevations more stringent in the future.

Back to entrance options.

As we said the other day, you have essentially 2 options when you raise your home – stairs on the exterior perimeter of your home, or a stairwell to be included within the footprint of your home. There are pros and cons to both approaches. The third (more costly) option is an elevator.

If you choose to locate the main entrance stairs to the home in front of the home, you have added an architectural element to your design, as well as saving precious square footage within your existing living space. The stairs and entry themselves add dimension and character to your elevation, and if done in composite decking and vinyl or glass rail, are an attractive choice.

That being said, with a 9’ elevation, stairs will extend out from the house approximately 12 feet. While this doesn’t definitely affect your setbacks (generally entrance stairways may or may not be included in setback restrictions based on the individual township), it does cause you to endure a 13 or 14 step stairway outside in the elements on your way into the front entrance. In other words, there is no covered access from your car into your home.

A good budget range for an exterior stairwell is between $4,000 – $7,000, depending on the materials you use. Composite or exotic wood decking and vinyl or glass rail add to both material and labor costs.

We spoke briefly about elevators in the last post and I would like to elaborate on that item here. An elevator is an alternative that may be considered for both current or future handicapped access, as well as general convenience. It is also a selling feature for your home, since you completely open up the field of buyers that can consider a raised house.

With an elevator, you will need a place in your home for the equipment, so plan on at least a 4’ x 4’ area which will have to be taken from somewhere within your home. The elevator will park above flood elevation when not in use and in the event of a power failure, the elevator will still return to the lowest level (ground) to let you out of the house.

As far as cost is concerned, elevators with 2 stops start at around at $15,000 plus the cost of the additional pilings underneath, the actual elevator pit, as well as the necessary electrical work. Plan on about $20,000 – $22,000. An additional floor, or stop, adds another $12,000 or so.

Regarding the option of an interior stairwell located under the house, this can be a more cost effective option especially if it is being constructed underneath an existing stairwell to an upper level. Again, you have the advantage of a covered entrance protected from the elements at grade level, as opposed to an exposed entrance 9 feet up in the air.

An additional downside which should be considered (and which I neglected to mention in my last post) was the fact that you will have to go down a flight of stairs to let visitors in or see who is knocking at  your door, since your front entrance will now be at ground level. You can mitigate this with a video intercom and door buzzer, but that is a cost in itself. That may be an inconvenience you do not wish to endure.

As far as a budget range, an interior stairwell, if built under an existing stairwell going to an upper floor, should be in the $3,000 – $5,000 range, so there can be a small savings over an exterior entrance.

Let’s rebuild New Jersey as soon as we can.

Be well.


Rebuild, Renovate, Raise or Repair Your Home from Storm Sandy

Rebuilding NJ One Home at a Time…

Residential Construction & Development for over 20 years in NJ

314 Rt.9, Forked River, NJ 08731 Mailing: PO Box 627, Forked River, NJ 08731

609 693 8881 x 102 Fax: 609 693 3802 Cell: 732 300 5619

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

So how are you getting into your new House…Maybe a Stairway to Heaven?

Greetings NJ –

Hope this post finds you well.  

Today, we will talk a little bit about stairways and access to your home once it has been raised or newly constructed at a higher elevation (with a little Led Zeppelin reference thrown in above for those of us over 35…J)

It’s not a particularly weighty topic but after Sunday’s post where readers accused me of being depressed, morose and pessimistic, I thought I’d lighten it up a bit…J

Author’s Note: I am most definitely not a pessimist. I certainly lean in an optimistic direction, being a developer for 2 decades, but thought I should air my realistic views about the (deplorable) pace of rebuilding progress. As a note, I heard comments from several building professionals about how I was being too optimistic (!) in my estimates about the time and resources needed to rebuild…L


Anyway, back to the Stairway to Heaven, or at least to your house…J

You have essentially 2 options when you raise your home. You can locate your stairs on the exterior perimeter of your home, or design them to be included within the footprint of your home. There are pros and cons to both approaches. We are primarily going to focus today on the entrance stairs, since the rear stairs will most probably lead to an elevated deck and if not, are not as essential to home design as the main entrance.

If you choose to locate the main entrance stairs to the home in front of the home, you have added an architectural element to your design, as well as saving precious square footage within your existing living space. The stairs and entry themselves add dimension and character to your elevation, and if done in composite decking and vinyl or glass rail, are an attractive choice.

That being said, with a 9’ elevation, they extend out from the house a significant amount. While this doesn’t affect your setbacks (generally entrance stairways are not included in setback restrictions), it does cause you to endure a 13 or 14 step stairway outside in the elements on your way into the front entrance.

Author’s Note #2: If you require your home to be handicapped accessible, that’s a whole different bowl  of cat food. At 1 inch of vertical rise for each 1 foot of ramp length, most ramps wrap around ¾ of the outside perimeter of the house, which becomes an entire structure by itself. An elevator becomes an attractive alternative at that point, except for the one small detail that you cannot locate mechanical structures at grade any longer if you want the best flood insurance rates. More on that subject in another post. Suffice to say that if you require zero barrier handicapped access to your home, you should seriously consider moving inland. Sorry…L


An alternative is to locate the stairs within the perimeter of your existing house footprint. This is an interesting option, and although it costs floor space within your home, offers you a covered entrance at grade level, as opposed to an exposed entrance 9’ up in the air.

 In the case of stairs like this, you would walk under your home and enter a foyer area at grade level, which might contain a coat closet as well as a utility room, and then climb a set of steps up to your first living level.

These stairs would most probably be a “scissor” staircase, which means there would be 2 sets of stairs, separated by a landing. This configuration would be utilized in an attempt to disturb the existing floor plan as little as possible.

 The downside is that the stairwell occupies a 7’x7’ or 8’x8’ square of space, which has to come from somewhere. Ideally this space comes from the original foyer area  in your home, and does not necessitate major changes in your floor plan. It requires constructing a < 299 square foot (according to FEMA and building codes)  foyer at grade level, which has “breakaway walls” and a concrete floor which is not tied into the piling foundation, or reinforced in any way. (Thank you FEMA for another nonsensical restriction – where is that slab floating away to when we experience these 6’ waves breaking over the barrier islands??)

 While an interior stairwell is certainly an added expense, exterior steps are also a significant expense, especially if constructed with some type of composite decking (like Trex) and vinyl railings and ballisters. When you consider the comparative costs of the two methods, they are very close – certainly close enough that the interior stairwell should be considered as an alternative. 

The only downside to the stairwell being located within the perimeter of the building footprint (other than a small additional cost) is the lack of aesthetic on the front of the home. Homes without an exterior entrance stairwell tend to be much flatter and it becomes an effort to create dimension in the front for a greater aesthetic appeal to the front elevation.

 Not too weighty of a topic today, but I hope it helps.

 Let’s rebuild New Jersey as soon as we can.


Be well.




Rebuild, Renovate, Raise or Repair Your Home from Storm Sandy

Rebuilding NJ One Home at a Time…

Residential Construction & Development for over 20 years in NJ

314 Rt.9, Forked River, NJ 08731 Mailing: PO Box 627, Forked River, NJ 08731

609 693 8881 x 102 Fax: 609 693 3802 Cell: 732 300 5619

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Rebuilding after Sandy – Are Builders back in Vogue??

Happy St. Patrick’s Day..…Are Builders Back in Vogue?

Greetings NJ –

Hope this post finds you doing well and enjoying your St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Today, we will wax rhapsodic and leave the specifics for other days. Not generally my style, but it is a Sunday and I am prone to ponderings like everyone else.

I confess – I want the Jersey shore back the way it was. I miss it.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the many people affected by Sandy and the long road towards reconstruction. Currently, even if we assume that the path to rebuilding was clear and open on a permit and legislative level (it isn’t), everyone had ample funds to remodel or rebuild (they don’t), and everyone was clear on what they wanted to do (they’re not), unfortunately we will be rebuilding the Jersey shore for a number of years.

I’ll be talking about this item and a number of others at my Rebuilding after Sandy seminar this Thursday, 3/21/13 from 3-5 pm. For info and to reserve a space, go to or call me at 732 300 5619.

Through over 20 years of home building and over 1300 homes built, I’ve had the pleasure of helping hundreds of first time buyers move into new homes and hundreds of others move up from a starter home into a larger house to accommodate a growing family. Creating housing is a very satisfying pursuit and one that gives one a distinct satisfaction. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously.

However, over the last 3 months, I’ve felt like I’ve directly helped more people in more direct ways through counseling, consulting and writing about rebuilding issues than I have in the last 2 decades. It’s a great feeling. After all, in the past, if I didn’t build them a new home, someone else would have.

Are builders back in vogue again? I think we are, and it is a gratifying, and satisfying feeling.

With rebuilding from Sandy, there is such a great amount of confusion, complexity and changing rules to muddy the waters, that it’s not as easy as just building a new home. The fact is that there are currently a lack of qualified builders who understand the issues and are capable of performing the work needed to rebuild in this environment. The majority of professionals, subcontractors and specific trades people (plumbers, electricians, piling installers, engineers, framers, remodelers, house moving contractors, average small builders) and other building professionals are not willing or able to pull together all the pieces needed to bring a project together in this environment. There is not only an affordable housing shortage, but a shortage of qualified builders.

Dream Homes is a niche company and medium sized in the homebuilding industry. I’ve been thinking that if we did 50 new homes this year, which is likely and somewhat respectable, we would need 200 firms of that size to accomplish the task at hand here in NJ within any reasonable time frame. 50 homes out of 10,000 is like a Tic-Tac in a dinosaur’s bottom. It is an eye drop in the sea of need.

The problem is that 95% of all home builders build 3-5 homes per year. Most large builders build developments, as I have for the majority of my career. At the current rate of construction, we will be here until the next century. That is a sad and dismaying thought…

Ultimately I realized that was why I started writing again – to help everyone affected by Sandy share specific knowledge with their professional team so they could move their own home along as quickly and painlessly as possible. Not just for our clients, but for the thousands more we cannot help, no matter how they rebuild or whom they choose to work with.

Pooling and sharing of information and resources directly helps individual homeowners, as well as the businesses and governments in the local and state economies, and will help bring all us back more quickly to the quality of life and lifestyle that we enjoyed at the Jersey shore.

Again, this is much larger than simply building homes, although that is the alpha and omega of what we are talking about. I don’t know too many people or firms who have the diverse knowledge needed for this type of reconstruction and that is starting to concern me. It is wonderful to have new work and start relationships with new clients, but is dismaying when one realizes how many people are in direct and immediate need of good counsel and are not receiving it. No one wants thousands of frustrated homeowners abandoning buildings, not paying taxes or maintaining their properties. The tax base erodes, businesses move out, the tax base erodes again. It is a vicious cycle.

I live here. I work here. It is my professional opinion that we need more hands on the wheel right now and more info readily available to the people who are going to make the reconstruction a reality. Otherwise we will languish in the morass of uncertainty and confusion which is drowning the efforts to rebuild.

So please pass this information on. Regardless of whether you are a client or not, if you have an architect, a general contractor or a builder that you are working with, please use me as a resource. If there is anything I can do to help you move your project along, call me or have them call me. It’s free. It’s me trying to do my small part. Sometimes a 5 minute phone call will save you or your team a ton of time, aggravation and money. We’re actively reconstructing homes in a number of different ways, we understand it, and we can speak about it concisely and clearly. No rhetoric, just specific facts, methods, processes and recommendations.

I never thought I’d say this, but hey New Jersey, we’re beyond the petty challenges of day to day commerce and business competition. As Benjamin Franklin said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” This is more as true now as it was in 1776.

We cannot share enough qualified information, or communicate enough about new methods and techniques of construction and the myriad new codes and regulations.

I know it may be petty, but I enjoy being needed again. I thank God that I have a lot to offer and hope I can continue to do my part helping to rebuild New Jersey.

I love it here. I want it back the way it was, as soon as possible.

Be well.


Rebuild, Renovate, Raise or Repair Your Home from Storm Sandy
Rebuilding NJ One Home at a Time…
Residential Construction & Development for over 20 years in NJ
314 Rt.9, Forked River, NJ 08731 Mailing: PO Box 627, Forked River, NJ 08731
609 693 8881 x 102 Fax: 609 693 3802 Cell: 732 300 5619

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

For Some People, Doing Nothing May Just Be the Best Thing

Dream Homes Blog 3-16-13 – Rebuilding after Sandy

Greetings NJ –

Hope this post finds you and your loved ones doing well.

Well not really nothing, but certainly less than we’ve been discussing lately. Today we’ll talk about a small, but sizable percentage of people affected by Sandy, who might not want Flood Insurance any more.

 I’ll be talking about this item and a number of others at my Rebuilding after Sandy seminar this Thursday, 3/21/13 from 3-5 pm. For info and to reserve a space, go to or call me at 732 300 5619.

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 with out 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.

That being said, if it is your second home, or if you are buying a home for cash and renting it as an investment, you are probably looking at $40,000 – $60,000 to remodel in place. This is in contrast to the low $100,000 range to lift your existing home and in the mid to upper $100,000 range to demolish and build new. These are just some rough numbers for you to consider, so you know there is another alternative to doing absolutely nothing.

If the home is a modest vacation home built 40 years ago and is used for 4 months a year, this may be a viable option for you. If it is a rental property, an investment of $110,000 ($60,000 for the lot and $50,000 for the remodel) will produce a 3% cash on cash return (based on $1350 per month rental) and a compound return in the 18% – 20% range. This is assuming that you hold the property for 5 years, knock it down and simply sell the lot.

(Thanks Rich Kitrick, Esq. for this excellent example. There are numerous other investor scenarios that are very workable and feasible.)

Thought to keep in mind: If or when you choose to sell your home, your buyer will discount the market value by the cost of raising your home to the new advisory base flood elevations. Unless you demolish your home and either sell the lot or rebuild a new home, you will incur the cost of bringing the home into compliance with the new flood elevations.

But you will not incur that cost now, and in a rising real estate market (which we are experiencing, thank God) in 5 years your home and land should be worth significantly more.

Just some points to ponder – hope they help.

Enjoy your day.


Rebuilding NJ One Home at a Time…

Residential Construction & Development for over 20 years in NJ

314 Rt.9, Forked River, NJ 08731 Mailing: PO Box 627, Forked River, NJ 08731

609 693 8881 x 102 Fax: 609 693 3802 Cell: 732 300 5619

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Winston Churchill said…”If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going”. Was Sir Winston talking about Rebuilding in NJ?

Greetings NJ

Actually for the purists in the crowd, Sir Winston Churchill said, “If your going to go through hell, keep going.” My paraphrase is simpler.

It can definitely seem like you’re going through hell if you are trying to move forward with rebuilding or building and being battered by the changing regulations.

Lately I’ve felt that if FEMA could change and update regulations on an hourly basis, they would. It would be great if building inpectors could at the Jersey shore seemed like they wanted to actually help the process, as opposed to impeding it as much as possible. It is my opinion that if the current state of miasmic anarchy continues it will take us about 10 years to finish rebuilding NJ, which is definitely not a happy thought. We have to change that, one house at a time.

Enough for today’s rant – I am just speaking the words many of you are thinking, in an attempt to encourage you not to let all the negative noise discourage you from moving forward.

Another quote comes from Winston Churchill, who in the dark days of WWII in 1941, gave the shortest commencement speech in history to the graduating class of the Harrow School, his alma mater. (feeling British today, Vince?)

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great  or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and  good sense.”

Good words to live by at any time, and important to remember now.

Something else to remember – Everyone’s situation is different. Unless you are prepared to immerse yourself in minutiae and delve deeply into all aspects of the new regulations and code changes, avoid assuming that every new factoid out there applies to your home. It doesn’t. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. The world is not ending, although it has definitely changed for many people.

So don’t give up on that dream of getting your home and the Jersey shore back the way they were – it is a worthwhile one.

So everyone is different. When you’re eating an elephant, you have to take it one bite at a time. Focus on your situation and don’t worry about the big picture. There are plenty of Big Brains out there screwing things up without you worrying about it. That’s the only way to remain sane through this process.

Flood zone A is different of Flood zone V. Slab homes are different from homes on crawls and basements. Single story homes are different from 2 story homes. Some people have room on their lots to move their homes and some don’t. Old homes are not the same as newer homes. Some people want to stay and some people want to go.

Everyone’s different.

Some new positive developments: We’re having success with house moves on tight lots where we can actually cantilever the house over the bulkead 5′-10′. That opens up many newer homes that are worth moving to that possibility, where before that wasn’t an option.

Another simple but happy thought – if you are on a slab foundation now, the floor of your new home, whether you move your house or rebuild new, will be warmer. If the house is moved, a new floor system is built, where before you were walking on a cold concrete slab.

Another thought to help you define your direction, which I have mentioned before and will undoubtedly repeat. By my calculations, i believe that less than 5% of the homeowners displaced or damaged by Sandy will wind up using helical pilings to rebuild their foundations. You are probably in the other 95%. Helical pilings are simply too expensive of a foundation system for most applications. If your house was worth less than $250,000 prior to the storm, there is no way to make the numbers work.  So for the majority of us, we will wind up either moving our homes and installing new pilings, or demolishing the home, installing new pilings and rebuilding a new home.

Another positive item – insurance money is starting to (slowly) flow. That is a good thing.

Giving myself the hook…I’ve run too long again.

Keep the comments and thoughts coming. You can post directly to the blog if you wish.

Stay well. Enjoy life every day. Give someone you love a hug and kiss.




New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Appearances can be Deceiving – How will my Home Look Up in the Sky??

Greetings New Jersey – 

Hope everyone is doing well today and enjoying the 55 degree weather. Spring is coming in 10 days!

Today, we’re going to talk about something a little lighter, and it has to do with the appearance of your home after raising it, and the fact that you will have a large extra space under your home that can be used in a number of ways. 

You may be wondering – Is your home going to be sticking up in the air, what will it look like and how will the streetscape change?

Good questions. 

If we assume that we are raising a home between 6 and 11 feet, the space created can become a garage, a lattice enclosed area for storage, an enclosed raised basement, or a combination of these options. 

When you are located in a V zone, assuming you are raising your home enough to allow for a garage underneath, there are several things to keep in mind. For one, the new floor  cannot be tied into the foundation or pilings in any way, nor can it be reinforced concrete. 

This means that if you pour a concrete floor, it will essentially be “floating” and will be subject to settling, frost heave and erosion of the underlying dirt. It can be done, but the risks I mentioned exist and must be considered. As a solution, we are recommending to our clients that want a floor, to use paving stones which are permeable to water and not subject to the risks I mentioned. If there is ever a problem, it is very easy to pop out a few pavers and reset them. You can also leave the floor as dirt, or install packing gravel (3/4″ blue stone), which is less expensive than concrete. So much for the floor – moving on to the enclosures. 

Any enclosure around the perimeter need to be “breakaway” walls. Breakaway walls are not tied to the pilings (which are the foundation system) but are attached to the girder system upon which the house sits. They are designed to break away in the event of a storm surge or high water event, allowing water to flow freely through the piling foundation. Flood vents must still be installed in addition to using breakaway walls.

As an additional note, there can be no mechanical systems located beneath Base Flood Elevation either, so you also have the added consideration of where to locate your new furnace and hot water heater. It can go in your utility or laundry room if you have space, or be located in the attic. The AC condenser must sit on an elevated platform outside. 

Another option is to simply leave the exposed pilings. That look has been common in shore communities for a number of years and is the least costly. 

Finally, a compromise between the two involves a lattice surround, with a door or two framed into the lattice to access the lower space. This is perfect for garbage cans, kayaks and other sports equipment, outdoor furniture and tools or all types. 

Regarding your streetscape and how it will look in the coming years, keep in mind that everyone else will eventually have to raise their home. Though in the short term you may be the first or one of the first people to do so, within a few years, the entire look of your street will fall into line with the new required elevations. So your home won’t look odd or out of place. 

Keep in mind that one of the great advantages to raising your home is the increased views you will enjoy from adding 9 feet to your point of view….:):):)

Enjoy the day. 





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

Moldy $$$ Thoughts from a Different Angle – How will the Market Perceive Storm Damaged Homes?

Greetings all and happy Sunday!

Thank you for the great comments and ideas – please keep them coming so I can focus on the issues most important to the greatest number of people.

Today we’re going to talk about mold. Special thanks for input on today’s topic to Steve Brasslett from Ivy First Mortgages, who I have worked with for over 8 years on hundreds of transactions. He is a friend and a trusted resource and always keeps it real. You can visit him at .
Steve will be speaking at a Rebuilding Seminar I am holding on 3/21/13 between 3-5 pm. in Lacey. Contact me for more info and to reserve a space.

Daily contractor tip: Whether you treated and remediated mold yourself, or had a contractor do it, ultimately you must have a licensed mold remediation contractor certify that the treatment was been successful. An air quality test is performed to determine that mold spoors are not still present in dangerous quantities. If you do not do this and proceed to close up your walls, regardless of whether there is mold present, the lack of certification will come back to haunt you when you try and sell your home.

Back to the mold story.

So we listened to the weather forecasts in late October of 2012, and battened down as best we could. After we lived through the storm surge that was the highest in 100 years and washed away our homes (or at least the bottom 4 feet) , we scurried around like crazy people stripping sheetrock and insulation (spending between $4000 – $8000 per house to do so and collectively wasting over $36,000,000 – more on that in another blog), and treated for mold because we were terrified not to.

Now, mold is certainly an issue, and the potential health concerns worried us, so we dried and treated and bleached like mad. Then after about a month, when the power came back on and we had gas and internet again, we stopped and took a breath.

That’s when we discovered the paradigm had shifted, the rules were different, and rebuilding in place might cost us $30,000 a year in flood insurance premiums, instead of the $1,000 we were used to. Regardless of the presence or absence of mold. Another one of life’s cruel ironies.

It would’ve been kind of nice for them to let us know that before we expended all that time, money and resources doing something that may have been unnecessary, but we’re here now. Many (most) of us have been realizing that the issues concerning rebuilding are many and varied and grow more complex daily. It’s not a viable option for most to simply treat for mold, insulate, rewire, sheetrock and paint. Like I said, the rules were changed – several times – in the midst of the chaos.

So what does this mean? Stepping away from the dollars and cents considerations of new versus rebuild, we move to the issue of future market perception of storm damaged homes. It is important to keep in mind: for the next 10 years, whenever a piece of real estate is offered for sale in NJ between Point Pleasant and Atlantic City, one of the single largest concerns (assuming of course that the property wasn’t demolished and rebuilt) will be the presence of mold.

This concern may be founded or unfounded, but all buyers will request to see proof of treatment or remediation, as well as a clean certification. Your inability to demonstrate what was done after the storm will definitely affect a buyer’s perception of your home. As I said, regardless of the mold remediation, a buyer may very well view your property through a jaded eye, causing them to discount their offer. Remember that we as buyers, and thus the market in general, are very fickle creatures. Often just a perceived negative notion about a property, will cause a buyer to look elsewhere.

So please keep these moldy thoughts in mind as you go through your rebuilding process and you will not be caught in this situation when you go to sell your home.

Enjoy the day.




New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Storm Sandy & Your House – 5 Things to be Thankful For?

Good morning New Jersey !

Hope this post finds you well and ready to attack the day with gusto & verve (ok, maybe that’s a bit aggressive, but the sunshine just does wonders for me…:) ). It’s going to be 55 and sunny today and when you’re done reading this blog, you should get outside and remember why you live in NJ in the first place!

*Please see my cautionary note about contractors below*

Before we resume our continued discussions about getting you back in your home the way it was so you can resume normal life, here are 5 positive thoughts to remember for perspective.

As a reminder to all – Sandy wasn’t a tragedy. It was an unfortunate event where many people lost their homes and possessions and were made to suffer inconvenience. If you want to see tragedy, go on Google News for 5 minutes and read about life in North Korea or Africa or about 50 other places, the Sandy Hook killings, Chinese & Indian working conditions, and any single person serving & defending our country who has died overseas. For that matter, read about any of Obama’s recent nominations to any available position. Those are tragedies. Storm Sandy wasn’t.

5 Things to be Thankful For

1. Thank God no one died. We can always get more stuff and rebuild our homes, but its a bit harder to replace a Aunt Carol or Cousin Dan. Give someone you love a kiss and a hug right now while you’re thinking about it.

2. It wasn’t a hurricane – just a storm. If Sandy was a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, damage would have been 3-4 times worse than it was. If it were a Category 4 hurricane, we would all be living between Cherry Hill and Trenton right now in FEMA trailers.

3. Regardless of how long it may take, when we individually and collectively rebuild, our homes and communities will be much safer, more energy efficient and generally more aesthetically pleasing.

4. The storm and its aftermath have brought us closer together as families, as communities, as a state and regionally.

5. Your new home, whether you rebuild new or renovate, will be built to more stringent codes and standards for wind velocity, energy efficiency, safety and (of course) water intrusion.

Ok, enough of that.

Event notes for today:

Home Elevation Seminar – Toms River – March 23, 2013. 9-11 am & 11 am – 1 pm.

Event to be held at the Toms River High School East Auditorium. The link is below.

Rebuilding after Sandy – Free Seminar – Friday March 21, 3-5 pm.

Open Forum Discussions – 314 S. Main Street, Forked River –

Call 732 300 5619 to reserve space – limited seating.

Cautionary Note – Beware of Price Gouging

Be very careful of exhorbitant pricing on certain services relating to rebuilding and renovating. I am hearing stories repeatedly about quoted prices that are 2-3 times what they should be. If a house move should cost $20,000 – $30,000 and you get a quote for $70,000, that is reprehensible. Many contractors do not want to work directly with homeowners and are throwing crazy numbers out hoping confused people will jump on them. Be cautious – shoot me an email if you want to check if a price you receive is very high or out of line. Or work directly with an architect, reputable general contractor or builder who will deal directly with subcontractors. You will ultimately save much more money and time than dealing directly with sub-contractors yourself.

(Scott Lepley from Adamson Riva & Lepley in Forked River and Jeff Lopez from Central Coast LLC in Manahawkin are 2 excellent architects to contact, if you aren’t dealing with a general contractor or builder. If you are, your builder will generally deal with the architect).

(By the way, I don’t really have an Editor, just a few readers who send comment and thoughts. When I say the Editor is reminding me about being too wordy, I am thinking of the old Vaudeville hook, where they yanked the guy off the stage by his neck when he was running too long….:):) Some people say I can be a bit wordy.) Moving on…

To clarify and expand on the blog of 3/8/13 where we were discussing the economics of new or rebuilt homes, I have some additional points.

When we discussed moving your home on your property in order to install regular pilings , the reference to 40′- 50′ was an average distance a home would need to be moved in order to install a new piling foundation. Keep in mind, if you are on the water, you can actually hang your home over a bulkhead about 5′ or so if you are on a tight lot.

The $34,000 average differential cost to which I referred, between moving your house, versus building a new house, assumed that amount as an amount you were unable to cover via insurance or ICC money. The $183 additional monthly cost ($2196 yearly) is the 2nd mortgage or loan you would incur to cover that difference, assuming you did not have the money to spend.

Keep in mind that $183 is a gross cost to you, and does not take into account savings to due to increased energy efficiencies and lower maintenance costs. It is quite reasonable to expect to save $75 – $100 a month in energy costs alone with a higher efficiency furnace, higher SEER AC unit, greater thermal efficience in windows and doors, and new appliances with lower operating costs.

Add in the lack of maintenance (painting, sanding, repairing) and you can see that the yearly cost of building a new home with a small additional monthly cost for a mortgage, is close to being a breakeven proposition.

Finally, some thoughts and reminders about helical piling considerations. Remember that if your house is one story, less than 1500 square feet, and was built before 1999, there is a probability approaching certainty that it is not worth raising and installing helical pilings. Helical pilings add an average of $35,000 – 40,000 to the costs of a foundation system. Unless you have gold plated fixtures with inlaid marble, teak and rosewood, it will be the same or less expensive to demolish and build new.

Enough for today. Giving myself the hook.

Be well and enjoy life!