Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog 10 – 26 – 13
One Year from Sandy – RREM Update – FEMA / RREM House Plans – Governor Christie’s Comments
10 – 26 -13
Hello everyone –
Hopefully this post finds you and your family doing well and moving along with your project. It’s been extremely busy lately, with new projects starting all over the shore. We see more and more starts as architects & contractors become much more familiar with the varied and specialized rebuilding requirements at the shore, and homeowners make final decisions about their own direction.
It is incredible to think, but Sandy hit one year ago Tuesday. To bastardize a literary reference…it’s not been the best of times but at least we’re through the worst of times…we’ll keep pushing and improving and moving forward.
Stay strong New Jersey.
Governor Christie, FEMA, RREM, HMGP Update: – The New, The Odd and the Hopeful:
Love him or hate him, Governor Christie was out there again on the front page of the AP Press yesterday. There were a a lot of words, and definitely good intentions and willingness to change, but still a fundamental disconnect with the general frustration of great numbers of people. At least now the administration has general acknowledgment that there is a problem with the execution of the various programs. Telling someone you’re going to bring them food for dinner gets a little thin after a week or so. It’s one year, we allocated $600 million, and we spent $0. We’re getting another $1.5 billion now, which is a good thing, but it seems like the mechanism and bureaucracy created to distribute the money are getting in their own way.
We need to get the money out more quickly. Simple. Removing 65% of the paperwork would streamline things quite a bit.
Big kudos to Christie, who opposes a Democratic led effort to introduce a Catastrophic Relief Fund, to assist with the distribution of money, ahead of the already authorized distribution under the existing grants. Yes you did read that correctly. He’s right in opposing that bill – it’s completely ludicrous to assume that the people administering the 2nd $250 million are more competent than those failing to dole out the first $600 million. Craziness.
NJ is going to do another advertising program in the later winter / early spring, which is a great plan.
According to our governor, NJ may petition HUD to be able to reallocate money that has not been used towards more popular, oversubscribed programs like RREM and HMGP. That is also a very good idea.
RREM– Great News! Large Change in Contractor Selection Rules: Yay!! There is no way I am crazy enough to think that my little bi-weekly literary masterpiece changed policy at the governmental level, but it is nice to know that I’m not just a nut preaching to an empty church. It is a good feeling when policy changes correctly, and for the better and it is always a pleasure being on the side of the angels.
The RREM rules have changed and you can now pick your own contractor to complete your project. This is an excellent (vital) improvement to the program and puts control of the process where it belongs – with the homeowner who knows their own situation best. At the RREM administrative level, someone realized that the process just wasn’t happening fast enough under the old rules and a rule change was needed.
You can still allow RREM to put your project out for bid, but now you have the choice. If you wish to interview and work with contractors you are comfortable with, you can now do so.
Time Frame & Delays – What’s Holding up your Job? :
Generally, indecision and confusion is delaying you in the beginning. The myriad soft issues that need to be addressed first are as time consuming as the actual construction work. Once you actually receive permits and start work, usually it’s poor planning on the part of your builder or contractor (or you, if you are managing the work yourself).
Reminder – based on an average 4-5 month time frame for a lift or renovation project, you should get your project started soon to be completely finished and able to enjoy spring & summer of 2014. It is usually 1-2 months before any physical work is done and about 2 months to complete the work, depending on the complexity of the job.
The 1-2 months are needed in any project for scheduling and obtaining surveys, soil borings, foundation analysis, and architectural & engineering design of piling or concrete foundation and entries. All the utilities must be disconnected and letters obtained from the utility companies. All of this occurs before you can get a building permit.
Once you start, however, it is all about good planning and coordination. Your job should be active each
day until it is complete. If it is not, and the delay is not weather related, someone dropped the ball somewhere on the critical path and you need to start asking questions and making some noise.
Examples: When the move or lift is complete, the surveyor should be there immediately staking the lot for pilings or the mason should start immediately adding block to the existing foundation.
Township inspections should be called that anticipate completion, to avoid 3-5 day delays during the process (really – just do this – it works).
Lumber for floor systems should be on site the day the foundation is completed (or the next day).
Hold down, strapping and sheathing inspections should be called for as soon as the house is placed back on the foundation and also so that it can be re-sided quickly.
Mechanical contractors should all be ready to go at the same time as soon as the house is lowered, since they can all work independently of each other. Entry stairs should be installed as soon as possible so anyone important can access the house.
This author is not a fan of general contracting your own job – we are called in regularly in the middle of jobs to fix them – nonetheless, the above serves as a decent outline.
Summary: Anal retentive qualities are key once the active part of the process starts. Each day counts in 2 or 3 ways – the devil is most definitely in the details.
RREM Plans – How do you find them?
As you probably already know, the RREM program will not authorize a house lift when the house is on a slab, and to my knowledge even the much discussed case by case exceptions have not happened in this case. If you qualified for RREM and want to use the $150,000, plan on choosing one of the approved house plans and paying any difference over and above the $150,000 from other sources.
There are 18 plans offered through the RREM program and most have been approved at this point. There are 3 elevation styles for each house, so there is some variety. Unfortunately, and as you might expect, to date you cannot access them directly on the RREM website. However, we have downloaded all the plans from some of the larger approved RREM contractors who have requested estimates from us for new homes. The files are too large to put up on the blog (each one averages 10 mb and is 24 – 30 pages), but If you email or call me, I will gladly fax you copies of plans that may suit you. Sizes range from 900 square feet to 2000 square feet and are both one and 2 stories. As I mentioned, each basic style offers 3 different elevations – Traditional, Victorian and Contemporary, with the floor plans remaining the same.
RREM Update: – The Hopeful:
The good news – many of the large national builders we’ve been working with, have been repeatedly requesting estimates for finished houses in quantity, which indicates that FEMA is about to really start releasing contracts in large volume (to try and make up for a completely sloooooooooow start). We will wait and see, with little confidence but hopeful optimism. Supposedly FEMA will be authorizing construction on new homes in lots of 50 homes at a time to the larger builders, which would be a definite step in the right direction. We will wind up building hundreds of these homes throughout the shore over the next few years – my background as a production builder is useful for this type of work.
Repeat – Good news: Homeowners affected by Sandy have been granted another 6 months to file a Sandy petition for any revised insurance claims, appeals or additional items you may have discovered after your first claim. This takes some of the pressure off from the October 29, 2013 deadline.
Repeat: Warning: HMGP Note: Before you get HMGP money, you will be required to sign a deed restriction in perpetuity (which lasts forever and stays with your title)) stating that flood insurance will always be required on the home. I wasn’t aware of this restriction and it is definitely worth noting since it could potentially affect both your future costs of ownership, as well as the sales potential of your home. Be warned and consult with an attorney if you have questions or concerns.
$50,000 Homebuyer Grant – Still open for application: For anyone of low or moderate income who is thinking about buying a home (or who needs a house for their college student or newly married child), the new $50,000 1st time homeowner grant is an amazing gift from NJ. If you earn 80% or less of the median income, you are eligible for this grant. A surprising number of households are in this category in NJ and the specific income guidelines vary by county. You will need a credit score of 620 and be willing to stay there for 5 years, but those conditions are not unreasonable. The $50,000 effectively comprises your down payment (for houses up to $250,000), so can effectively buy a house with no money down. Check it out now – this is a great deal.
For anyone who needs it, the FEMA hotline is 855 726 3946 go on their website at www.renewjerseystronger.org.
Hope this information helped you today. As always, if you have question, comments or just need some assistance, please don’t hesitate to email me or to call me directly at 732 300 5619.
Stay well NJ. Keep up!
Dream Homes, Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
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 Home Builder License # 045894 HIC License # 13VH07489000