New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Dream Homes Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog – 3-21-15 – Rebuilding Seminar Update 3-26-15 – FEMA Insurance scandal – Working with Experienced Contractors – 11 tips for Dealing with your Builder – RREM News

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –


Hello Sandsters and Happy Spring!

In the last week, we’ve had National Pi Day, St. Paddy’s Day and today is the first full day of Spring!

Last Saturday (when I started writing this blog – only took me 6 days to finish it) was March 14, 2015, which is National Pi Day and reads as 31415, the first 5 digits of Pi. (You are very welcome for this bit of useless trivia to clutter up your brain.)

Yesterday, to close out the winter of our discontent, we had a snow storm and received another 6 inches. Today it is mostly gone, because most importantly, today is the FIRST DAY OF SPRING!! Not a moment too soon.

I hope this blog finds you and your families well.

Thank you God for some decent weather this last week. I think we’ve been more productive and gotten more done in the last week than in the last month. The glass is clearing up, and appears once again to be half full. Proof that perseverance wins more battles than any other technique. I just knew the winter would end eventually.

Today we have some interesting news about a huge FEMA insurance scandal which is rocking the Sandy affected area, a reminder about the extension of the Rental Assistance Program, finding and working with experienced RREM contractors who can handle RREM payment delays and complexities in elevation work, and a reminder about our Rebuilding Seminar this Thursday, March 26th. We’ll also give you 11 good ideas for solid communication practices with your builder and tell you how to avoid grief and mental anguish during your project.

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar schedule: We’ll be really holding our (twice rescheduled) Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar in Toms River on Thursday March 26th at 6 pm at the Ocean County Library. (This one has been postponed twice – once when it was 8 degrees at 6 pm and once when there was 8 inches of snow. Side note to Vince: Don’t schedule seminars in the evening in February.)

Anyway, it’s at 101 Washington Street from 6-9. We’ll have great speakers, including Kathy Dotoli, Esq. and Scott Lepley, AIA. George Kasimos from Stop Fema Now may stop by 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

Welcome to a number of new clients – Thanks for putting your trust in us!  I want to send out a thank you and warm welcome to a bunch of new clients…Frank & Ruth, Vince & Adele, Peter and Susan, Bob & Maryann, Phil and Diane, and Pat & Rob are just some of the clients we’ve started working with recently. It is a compliment to Dream Homes and Atlantic Northeast Construction that so many Sandsters have chosen to entrust us with their most valuable asset, and one we work very hard to be worthy of.

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.

FEMA Insurance Scandal: If you missed the last blog, please go back and read it. Another big thanks to Kathy Dotoli, Esquire for her substantial contribution to that blog. Thanks primarily to the bravery and integrity of one honest engineer, a wide spread fraud scandal has been uncovered, where several engineering and insurance companies were working together to defraud the public by disallowing over 96% of all Sandy structural claims. It is an amazing story and an inspiration to all of us.

In the meantime, the president and vice-president of FEMA have been unceremoniously tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. Not the most intelligent response considering that the heads of the engineering and insurance firms will probably face criminal actions, but someone had to be sacrificed on the altar of public discontent. This story is huge, and it is a travesty that it happened. The folks who orchestrated this scam should definitely spend time in a small 6 x 8 area for a long time. The amount of people who were harmed is incredible.

Thankfully, FEMA has agreed to reopen any or all of the 142,000 claims, based on whether benefits were denied you under the structural portion of your insurance policy. You can read more about it here.

If this is something that you feel might help you, you might want to file an appeal and reopen your claim.

Common sense note regarding RREM appeals: I have this conversation often with Sandsters. If the difference between your grant award and the cost from the builder you wish to use is minimal (usually under $10,000), you are probably better off not bothering with an appeal. If there is a substantial difference in the assumptions RREM made and the actual condition of your house (the most common item is different foundation assumptions), then an appeal is worthwhile.  Example: If RREM says you can elevate on existing block and your soil boring and geotechnical analysis dictate a deep foundation system (helical or timber), that is definitely an item worth appealing.

11 Tips for Good Communications with your Builder – Part 1:  I receive many calls about issues with other builders and contractors and many of them fall into the category of misunderstood or insufficient communication between Sandsters and their builders. Here are 11 tips to make the process and your relationship with your contractor less stressful.

  1. Do communicate via email as often as possible. It is effective, clear and serves as an excellent record of discussions.
  2. Do Not use texting excessively. Texting, like many other forms of communication created in the last decade, is often misused. Texting is for brief one or two line notes or reminders, not for long lists of changes and specifications. A good rule of thumb is if it goes longer than 140 characters (1 text message) you should probably call or put it in an email. Texting is very useful to share brief specific bits of information.
  3. Do realize and accept that you will have a relationship with your builder, often for a period of 6-9 months between planning, design and construction. It is not the same as hiring someone to clean your gutters.
  4. Do realize that your project will not go exactly as planned, since no construction project since the time of the Phoenicians ever has. Having a practical, reasonably relaxed attitude towards unforeseen events will help you retain sanity throughout the process. Not everything is a tragedy and very few things are an emergency. Rarely does anything occur in construction that necessitates you becoming stressed or anguished.
  5. Do Not call your builder 6 times during the day and expect them to stop work to discuss your latest idea or change item. You want them to be paying attention to working at their craft, not spending time on the phone. If you place a call to your builder’s cell phone during the hours of 8 am and 6 pm, it is not unreasonable to expect that they may be actually building something. Call the office and leave a message or send an email.
  6. Do expect a response within 24 hours, whether it is text, email or voice mail.
  7. Do keep changes to a minimum or accept that they will cause delay. It is common to discover changes you want during a project and these items should be communicated to your builder, ideally via email. However, excessive (daily) changes to the scope of work will cause everyone involved a lot of grief.
  8. Do Be Nice. The book “All I Ever Needed in Life I learned in Kindergarten” is a great resource. Since you will be working with whomever you choose for a fairly significant amount of time, it is a much better idea to be nice than to be mean, nasty, grouchy, unpleasant and negative. Treat people how you would like to be treated and require the same courtesy from your builder. We all know that one gets a lot more with honey than one does with vinegar, so act accordingly. Most importantly, ask yourself how you would like to be treated if circumstances were reversed.
  9. Do address issues quickly when they come up. Once again, issues will arise during construction that require discussion. Do talk them through, come to a solution and keep moving forward. Do not get consumed by any single item to the detriment of the entire process.
  10. Do realize that you are paying your builder or contractor for a finished product and not a day to day tutorial on how to elevate a home. Do not expect your builder to condense 20 years of experience into bullet points for constant daily explanations of construction process. Do expect a schedule and time line, updated as needed.
  11. Do realize that every project is a give and take process. Being flexible and accepting changes as they come will allow you to keep your sanity and not be in a small rubber room making baskets at the end of your project.

News from NJ – repeat – an extension to the rental assistance program. See the previous blog for more detail, but here’s the link.

Stop Fema Now Association: We’re now a proud sponsor of Stop Fema Now ( which is an excellent 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 bases, 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 once again I was thankful for people who try and beard the proverbial tiger in its 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 and update from the latest “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! That is really shocking news. (the link is in the last blog). What is even more interesting is that 9 of these contractors are from out of state. Be careful.

A reminder to Sandsters still considering Path C, “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.” As we’ve said, you are much better off trusting the potential level of your skill and attentive common sense than a government entities’ fairly certain non-interested incompetence.

Finding and Working with Experienced Contractors – Part II

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 on your house. You also don’t want them to stop because an issue comes up (which it inevitably will) and they don’t know how to deal with it.

Tip: Find a builder you trust, who has significant elevation experience (at least a dozen completed elevation projects), who you can vet sufficiently (references, other projects, local offices, active jobs) rather than use a big name you don’t know or an out of state company. Competence, continuity in business, reputation and company history are very important. Size should not necessarily be the only deciding factor – good builders and contractors come in all shapes and sizes (although your choice should be large enough to have sufficient experience with home elevations or new construction).

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 and you hurry, 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 so we can help you make that happen. If you aren’t quite ready to file or are just starting your design scope, 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 – it’s too much stress for them to get it done before summer and there are much cheaper rentals in the fall/winter at the shore.

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.

HVAC Elevation height in crawl space: This must be considered when planning your lift. This is the elevation of the lowest duct, furnace or air handler in your crawl space. Most townships require a minimum elevation of base flood, some townships have no restriction, some are at minimum BF+1 to the bottom.

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. Messages are lost occasionally.

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

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