New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes / Atlantic Northeast Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog – 3-1-15 – Rebuilding Seminar 3/5/15 – RREM Payment Nightmare & Rental assistance extended – Working with Contractors in RREM – Path C Sadness – HVAC under the house – Winter Misery

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –


Hello Sandsters –

I hope this blog finds you and your families well.

It’s sunny and 75 here (in my dreams) and if you’re really fortunate, you’re somewhere warm and sunny in real life. I’ve had so many Sandster clients decamp for the south in the last 2 months that I’ve almost started to take it personally. If I had feelings I would be hurt. (I do have one Multi-Feeling I use for all purposes, but that doesn’t really count here.) For some odd reason, folks just get uncomfortable in 10 degree weather and would rather be in Lauderdale where it’s 77. Go figure.

We’ve all been getting hammered with the cold weather the last few weeks but working outside has been particularly lousy. We have freezing temperatures, slush, ice, snow and frozen ground. I’ve been making futile offerings and conducting prayer sessions to the Construction Gods to give up a footing inspection every now and then. We’re heat taping, torching, blanketing, pumping, salting and de-icing – and essentially achieving little except furious activity, broken tools and really unhappy team members. The glass is consistently murky, and only slightly full. When one is going through hell, one must keep going. Men are unhappy but are not permitted to quit on my watch (dying is ok – quitting isn’t), so many people currently dislike me. Such is life.

Warm weather update: Spring 2015 is occurring in 20 days and not a moment too soon. We have suffered enough with this winter. For more on that subject – see detail above and later in this blog.

Today we have some interesting RREM news, and a much needed extension of the Rental Assistance Program. We talk about considerations for HVAC duct work under your house, working with experienced RREM contractors who can handle awful RREM payment delays, the joy of winter construction, and an update on our Rebuilding Seminar this Thursday, March 5. It’s a pretty aggressive schedule, so maybe I’ll do a few bloglets today instead of a novel. Probably not though. Writing discipline is something I have not mastered as of yet.

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar schedule: We’ll be holding our (rescheduled) Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar in Toms River this Thursday March 5 at the Ocean County Library. (One of the few intelligent decisions I made this winter was to postpone the seminar 2 weeks ago, when it was 8 degrees at 6 pm.) It is on Washington Street from 6-9. We’ll have great speakers, including Evan Hill, PE, Kathy Dotoli, Esq., Scott Lepley, AIA. George Kasimos from Stop Fema Now will be there as well. As always, I’ll be moderating and providing general construction commentary and we’ll tell you how to design it, survey it, build it and protect it. We’ll be serving light refreshments. As a note, we’ll be upstairs in the Home Town Dairy room, as opposed to the Green Room where we normally hold court. Please drop me a note or give me a call if you plan on attending, so you don’t have to stand out in the hall and sneak in for cookies…JJ 732 300 5619 or

Tip: If you don’t want to miss any of my blogs, go the blog and “follow” it. Sometimes I don’t send email alerts when I blog but if you “follow” the blog you will get an email reminder when I scribble away. We’re also on Facebook if you want to Friend us or post a comment.

Here’s some great news from the State of NJ – an extension to the rental assistance program. The program opens on 3/16/15 and will pay up to $825 per month going forward. It is for 3 months and you can apply for one extension. You have to have a mortgage on your house being elevated and you must not have completed your project. Details are below.

As a note, thank you Governor for paying a bit of attention to us out here in SandyLand. Any crumbs of attention that you sprinkle upon us are truly appreciated while you are trying to get elected as our next President. Good luck with that. Here’s the link.

You can also go to for more info.

Stop Fema Now Association: We are now a proud sponsor of Stop Fema Now ( which is an outstanding organization trying to save and protect NJ Sandsters from FEMA misery. We think those folks are doing more to try and protect the interests of Sandsters than all the HUD and DCA committees combined. While we help people on an individual basis, they are trying to improve the system, which is a much more worthy pursuit. We’ve been trying for 2 ½ years to educate and assist people through their Sandy trials and SFN is an organization with whom we are in complete agreement. I had another great conversation recently with George Kasimos, the organization president, and again I was thankful for people who try and beard the proverbial tiger in his den. George and his organization are actually attempting to change policy to improve the situation for thousands of Sandsters and that is an effort we wholeheartedly support. If you want to get involved and either donate or volunteer your time to this worthy effort, please visit their web site, which is listed above in this paragraph.

Repeat – Elevation height – Make Sure you consider your HVAC duct below the house: This item is critically important and often overlooked by (almost all) engineers, architects and builders who haven’t done many lifts.

Simply put, determine what your township will allow as far as elevation of the HVAC duct in the crawl space. Some townships have no restriction, some are at minimum Base Flood to the bottom of the duct, some are at BF+1 to the bottom. See the last blog for much more detail on this item. From this point forward I will include this item in the Definitions section at the end of the blog.

Must repeat: “C” is for Catastrophe – I just have to reprint this from two blogs ago, along with a very sad letter from a fellow Sandster who has been completely abused by Path C.

In the “If you wanna get really annoyed” category, the latest RREM audit findings have concluded, among other aggravating tidbits, that 12 of the original Path C contractors were not properly vetted by the state of NJ and may have improprieties in their backgrounds!

Shocking news.

(Author’s Note: To all of you reading this who have chosen to convert or stay in Path C, remember that when one lies down with dogs, one must expect fleas. If you are stuck in Path C through no fault of your own and couldn’t choose Path B or convert, God be with you.)

(Author’s note #2: Believe it or not, there are still people that are switching out of Path B into Path C which is foolish in the extreme. Choose Path C over Path B be only if you are really masochistic.

Note: You are probably much better off trusting the potential level of your skill and attentive common sense than a government entities’ fairly certain non-interested incompetence.)

To any Sandsters trying to decide if making your own decisions about your rebuilding project and staying in Path B is the intelligent way to proceed, read this article and the email below from a fellow Sandster. Think long and hard about trusting someone the state inflicts upon you in the hopes that all will be jes’ peachy. Blaze your own trail – you’ll ultimately be happier.

Sad email: A partial email from a Path C Sandster: Vince…I am on Mystic Island in Ocean County and with Pathway C for about 2 years now. My wife and I now are selling out and have given up . The promises of funds and lies of RREM have come to an end. I have been following you for quite some time now and wanted to switch to B from C but were told, we could not change paths. (Author’s note: You can always change Paths if you insist long and hard enough.) 

In the 11th hour (Nov 2014) we were told we did not have enough money to fund our project. The contractors told us they couldn’t lift our home and it needed to be knock it down and one of their modular homes be put up. Homes are being lifted all around us. This was after we received an award letter from RREM to lift and finish our home in Dec. 2013. The estimate award was $128,000.  

I put approx. $30,000 into it after the flood from an (SBA loan) and there was $70,000 put into it 7 or 8 years ago 2 or 3 years before Sandy. If you drove past and walked around my property you would never know there was a flood. It’s in great shape. The contractors in Pathway C told us they would have to knock it down and build one of their homes on site and they assured me I had the funds for over a year “no problem” to do this. Over the holidays RREM ran out of money. Gap funds or reimbursement for the money I put in for repairs was depleted. When they asked if I wanted reimbursement almost 2 years ago, I said no. I wanted to make sure they knew we had good intentions. We wanted our home back and nothing more.

 We got the $150,000 grant award a year or so (Dec 2014) after the first award letter (Dec 2013). The only problem is the contractor wanted me to come up with $40,000 dollars more. We have been out of my house since Sandy. My health gave in- we gave up, and now we are about to sell for peanuts. The last thing I heard just last night, through an email by the contractor was “we could switch to pathway B”  After 2 years with RREM in pathway C which we were advised to take because of extra funds like the GAP fund and the trust that the state was selling, we tried to stick it out. We are now truly, victims of hurricane Sandy.  Please tell others don’t rely on these promises and take matters into your own hands. Time is just as important as money.”

To which I will simply add, “Time is much more valuable than money. Don’t waste one minute of your life on a pursuit (Path C) where the guidelines are completely unclear and subject to change.” Put in simple language, “If you don’t understand the rules of the game, don’t play.”

Which brings us to….Working with Experienced Contractors, Part 2 – (Important) Partial Repeat

We’ve said many times that it is vitally important that your contractor or builder have experience with actual elevation projects, as well as experience dealing with RREM paperwork and payment delays. The contractor who did your interior renovation after Sandy is probably not the person who should do your elevation project. That is not because they are not a good contractor. They might be a great contractor, but not familiar with elevation and RREM work. Ask specifically if they are familiar with RREM paperwork requirements as well as the delays in payment. You don’t want your contractor or builder to stop working because RREM is paying slowly and they can’t fund operations.

Repeat – Dismal, Sade Winter Weather Repeat – Part III – A nod to anyone working in this weather and a special thanks to all our guys:

We don’t like it, but we do it. Neither rain, nor snow, nor idiotic bureaucracy shall slow us down. We work 7 days a week when needed and in all kinds of crappy weather when we have to. Being out in the field gives one a great appreciation for how difficult working in harsh weather can be.

Otherwise, it’s the same old, same old unpleasant nonsense. It’s a mess and everyone feels the same – cold, annoyed and aggravated. Ground is frozen so you have to drill, jackhammer or use frost teeth on a machine just to break through the frost and dig. Getting footings inspected and poured (usually 2 separate days unless you’re really lucky) is an exercise in frustration involving ice, mud, slush and frozen pipe.

There is always darkness before the proverbial dawn, and we look forward to the sunlight of warmer times.

New development: Dream Homes Mobile Web Site is now Live!

You can now log onto from your mobile device and see a mobile site tailored to a smaller screen. Hopefully this is helpful to mobile Sandsters.

Design work and timing: Summer & Fall 2015. If you have your design work complete, you can just about be back in your house mid summer if you can file for permits in the next few weeks. If that’s your goal, call us (or someone else able to accommodate your schedule) so we can help you make that happen. If you aren’t quite ready to file, it is a great time to schedule for a September start to your project. We currently have a dozen Sandsters who we are starting in the fall – too much stress for them to get it done before summer and there are much cheaper rentals in the fall/winter at the shore.

Worst Town and Most Improved at the Shore, weekly update: I am taking a pass on this item this week. We’ve failed so many footing inspections everywhere that I think we are in the running for a new Guinness record. There is no professional courtesy in the winter and the chances of getting 2 consecutive winter days of dry weather above 25 are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Sometimes the inspector just sits in his car and laughs at us (4 guys standing there like idiots with pumps, salt, propane torches and thermal blankets). “Are you guys serious? There’s 3 inches of snow on the ground and I see you’re pumping icy water, thermal blanketing and sacrificing Abyssinian chickens….I really appreciate your efforts, but do you really think I am getting out of my car so I can break my ankle (and my ass) in a snow covered footing trench? Heeheehee. Try again next week boychik.” ‘Tis a sad, sad state of affairs, truly it is. LL We soldier on, unappreciated and severely unhappy.

Definitions & Important Considerations That Can Delay Your Project:

Lowest adjacent grade (LAG): This is an important elevation since the lowest point in your crawl space has to be even or above the LAG. That is important because even if you don’t want your crawl filled that much (so you have more storage space) you will not pass final zoning / final building if this condition is not met. LAG is defined as the lowest grade immediately next to your house. There can easily be a foot or more difference between one side and the other, or back to front, so if you wish to use the least amount of fill (maximizing room in the crawl) make sure you find the lowest adjacent elevation.

Elevation: Elevation refers to “height above sea level” and not the height above grade at the house or distance the house is being elevated. It’s easy to make a mistake with these descriptions and it causes much confusion. Example: If you are raising your home to elevation 11, your finished floor is 6 and your grade is 4.5, you are raising your house 5’ to elevation 11, or 6.5’ above grade. When you use the expression “elevating my home 5 feet” that means you are lifting it 5’ from where it is now. The expression “building or raising the home to elevation 11” refers to the height above sea level, not the distance you are lifting.

Survey: An exact depiction of what exists on your lot, from a top view.

Plot plan: A top view of what you are proposing to build, including new heights, stairs, entries, decks, etc.

They are not the same and you will need both for your project.

You Tube Link to a Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar: If you’ve missed our seminars and can’t easily attend, here is a link

It is not edited and is about 2 hours so feel free to fast forward and skip around to watch what you like and need to know.

Remember – if you have a specific question, send me an email or a text. Don’t wait for a seminar or a site visit to clarify a point. Whether or not you are Dream Homes/Atlantic Northeast Construction client or not, I’ll always try and help you or guide you in the right direction. If you’ve sent an email or left a voice mail and haven’t received a response, try and contact me again. I miss messages here and there.

Note to Sandsters: Though I write this blog to help as many Sandsters as possible, Dream Homes Ltd. and Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC are new home builders and general contractors who are actively renovating and reconstructing projects up and down the shore. We actually do all of the work that I talk about in the blog. We work with private clients and Path B clients in the RREM program. Call, text or email to set up an appointment for an estimate on your rebuilding project.

That’s all for today Sandsters. I hope it helps you move forward. As always, call or write with any questions.

Stay well.



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




Twitter: foxbuilder

4 thoughts on “Dream Homes / Atlantic Northeast Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog – 3-1-15 – Rebuilding Seminar 3/5/15 – RREM Payment Nightmare & Rental assistance extended – Working with Contractors in RREM – Path C Sadness – HVAC under the house – Winter Misery

  1. Just want to give you a BIG  THANK YOU!…last year your blog broke the news on the Pathway C back to B change. I was able to switch my Aunts project (we saw all the good ole boys from Mississippi) . She isn’t back yet but close. Thanks again Vince …Keep up the flow of information. You are helping a lot of people.

  2. You should discuss the fact that the RREM estimated prices for each line item on the ECR are not given to the homeowner or the contractor in Path B. So when the “paid invoices” are sent in to RREM and there is a gap in the actual contractor price vs. the RREM estimated cost the homeowner has to pay out of pocket, or give the excess back to RREM.

  3. Hi,
    I am in Pathway C and have been seeking guidance from OCLTRG. Sherry Kahn has advised me to stay in Pathway C and change contractors. The second contractor is proposing to do the job for less money than the first and OCLTRG says it will pay the difference between my grant amount and what is needed to complete the job. All of this is in the works and I haven’t had my step 8 meeting yet, so I am a nervous wreck about the whole thing, but still optimistic that I can work some thing out to get my little cottage up in the air.
    Maybe this is a possibility for your sad letter writers. They shouldn’t give up! Once they sell that grant money is lost forever and it will be almost impossible to sell their property.
    I tried to switch to pathway C and was told that I would get a significantly lower amount of money, and it won’t be enough to finish my project (I have three proposals that are for less than that amount, but since Sherry Kahn used to work for the DCA I am following her advice).
    I love the way you write, and really appreciate your blog. I hope to see you Thursday night in TR.

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