New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog 11/23/13 – Fellow Sandsters – The Eagle Has Finally Landed!! RREM Site Inspections Scheduled! – RREM Plans Online

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog 11 – 23 – 13

The Eagle has Landed! The RREM Invitations to Bid are Out!

We’re Finally Doing Site Visits to Your House to bid on the work!

FEMA Secret Plans Revealed!! Real info – Report from the field – RREM Update & RREM House Plans

Part 1

11 – 23 -13

Hello fellow Sandsters –

Hopefully this post finds you and your family doing well. It occurred to me recently that Sandy has caused major changes for a large part of the NJ population, and will continue to do so for the next decade. People will be learning, interacting, helping, and working together to fix their homes and cities. I figure we should have our own name, sort of like a club. Sand People reminded me of something from Star Wars and Sandinistas was not good either. Sandsteronis sounds like some type of calzone and makes me want pizza. Thus the name Sandsters was born. Hope you like it.

I have so much to say lately, this should be a short book, but I’ll do it in a 4 or 5 (or 10 or 20) blogs, so we can all chew on it and digest it. I attended a DCA /RREM contractor’s meeting on Thursday 11/21/13 and picked up a ton of new information in addition to observations from the field. If I jump around a bit, Sandsters, please bear with me. (Author’s note: I swore to cut it off today at 2 pages and I am in my fourth right now. Brevity seemingly escapes me.)

Secret RREM Plans – Where are they?

Great News! I finally got the plans up on our website, which I have been promising for a month. I will also get them up on our blog, or at least post a link. Go to and click on Models and then List All Home Models and you will see the floor plans and elevations. More detail is below. This is seemingly secret information since for some reason FEMA / RREM doesn’t want to simply post the plans on their site. I don’t quite understand that, but it doesn’t really matter. My thought is that the Sandsters should have more than an hour in a FEMA center to decide on a new house plan.

HUGE News – RREM Update – Site Inspections / Bid Visits are Happening

Okay, big news, we’re finally out of the FEMA Black Hole and the RREM dam has sprung some sizable leaks, but in a very good way. People are finally seeing real contractors at their homes for Site inspections/Bid Meetings who are estimating the RREM scope of work that your inspector prepared for you. I’ve been on 25 bid meetings in the last 10 days (which is why I haven’t blogged) and 10 -15 each day are continuing to happen throughout the state.

This is such good news it can’t even be expressed and we shall just ponder this for a moment. We all deserve some great news – we’ve waited long enough.

The Answer (Finally!) to the $100,000 questions: When will my grant money be released so I can start rebuilding? When will I meet the builder you are assigning to me or when can I submit my builder’s estimate for approval?

Answer: As of about 10 days ago, the process has finally started and Site Inspection/ Bid Meetings have been scheduled up and down the state for the 519 people who have signed their grant documents.

Each day at 8 am, 10 am, noon, 2 pm and 4 pm, there are bid meetings being held in Little Egg, Toms River, Brick, Point, Union Beach and Manahawkin. There’s a bunch of frenzied activity happening up and down the shore.

So if you haven’t gotten your appointment yet, it’s coming shortly. You’ve waited this long, hang in there a little longer. Your wait is almost over.

Today’s Perspective – How Long has this Actually Taken?

As a comparative note, my RREM trade partner Robert Wolfe Construction is headquartered in Louisiana and they say that it took two and a half years after Katrina to actually start building. According to them, we are speeding along on the wings of angels. I have explained that there would be an armed uprising in NJ if the process ever took that long.

I always try and be fair and equitable and since I have taken many shots at our state government for delay and dissemble, I would like to throw a well deserved plug in at this point. In the deserved defense of our DCA (Department of Community Affairs), which administers the RREM program, the money was only finally released to NJ from HUD in May of 2013, so it is actually not a bad response time relative to other federal disaster programs like Katrina and Andrew. 6 months from getting the money to having builders meet with homeowners is essentially unheard of in cases such as this.

My cynically provincial views of the DCA obviously require updating – it turns out that we’re actually moving along pretty well, all things considered. Some of the delays have to do with federal requirements for lead, asbestos and environmental studies on every house, which are remnants of other programs. These are causing unnecessary delay, but I fear that no amount of blogging or complaining will change these requirements since they were born from negative experiences during Katrina and other disasters.

In the next blog, we can jump right back on the band wagon and complain about the myriad inefficiencies in the RREM program and the process, but for today we’ll stay with the sweetness and light routine and enjoy the moment.

Okay, subject switch. Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics about Slab Separations

You know how I have been saying RREM won’t authorize a Rehabilitation (lift and repair) if the house is on a slab? Well, I was wrong, again. Like a former colleague patiently explained to me many times over the years, “you didn’t actually give bad information Vince, the truth just changed.” Groan. I try hard to present accurate information, but it’s impossible when the rules change every day.

I have said before because I had been told by RREM and heard myself at previous contractor meetings- that the RREM program will not authorize a house lift when the house is on a slab, and until now the much discussed case by case exceptions have not happened. That’s not true anymore.

What Is Really Happening in the Field: I’ve gone on a number of Site Inspection/ Bid Meetings that were houses on slabs, which were stripped to the rafters, which RREM has approved to lift and rehabilitate.

?????????? The case by case exceptions are now happening, often without enough comparative analysis.

So are we lifting houses that are on slabs or not? Most times, if the house is more than 15 years old, it is not the correct choice to lift the slab house and renovate it, since the cost for a new comparable home is often $30,000 – $40,000 more than a complete reconstruction. Nevertheless, we are now lifting these homes.

Grrrrr. A number of clients I have are in this particular situation and I feel sorry for them. Many would choose to build new if given the choice.

More on this topic in a future posts, but since all homes under RREM are considered substantially damaged, you can influence the process one way or another if you press the issue. In other words, if you definitely want a reconstruction, or you definitely want your home raised and rehabilitated, make sure you speak up and say so. No one else will if you don’t and the decision will be made for you.

Gap Funding – New Grant Program – Extra $30,000

There is a relatively new $30,000 grant program, for people with an unmet financial need, whose costs to

rebuild exceed the $150,000 authorized under RREM. You must be registered and approved for RREM and then apply for this supplemental program. For more detail, go to the website at

RREM– Clarification in Contractor Selection Rules: Current Information:

As I have said, the RREM rules have changed recently and you can now pick your own contractor to complete your project.

You can still allow RREM to put your project out for bid (Pathway C), but now you have the choice. If you wish to interview and work with a contractor or builder you are comfortable with, you can now do so under Pathway B.

       More detail on this item in the next blog, but for now if you want to choose your own contractor, choose Pathway B when you are signing your grant documents. Your contractor must be licensed and insured in NJ and provide a payment bond, exactly the same as the RREM approved contractors, but does not have to be on the RREM approved Contractor list. You also get to manage your grant money and pay the contractor.

       If you want RREM to find a contractor for you, and manage the payments to your builder, choose Pathway C.

RREM Plans – How do you find them?

Great News! I finally got the plans up on our website, which I have been promising for a month. I will also get them up on our blog, or at least post a link. Go to and click on Models and then List All Home Models and you will see the floor plans and elevations.

Sizes range from 900 square feet to 2000 square feet, are both one and 2 stories and each basic style offers 3 different elevations – Traditional, Victorian and Colonial with the floor plans remaining the same. 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 know, to date you cannot access them directly on the RREM website (Why is that? Are they a secret?) but you can go to my website and view them.

      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. The original October 29, 2013 deadline has now been extended to the end of April 2014.

    Repeat: Warning: RREM & HMGP Note: Before you get RREM or HMGP money, as part of your grant documents, 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. This restriction 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.

      For anyone who needs it, the FEMA hotline is 855 726 3946 go on their website at

       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 Sandsters of 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

5 thoughts on “Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog 11/23/13 – Fellow Sandsters – The Eagle Has Finally Landed!! RREM Site Inspections Scheduled! – RREM Plans Online

  1. Have you heard about significant cost increase in Pilings and Girder systems? I am doing a modular home and have just received word that the price of this has increased dramatically. We are building to V specs, and going 13 feet above sea level. 8 feet of space to have adequate parking underneath.

    1. Hello Sue –

      Hope you are well and had a nice holiday.
      To my knowledge, there have not been dramatic increases in either pilings or the structural lumber used for girder systems.
      Certainly over the last year, there have been slight increases, primarily based on temporary shortages in supply but prices have been stable as of late.
      Unless you are changing from timber piles to helical or concrete piles, I would question any significant increase in the unit prices.
      If your piling plan or foundation engineering dictates more pilings than were originally specified, that is another issue. If the soil composition dictates either deeper placement, a greater number of piles or a larger diameter pile (12″ versus the standard 10″) these could be contributing factors.
      Ask your builder to detail which unit prices have increased and then make a few calls to verify this information.
      Hope this helps.



  2. This sight is extremely valuable as we go through this ever changing process. I appreciate all your time in providing this information.

    One question I want to bounce off you is I was told that if you recieved RREM funds you can add to your existing structure without increasing your original home footprint. My interpretation is that you would be able to add a dormer or second story with the funds as long as the first floor remained the same.

    Is this your understanding?

    1. Hello Dan and thanks for the feedback!
      I believe you would be able to add the 2nd floor renovation under additional costs in excess of the program.
      IE: Whatever they grant you, you could contribute the excess needed to rebuild/renovate/add the second floor.

      Hope that helps.



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