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.
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