Dream Homes Ltd. Rebuilding Blog – 3-23-14
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Speeding up disconnects & the permit process – RREM Changes to Path B – Construction tip – Quote from Winston Churchill – Dark Side of the RREM Moon – Seminar schedule – Scope of Work notes
Hello Sandsters and Happy Spring!
The good news is that spring is finally here…we hit 66 yesterday and the sun even peaked out. It’s so much more pleasant working outside in nicer weather.
Today we talk about some great ideas for speeding up your project (thanks Margaret!), some great changes to the RREM program that will help Path B Sandsters get started more quickly and give you the Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar schedule for April and May. As always, we dig up a little dirt and talk about the darker sides of the RREM experience.
Construction tip for the day: When you are adding fill to your crawlspace to bring it up to grade (remember – the FEMA codes require that the new flood vents be within 12” of both inside and outside grade) make sure that you prominently mark the sewer pipe location so you can reconnect the plumbing without digging up half the front of the crawlspace and/or half the front yard. No matter how careful you are, it is very easy to bury your sewer connection while you’re moving loads of new dirt in the crawl and this will cost you time and resources to uncover.
A sincere thank you to Super Helpful Sandster Margaret Quinn of Toms River, who taught me a new idea when I met with her last week, for speeding up your permit process. Currently the way demolition / elevation permits work in most townships is that all utility disconnect letters have to be submitted with the permit application in order for it to be accepted. This meant that Sandsters were calling for disconnects and out of their house for 2-3 weeks longer than necessary, before even submitting a permit. This has been a bone of contention with me since Sandy but all I ever did was complain and relegate myself to the fact that it was another misguided, time sucking policy in NJ that I had to deal with.
Not Margaret. She appeared before the town council in Toms River and actually had the policy amended. Really. Now in Toms River, you can submit a full permit package for review prior to submitting utility disconnection letters and your plans will be reviewed. It is not until you go to pick up your permit that you will need the letters, in order for the township to actually issue you the permit.
Outstanding process improvement Margaret and Thanks from all the Sandsters! If we saved 3 weeks x 35,000 rebuilding projects, that is a total of 105,000 weeks of unneeded delay in rebuilding. In each case, Sandsters are back in the house 3 weeks sooner, the township has a functioning property paying full taxes 3 weeks sooner, and another NJ resident is out busily stimulating the economy while living comfortably once again.
As a note, Margaret was one of the most organized people I have ever encountered and had 2 full RREM notebooks chronicling the program details and the never ending changes to policy since the program started. I was experiencing serious paper envy when I saw those notebooks and I immediately offered her a position as a consultant with Dream Homes. I think she may be pondering that offer ….:)
I am trying this technique in a number of other towns and will keep you posted as to which towns are receptive and which are firmly ensconced in the Dark Ages.
Positive saying for the day: From my man Winston Churchill, who is eminently quotable and performed above par during a very difficult time in history, “Some people dream of success, while others wake up and work hard at it.”
That’s a perfect Storm Sandy Rebuilding Mantra. Some people are actively pursuing their project and working on what they can while others are lamenting over the shortcomings of RREM, insurance companies, and their lives in general and focusing on all the reasons why it is better to complain & wait. Be in the first group. Get up, grab your sword and go out and face the world swinging.
On to RREM happenings – Some Great News for Path B Sandsters!
About 10 days ago, the DCA announced a change to the RREM program giving Path B homeowners the right to request up to 50% of their grant amount in an initial up front payment prior to work being started. The press release is at this link… http://www.state.nj.us/dca/news/news/2014/20140312.html
You may be getting a letter from RREM, but the summary is you can now get up to 50% of your grant in order to start design work and tender deposits to your builder. You can then request the balance of your grant in up to 2 additional draw requests.
This is a great change to the program and will help kick start a number of projects, especially if the homeowner has a very constrained budget and is limited to working with the RREM alone. Assuming you get the full $150,000 RREM grant, you can get $75,000 to get started, which will take you significantly into your project. You can do design, engineering & architectural, permitting, demolition if needed, foundation construction and make some meaningful progress towards starting elevation/rehabilitation or new construction.
Credit where credit is due – another positive change to RREM.
Negative RREM thought #1– the duplication of benefits exclusion is still being described and explained incorrectly by many people. If you are getting a full RREM grant of $150,000, and applying for ICC (increased cost of compliance benefits) of $30,000 and your project costs $200,000, there is no duplication of benefits. If it costs $160,000 and you get the $30,000 from ICC, you will have to return $20,000 to RREM (or alternatively take only $10,000 from ICC). Often the fine folks at RREM do not clearly explain this distinction.
Negative RREM thought #2 – Another misnomer and unclear distinction between Path B & C: While it is true that the Program will pay for design fees, overages and changes in Path C, what is not clearly stated is that you will have to come up with money for a 15% contingency fund ahead of time that is placed in escrow.
It’s almost like they’re saying to you, “Don’t worry, there won’t be any overages since we’re on top of this, but if there are, we have your contingency fund to draw against”.
I’m sorry – can you run that by me again? Is that the Bugs Bunny School of Estimating? I must have missed that class.
Next time I give a $150,000 estimate, I am going to request that my client put $22,500 in escrow in case I screw up, make a mistake or things don’t go strictly according to Hoyl. Sure – sounds like a sound idea. I’ll let you know just how that works out but I’m not hopeful. If someone said that to me (many contractors attempt to price like that) I would laugh and throw them out of the office.
Scope of Work Notes – Part II: In the last blog, we said that the more accurately you define the scope of work for your project and the more you know (or at least think you know) what you want to do, the more likely you are to choose RREM Path B, or give up the RREM grant entirely and build privately.As a modifier to that statement, you don’t have to know everything about the entire scope of work before you start anything. Many items evolve over time, either because you see things in the field or realize things you may have forgotten that you would really like to add.
There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a normal progression of events and 99% of the time your builder will treat you the same way he did when you originally signed the contract. If he or she was fair originally, they will be fair with changes. If your pricing was expensive at the outset, expect the same (or more expensive) pricing for change orders.
The point is you don’t need to wait until you have everything perfect in order to get started. If you do that you might never begin.
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar Schedule: Our next seminar is at the Egg Harbor township branch of the Atlantic County Library on April 24th from 5-8. We’ll host Andrew Baumgardner from Baumgardner House Lifting, Scott Lepley, architect, Kathleen Dotoli, attorney and Evan Hill PE from Dewberry Engineering. We will also have Steve Brasslett from Ivy First Hope Bank with some interesting financing ideas for you. We’ve had real success and great response bringing a professional team to our seminars and all the Sandsters who’ve attended have had really positive comments. I think I’m going to start making t-shirts…:)
Sandsters from AC, Brigantine, Margate, Ventnor and Egg Harbor Township have been asking for a while for a seminar in Atlantic County, and should plan on attending if possible. In May we’ll be in Shrewsbury in Monmouth County. Give me a call or an email if you would like to attend either one.
Remember – if you have a specific question, send me an email or a text. You don’t need to wait for a seminar or a site visit to clarify a point or two. The same goes for those of you under construction. Whether or not you are Dream Homes/Atlantic Northeast Construction client or not, I will always try and help you or guide you in the right direction.
Repeat: Again my congratulations to Sandsters who’ve gotten started! The greatest joy in life is to begin and you have done that. Any forward movement is excellent and if no one else is saying it to you, I will. Good for you for starting – you should be proud of yourself!
Repeat – Repeat: Question: “What should I do next to get started?”
Answer: Start work on your design stage. Survey, soil boring, foundation & architectural design, builder or contractor estimate. Whether you hire a Conductor (Builder) to guide your orchestra through the show, or do it yourself, or a combination of both, the time to act is now.
Either pick up the phone, call me and say “Let’s go!” and I will put everything in motion or start making calls yourself.
This bears repeating – unfortunate but true fact: In the majority of cases (90+ %), the design stage (surveying, soil boring and geotechnical analysis, foundation inspection and design, architectural design, utility disconnects and plan submission and approval) takes longer than the actual construction stage.
Reminder: if you’ve sent me email or left a voice mail and have not received a response within a day or so, please try and contact me again. I do miss messages here and there.
A Note to Sandsters: Though I began and continue to write this blog primarily to help as many Sandsters as possible, Dream Homes Ltd. is a design builder and general contractor and we are actively doing renovation and reconstruction projects up and down the shore. Yes we actually do all of the work that I talk about 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.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few items I wanted to cover, but I’m giving myself the hook and my Sandsters a break…J
Hope this helps. As always, call or write with any questions.
Stay well Sandsters.
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