New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog – 1-25-14 – RREM – Positive Movement & Design Fee Dilemma in Path B & C – Driving in the snow – HMGP Mystery – Where’s the Money, Honey? Seminar Schedule for February

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog – 1-25-14

RREM – Positive Movement & Design Fee Dilemma in Path B & C

Driving in the snow – HMGP Mystery – Where’s the Money, Honey?

Seminar Schedule for February & Great Link to RREM Plans!

Hello Sandsters –

I hope all is going well for you and you aren’t freezing your butt off too much. This weather has been wicked and unpleasant. For the record, I am in favor of global warming happening quite a bit more quickly around here…I think humans shouldn’t be subject to temps under 65 degrees and we’re already raising & elevating the whole damn Jersey shore, so let’s warm it up a bit…J

We’ve much to talk about today, so let’s get started. Sorry for the delay in posting…I would love to write 2-3 times a week since there is a ton of information to share but it’s just not happening right now. Site visits, estimates, consultation and actual construction are most important, although the blog is definitely a key for getting info out. Life is a balance. But there’ll be no pretense at brevity today. It’s not going to happen…J

As a note, if you’ve sent me an email with a question and have not received a response, please resend it to me. I have that nagging feeling several have gotten lost in my email swamp and I don’t want to miss any of your questions.

Word of caution about driving in snow with Anti-Lock Brakes – Most people know this, but it bears repeating. If you have anti-lock brakes (most cars do) and you start to slide, DO NOT pump your brakes. Press down on your brake pedal and hold it. That horrid sound you hear is the brake system working to stop the skid. Nothing is broken.

Great News for anyone reconstructing under the RREM program who wants to look at SUPER copies of plans and elevations – Right on the Interweb in the comfort of your home! As many of you know, we’ve had (not great) copies of many of the RREM plans on our website at www.dreamhomesltd.com Unfortunately we were asked to remove them from our site, which we promptly did, because we are team players and good little Eagle Scouts and were only trying to help our dear Sandsters…J HOWEVER – our approved RREM partners at Robert Wolfe Construction have a fantastic site showing all the plans and colored elevations for the RREM models!…click on http://www.robertwolfeinc.com/home-plans/nj-rrem-home-plans/ to see the entire line.

Save that link and send it to your neighbors who need it.

Upcoming Seminar Notes & Events:  Join us for a Rebuilding / RREM Seminar on February 27th, 6-8 pm at the Toms River branch of the Ocean County Library at 101 Washington Street. We will be in the Green Room which is a great space, but seating is limited to 30 people. Please respond if you would like to come. We will be hosting Baumgardner House Lifting as one of our speakers, along with Scott Lepley architect and Kathleen Dotoli, Esq. Refreshments will be served. Call me at 732 300 5619 or email to reserve your space. There will be time for questions and case review afterwards.

Sooooooooooo….where’s the HMGP Money, Honey? I heard over the last few weeks that some HMGP funding is being delayed, and no reason given. HMGP is (was?) one of the more efficient funding programs and it makes no sense to delay its implementation. If you have been approved for the HMGP grant and aren’t seeing any movement:

  1. Send in your signed building contract with your plans to both your case worker and insurance company (ICC funding from flood insurance) and ask them in writing when you can get started and how the funding will work. If you aren’t pushing, nothing will happen. Be nice but be persistent and keep copies of everything.
  2. Make sure the scope of work in the contract you send or deliver to them is for the minimum allowed by the state, which is all HMGP and ICC will pay for. That means elevating to ABFE +1 (advisory base flood plus 1 foot), with pressure treated stairs and platforms and all decks to remain in place. If you are choosing to do additional work, it should be listed in a separate contract with an additional scope of work, so you do not delay getting your plans and contract approved by the program and your insurance company. Neither the program nor the insurance companies will pay for upgrades. Remember to always keep copies of everything you submit.

(Readers who have been following all year know that we have repeatedly recommended to our clients to elevate the additional 2’ to BFE +3, which is currently the elevation at which you will pay the 2nd lowest insurance rates. BFE +4 is actually the lowest rate.

The additional cost to go up 2 extra feet will usually be paid off in 2-3 years of insurance savings. )

Definition: Remember Sandsters – Flood elevations stand for height above mean sea level, not height above the ground at your house or height above finished floor. Elevating your house 5’ to elevation 10 means your new finished floor height will be 10 feet above sea level, not 10’ above the ground.

HMGP is a reimbursement program so nothing is paid to you until you are complete your project. Your insurance company will usually distribute $15,000 to start and $15,000 on completion. If you cannot fund the construction yourself in the meantime, you need to communicate that information to your builder so he can accommodate your finance schedule. It’s not an insurmountable issue, but many smaller builders can’t work under terms like that and you definitely have to be clear.

HMGP is truly an important component of the rebuilding process for the simple reasons that it is limited in scope (elevation only on renovated properties), efficient in design and distribution and encompasses a great number of homes that can be done very quickly. From an economic standpoint, it has greater impact to complete a greater number of projects in a short time, than it does to focus solely on the complete rehabilitation and reconstruction projects. The RREM work is and will get done on its own time line – the HMGP program is solely in the hands of you as the homeowner and should and will move more quickly once it gets rolling.

The house lift and multiple move on Matilda Drive in the Coves section of Manahawkin is proceeding well amidst some really lovely 10 degree weather. The house should be reset on a new piling foundation within another week or so and if it snows again, we will erect a temporary igloo under the house for rest breaks.

We talked in the last blog about the design stage starting in many jobs which will lead to several dozen homes being started and under construction in the first quarter of this year. There are still (as always) delays and nightmare inducing paperwork shuffles and none of that helps either your mental state or your digestion. (Pretend you are working at a low-paying, thankless job which will end in a few months and it will seem a bit more manageable.)

But…like I’ve said, the snowball has finally started rolling down the mountain and will steadily become larger and stronger as it grows – just like the RREM program.

As much as this blog contains criticism, both the DCA and the RREM program and construction managers deserve solid praise for the following items:

  1. DCA & RREM willingness to rapidly respond to input and changing circumstances. From focus groups to conference calls, builders have been giving suggestions for efficiency and process improvement, and they are being heard and incorporated into policy.
  2. Realistic assessments and construction evaluations from the program managers and construction managers. We have been going out to houses and meeting with construction managers with building expertise and having pointed, accurate conversations about scopes of work. This is a world of improvement from the open bid system the program started with.

These are huge items that deserve mention. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong, as long as you constantly correct and adjust your course and move in the right direction. (pursuing a course you know to be incorrect while hoping for a different outcome is lunacy). A great amount of critical import from the builders in the program has been and is being heard, reviewed and changed for the better. In my experience, that is not common in life in general and exceedingly rare in government. The RREM managers and the DCA are focused on moving houses and diligently improving processes daily. That is great news for everyone up and down the shore and I am optimistic improvements will continue.

Ok, back to the BizarroWorld of confusing rules in the RREM program that make little or no sense and should (and inevitably will) be changed. Paraphrasing from the last blog,

“Unfortunately, design costs under Path B are not in addition to your grant amount, but are deducted from that amount. Fortunately, when working directly with your own contractor, design costs are usually less than what they are through the program. With Pathway C, your design costs are paid in addition to your grant amount. With many people this matters quite a bit.”

To put it simply, this policy makes no sense. Why wouldn’t the program pay for design costs with Path B when they are paying for them with Path C? Path B is quite a bit more economical to the state from a cast perspective and it is not at all fair that homeowners in Path B should pay all their own design costs. The work still has to be done under both Paths and it is reasonable that all homes under the RREM program should have this cost allowance built in to the contingency and design stage portion of the budget. This is an item that should be changed and hopefully will be in the near future.

Hope this helps. As always, call or write with any questions.

A Note to our Readers: Though I began and continue writing this blog primarily to try and help as many of the thousands of Sandsters affected by Sandy as possible, we are design builders and general contractors and are actively doing renovation and reconstruction projects up and down the state. People call and ask me so often if we actually do this work (which I always thought was pretty clear), that I thought I’d mention it in the blog. We work with private clients, as well as Path B and C in the RREM program. Feel free to call, text or email to set up an appointment for an estimate on your rebuilding project.

Stay well Sandsters.

Regards,

Vince

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Licensed NJ New Home Builder License# 045894

Licensed NJ Home Improvement Contractor License# 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://www.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: foxbuilder

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog – 1-17-14 – Invitation to a House Moving Tomorrow & RREM Updates

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog – 1-17-14

We’re Moving a House Tomorrow & RREM Updates

Hello Sandsters –

I hope all is going well with you in the New Year.

This is an official invitation to a House Moving tomorrow at 201 Matilda Drive in Manahawkin. There will be food and fun and festivities. Ok, there won’t be any of those things unless you bring them, but it will still be loads of fun…J

This blog will be brief, because I am a tired camper and have hours to go before I sleep. I’ve been up and down the state so much this week I feel like a NJ Transit bus. I’ve also been sending this blog (in my mind) all week, and it’s finally happening in real life.

In addition to doing RREM assignments up and down the state, we’re been lifting and moving a house this week and tomorrow is one of the days when we actually slide the house forward. Extremely cool. I will be getting some pictures up on the blog soon also.

Kudos go out to one of our favorite trade partners at Baumgardner House Lifting for doing outstanding work effecting quite a difficult job! Great job guys – I learn from you every time we work together.

House lifting is an interesting and amazing process in general and moving houses is even more so. If you’ve never seen it in person, join us in the morning for a house moving party at 201 Matilda Drive in the Coves section of Manahawkin around 9 am. If you pass a Wawa or Dunkin Donuts, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if you stopped in before you got there…J Just saying.

As I said earlier, RREM work is finally heating up and I have been going on a number of site visits over the last few weeks representing our RREM partners at Robert Wolfe Construction. Each house is different, complicated and interesting and the best part it all is we’re actually helping people get back in their homes and not just yapping about it. Work on the design stage of many jobs is starting immediately and several dozen homes will be under construction in the first quarter of this year.

The wheel is finally starting to turn. That’s great news for the Sandsters.

There have been a number of recent changes to RREM, and a number of things that have not canged but should (and inevitably will).

Several are worthy of note:

1. Pathway B work no longer needs to be bonded, which means lower overall costs to the homeowner and the program. That is an excellent situation which opens up the spectrum of work to a greater number of qualified contractors, as well as giving you more bang for your buck. In case you weren’t aware, bonding costs add an additional 3% – 6% to the cost of a project. I can’t quite figure out if the DCA realized that and changed accordingly or just got tired of the unnecessary additional paperwork, but either way it shaved a ton of money from costs which goes right to you as a homeowner.

2. Unfortunately, design costs under Path B are not in addition to your grant amount, but come out of the amount. Fortunately, when working directly with your own contractor, design costs are probably a third of what they are through the program. With Pathway C, your design costs are in addition to your grant amount. With some people this matters but with most it’s not really that significant.

3. You can still pick your own contractor under Path B, and ironically (or not) many people are picking RREM approved contractors as their contractor. This works out better for both the homeowner, the contractor and the program. The homeowner benefits due to increased speed in getting the work done and the program benefits because more RREM work is getting done. The contractor can spend more time on your home and less on process and paperwork.

4. Pathway C is proving to be a good choice for many people and I ultimately feel that half will choose B and half will choose C. It truly is a matter of personal taste. There is no wrong choice other than to do nothing.

5. You can switch from C to B if you become unhappy for any reason, although it is frowned upon and generally discouraged. You can also switch from B to C, but I’ve not heard of that happening as of yet.

Hope this helps. As always, call or write with any questions.

See you tomorrow morning. If you miss the first move tomorrow, we’ll be doing another on Monday.

Stay well Sandsters.

Regards,

Vince

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Licensed NJ New Home Builder License# 045894

Licensed NJ Home Improvement Contractor License# 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://www.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: foxbuilder

 

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog – 1-5-14 Tell Me Again Why We’re Lifting Our House – Part 2 – Flood Insurance Comment & Update

Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog – 1-5-14

Tell Me Again Why We’re Lifting Our House – Part 2 – Flood Insurance Comment & Update

Hello Sandsters and I hope your New Year is going well!

Before I get started, I am offering a sincere prayer for brevity. “Please God, I hope everyone reading this blog is healthy and that you allow me to be BRIEF today in my scribblings…Amen.” We’ll see how that works out Sandsters.

(My mother used to say I have diarrhea of the mouth (nice thought, right?) and my girlfriend tells me constantly that I talk too much. Unfortunately, I fear there may be a morsel of substance to these claims.)

Clarification from last week, from Scott Lepley, architect to the stars (and the Jersey Shore): “Reverse living” is actually living space on the second floor, as opposed to the first, and is designed to take advantage of the views. The way the term is commonly used by many people and the way I used it last week, is living space in the rear of the home facing the water. The correct definition is actually the former (which Scott pointed out to me), but I’ve found its most common understanding and usage at the shore is the latter definition. Use whichever definition you like.

Anyway, today I am focused like a laser beam on this item – details about insurance costs. I had a number of inquiries requesting insurance cost clarification so I will elaborate on that item today.

Quote from last week’s blog: “The second reason to lift your house is to keep your flood insurance affordable. If you are at base flood elevation now and stay there, 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.”

Here are the real numbers about flood insurance rates Sandsters. These are facts (not rhetoric or heresy) for your consideration.

Flood insurance costs are based on cost per hundred dollars of value, down to a minimum policy amount, which is generally about $800 per year. 

(Please note that value for insurance purposes is a somewhat ephemeral, nebulous concept. You must insure for at least the amount of your mortgage, regardless of how much your property is worth. Additionally, you are not permitted to arbitrarily choose the amount of your insurance, regardless of how much you owe. So if you owe $150,000 on your mortgage and the property is worth $300,000, you cannot decide to insure for $150,000. If you owe $300,000 and the property is worth $225,000, you cannot insure for $225,000. It is an unfortunate condition that we all must live with.)

To elaborate further, if your insured value is $250,000 and your insurance rate is $.74 per hundred, your yearly premium is $1,850.

Here are the approximate rates for various elevations of your home, relative to your advisory base flood elevation. Keep in mind that each policy is adjusted slightly for specific conditions such as storage and garage as well as structural and mechanical elements below base flood, but these numbers are close enough for good comparative analysis.

BFE -1:           $4.88 per hundred $ of value

BFE:                $2.68 per hundred $ of value

BFE +1:          $1.64 per hundred $ of value

BFE +2:          $ .74 per hundred $ of value

BFE +3:          $ .43 per hundred $ of value

BFE +4:          $ .37 per hundred $ of value

Remember: take the total value of your house, divide by 100 and multiply by the above costs. Example: A $200,000 house elevated to BFE +3, will pay about $860 per year. The same house at BFE-1 will pay $9,760 per year.

That is truly a material difference in cost which you must be aware of when rebuilding.

You have heard me say and write that we advise clients to go to BFE+3, despite the fact that the state minimum is BFE+1. That is because the benefit drastically outweighs the costs – that same $200,000 house is $3,280 per year, vs. $860 per year. You pay back the additional elevation cost within several years, and then save money indefinitely.

Conversely, the benefit of going to BFE+4, does not necessarily outweigh the cost of elevating an additional foot. $740 per year at BFE+4 vs. $860 at BFE+3, is not a significant difference.

When comparing different heights, please consider that if you do nothing your total costs over a 5 year period will be a sobering wake up call. If you don’t raise your house high enough, it is possible that you will be stuck with an unsustainable flood insurance premium, or worse yet, not be able to sell based on the extra costs to maintain your home.

Even though increases are phased in at a maximum 20% of existing premium per year over 5 years (as per the Biggert Waters Act of 2012), at the end of that time, the rate jumps to the market rate. So it is $1,000, $1,200, $1,440, $1,800, $2,250, $8,000. That’s no fun. If you don’t lift, you probably can’t afford to stay in NJ, at least not in your current home.

Hope this helps. As always, call or write with any questions.

Stay well Sandsters.

Regards,

Vince

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Licensed NJ New Home Builder License# 045894

Licensed NJ Home Improvement Contractor License# 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://www.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: foxbuilder

New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes New Year 2014 Blog – 1-1-14 Tell Me Again Why We’re Lifting Our House & RREM Updates and Commentary Path B & C & HOW Long is This Going to Take??

Dream Homes New Year 2014 Blog – 1-1-14

Tell Me Again Why We’re Lifting Our House?

RREM – Updates and Commentary – Path B & C – HOW Long is This Going to Take??

 

Hello Sandsters and Happy New Year!

I hope your holidays were wonderful and your New Year is healthy and prosperous.

Before I get started, thank you everyone for all the phone calls, emails and faxes thanking me for presenting rebuilding information in this format. It is great to hear that the blog and advice is helping many people and I hope to continue to be a useful resource in this multi-year process. I have heard from a number of people that this blog is the only resource for straight talk and accurate information and it makes me happy to be able to offer it to my fellow Sandsters.

With today’s blog, I am striving (once again) for brevity, since most folks need today to recoup from the holiday festivities and activity and probably have better things to do (nap, eat more, have a glass (or several) of wine), than to read about rebuilding.

(Author’s note upon final edit: 1/1/14 33rd failure to keep blog brief).

In addition to the regular RREM update, I thought I would remind everyone of the 2 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 and stay there, 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.

RREM continues to change and morph, literally on a daily basis. As I’ve said, manic behavior like this in the private sector would get you locked up, but all of us dealing with RREM are subject to the constant changes in RREM policy. As confusing as it is on a homeowner level, imagine being a builder and trying to actually get something built when the rules change daily. Everyone is frustrated and paranoid about constant and unknown changes. That unpleasant feeling has become the new normal and the only course open to you is to press on…remember Churchill, “When going through hell, keep going.”

Anyway, there’s plenty of time to rest when you’re not here on this earth any longer. In the meantime, keep pecking away at it one document and day at a time, and you will be successful getting your project done.

As a note, with RREM an underlying theme seems to be that the more certain you are of your path, or specific direction, the more likely you are to get your project started sooner. More on this below – see #3 & #3a.

RREM Facts (new, condensed and repeated) as of 1/1/14:

1. You can choose if you reconstruct or rebuild, regardless of what you may think or have been told. Each homeowner absolutely has the ultimate decision about this issue.

2. You can elevate or rebuild (rehab or recon) regardless of whether you are on a slab or a crawl.

2a. At your RREM meetings, get everything in writing and keep really good notes. If you ask a question and cannot get a straight answer (normal), submit the question in writing and request an answer in writing. This may be the most valuable thing I write here today.

3. You can choose Path B or C and you have some time after you sign the grant documents. In consideration of all the facts I continue to learn daily from RREM contractor focus groups, seminars, site inspections, estimates and bid deadlines, I’ve decided that this choice is much more about your personality than any other single factor. Some people needs guidance, supervision and structure. Some people crave less structure, and want more control over the process. It’s just personal preference. Either choice is valid and ultimately should be the one that works for you.

3a. Important: Path C is going to take quite a bit longer than Path B. I am hearing from many clients that the kind caring folks at RREM are telling homeowners “It will be at least 6 months before we assign a contractor to your house and you’ll just have to wait your turn.”

Damn, it pisses me off just writing that. I hate the lack of simple compassion and basic human courtesy and it is terrible listening to people actually cry in frustration while relaying this information to me. You really are just your RREM number to them and I am amazed more people don’t try and strangle their case workers. Go ahead and tell anyone in NY or NJ, “You’ll just have to wait!” and let me know how that works out for you. Make sure you’re a few feet away first though.

The good news is that with Path B, you can start immediately since you are not depending on anyone but yourself to move the process forward. You sign your documents, choose your builder, decide on a scope of work, present a contract to RREM for authorization and have at it. No one but you holds up the process. Finally you can achieve some blessed movement forward!!

Author’s note: 3 of our clients in the last 2 weeks converted from Path C to Path B upon hearing of the projected time to complete their jobs.

4. You can use your own plans to rebuild. If you have a plan that works for your lot, you (or your builder) can get it approved by RREM to use on your lot. Speak up or call me if you have a strong preference either way and cannot seem to get your point across to the brain surgeons who have been hired as RREM case workers.

Note: The RREM plans are very poorly designed for NJ and we have found thus far that in every single case of reconstruction, we have had to alter the plans to place the living space in the rear, facing the water (this is sometimes called reverse – living.)

If you are waterfront, insist on this change from your builder or directly from RREM – remember a huge reason you own a house at the shore is so you can see the water!! Utility rooms and secondary bedrooms should not be placed in this prime location. When you are cooking or eating or sitting in your living room, you should be able to see the water.

5. The program still needs much additional work to get prices to parity with the existing market. My opinion is that RREM has to cook for a little while longer until it becomes good soup. Scopes of work are just now starting to be defined correctly and the Reasonable Costs being dictated from HUD to RREM must rise to where builders can afford and are interested in doing the volume of work needed under the program.

It’s a Shame and a Little Known RREM Truth: The structure and restrictions of the RREM program itself add at least 15% to the price of any project, and the oversight and program management cost an additional 20% – 25%. The first cost you will see as part of your estimate – the second cost is being paid by all of us as taxpayers and is buried somewhere in the DCA budget for RREM, never to rear its ugly head for the scrutiny it deserves.

6. Good news – the open bid system has been abandoned and all RREM work is now being assigned to contractors and builders so things are finally starting to move. RREM contractors are getting projects assigned to them with an ECR (estimated cost of repair) and meet with the Program Manager and the homeowner at the house to discuss the project in detail and accurately define the scope of work. This is how it should be, since the homeowner knows their home best and should speak directly with the person doing their work for the best communication and results.

Repeated offer of help: If you need advice or comment prior to or after one of your RREM meetings, please call or email. I speak to dozens of people a week and sometimes a 10 minute conversation can answer a question that is really important to you. I’m happy to help – it helps everyone at the shore to work together and move things along.

Ben Franklin said, “We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”

In NJ, we’ve been working together for a year to try and rebuild the shore and we’ll continue to do so for many years in the future. What benefits one, benefits all of us. More knowledge is a powerful weapon in the fight to rebuild your home.

Stay well Sandsters and I wish you a fantastic 2014.

Regards,

Vince

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Licensed NJ New Home Builder License# 045894

Licensed NJ Home Improvement Contractor License# 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://www.dreamhomesltd.com

Twitter: foxbuilder