Dream Homes Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –
Hello Sandsters and Happy Sunday!
Today we tell you how to Avoid Being Ripped Off, remind you about filing for new FEMA claims, and touch on the latest contemplated RREM lunacy about performance bonds. We have some RREM news, with a link to an article in the Press. We talk about the next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar which is Thursday night June 25th at Tuscany House restaurant in Toms River, which should be interesting, since we’re adding some wine to our whines. We remind you again about material and labor shortages, and proper planning.
Once again, I’ll try and serve up Brevity in a Blog, since I think that helps Sandsters the most quickly and effectively. I’m also trying to keep to 3 topics and not go bouncing around on tangents. (Probability of failure:high)
It was also a rough month this week…it’s been 80 work hours and counting and no end in sight. There is an old Zen saying which goes “Chop wood, carry water.” My brother says, “Run longer, sleep less.” To which I add, “Don’t complain.”
Okay, here we go. Let’s roll. We’ve got houses to build, and Sandsters to protect from themselves – and others.
Some of the projects we’ve just completed.
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar – Getting Started – Thursday 6/25/15:
Our next Nearly Famous seminar will be held Thursday, June 25th at the Tuscany House restaurant in Toms River, across from the Ocean County mall on Hooper Avenue. The theme this time will be Getting Started, and we will focus on Sandsters that are early in the process, and have not completed design work, or chosen a builder or architect. (I’m finding that Rebuilding mimics life – starting things can be mind-numbingly difficult and actually pulling the trigger on their project is a main issue holding many Sandsters back.)
At this seminar, we’ll focus on working with people who need engineering or architectural design advice, RREM guidance at the initial stages, and information about choosing the right builder or contractor. I can comment and help people in the active stages of construction either online, through email, text, or phone, but the Sandsters that are just getting started are the people that most need a team of professionals answering specific questions in person.
We’ll start at 6 and be in the Fire Room, which is a really cool outside space. Our speakers will be Kathy Dotoli, Esq., and Scott Lepley or Jeff Barton, architects. I will moderate and discuss RREM and general construction issues at this seminar. George Kasimos from Stop FEMA Now may also speak regarding current FEMA news and to discuss the details about RREM reopening claims due to fraud.
It should be a great seminar in a relaxed environment and as always we’ll try and clear up rebuilding confusion. Soft drinks, beer, wine and pizza will be served and it should be interesting, and maybe some fun. If it works, we’ll have a new favorite place for our Nearly Famous seminars …J
In the meantime, send me an email or give me a call at 732 300 5619 and let me know your interest in attending. Space in the outside Fire Room is limited to about 30 or so people.
FEMA Insurance Scandal & Reopening Claims: Time is running out – Don’t leave money on the table
Letters have gone out to ALL policy holders who made a claim for Sandy damages. You have 60-90 days to respond initially after receiving your letter, if you want to reopen your claim. I had an exhaustive list of bullet points in the last blog, and encourage you to reread it if you haven’t already. Here is a decent article to view.
Paying for Work in Place and How to Avoid Being Ripped Off
I’ve gotten so many repeated requests about repeating this topic because Sandsters keep getting ripped off, that I am reposting a previous blog almost verbatim. It’s all about what you are paying for and when you are paying for it.
We’re hearing too many sad complaints from people and hearing too many stories about builders absconding with client’s money or not being able to finish projects because payments are tendered before work is complete. A few bad apples can ruin the whole barrel and it is my continuous personal crusade to root out and get rid of this type of person…no one needs it and it gives the profession a bad name and negative image.
Today’s post is not about the delays in RREM payment and the problems that may cause with your contractor if they cannot move forward until receiving payment, although that is a constantly recurring valid concern. Rather, this post is about how exactly you should tender funds, whether you’ve received them from RREM, insurance or ICC, or you are working with your own money. It’s about the protocol and the discipline of monitoring a project, as opposed to the details regarding where the money is coming from.
As a general rule, smart Sandsters pay for work in place and do not give (large) deposits on work to be done in the future (with certain limited exceptions).
I tell you three times, I tell you three times, I tell you three times.
Repeat that aloud every single day you are involved in funding an active project.
Like many rules, there is a vast amount of flexibility here. Common sense is essential in order to effectively protect your interests, and still keep your project moving forward.
Paying for work in place, that has been inspected by either/both you and the township inspector, is a generally accepted best practice in building and contracting since the beginning of recorded time.
(Note: In all commercial and professional residential construction (as opposed to smaller scale operations, which constitute about 85% of all residential construction work), and for the safest strictest payment behavior, lien waivers should be procured from your builder at each invoice or draw request so you can verify that all subcontractors and material suppliers have been paid on an ongoing basis. This item is required for RREM at the end of your project and is not generally something you should have to deal with throughout your residential project.)
In any case, if your builder is asking for deposits ahead of work in place, you should meet the following conditions or take the actions I list here.
- Specifically determine what these advance funds will be used for, before making any significant payment ahead of completed work.
2. Absolutely know and trust your builder, their work and their reputation.
3. Think carefully before you expend any amount greater than 10% of your project cost at any single time, for work not already in place.
4. Thou Shalt Not Rush and Maketh Decisions in Haste When It is Not Necessary.
5. Get at least one other qualified individual in your life to tell you (in writing, whether email, text or letter) that you should proceed. That person can be your spouse if they are capable of dispassionate analysis (and you are comfortable with the possibility of separation or divorce), your attorney, another builder you know, or an architect or engineer. If you cannot find someone qualified who will put their advice in writing, you are probably making a mistake in paying for something ahead of completion.
6. Definitely do not tender advance payment to out of state contractors. Your recourse is limited to actions you can take against their NJ subsidiaries. Specifically, avoid construction companies that fly in from Louisiana.
7. If all else fails, and you are still perplexed, do some legwork and check with the township, Better Business Bureau, and the Departments of Community Affairs and consumer fraud. Contractors who are consistently illegitimate do not last long in NJ. We’re a vocal bunch of Sandsters and spread bad news far and wide.
Chances are, if you follow these simple rules, you won’t make too grievous of an error. If you are in doubt and have no one else to consult, use me as your Phone – A – Friend and I will talk you away from the Paying Ahead Ledge.
However, as with any simple set of rules or protocols, there are many exceptions.
- When you sign your contract, you should expect to pay between 5% – 10% of the total project cost. We sign contracts with clients for $1000 if clients are waiting for money, but generally it’s $5000 – $15,000.
5%-10% is not unreasonable, because you have probably been working with your builder for a number of months and developed some type of relationship. There is a legitimate cost to starting design work, ordering and securing contractors and material, and gearing up and staging a project. If you are (inadvertently) dealing with someone who is unscrupulous and is going to steal $5,000 – $10,000, the chances are that with a little due diligence you can determine that before signing a contract.
- If your contractor or builder comes to you with a legitimate cash flow concern (“I’m sorry John, but I really have to wait for that first payment for the elevation before I spend another $40,000 on helical piles…I just don’t have the money to lay out…”) and you don’t want to delay your project, and you have a warm, fuzzy, comfortable feeling about the universe, you can go ahead and spend some money and keep moving along.
- If you do advance funds ahead of work, because you have satisfied some or all of the above conditions, you should try and tender payment to suppliers when material is delivered to the site. This is actually a very safe, acceptable method of monitoring your project, but very cumbersome and time consuming for you. There is nothing wrong with being on site when material is delivered and paying a supplier directly for it, with the amount being deducted from the total contract.
I can write volumes about proper payment protocols, but that’s enough for today Sandsters.
Finding and Working with Contractors – Beware Out of State companies! – Part IV – Repeat
In the last few blogs, I’ve written an excellent summary of items to consider when choosing a builder and if you haven’t read them, please go back and do so. To again stress an important point, I remind you that pricing will be between 25% – 40% higher when dealing out of state, or with very large contractor/builders. Of specific note is the concern when you are dealing with one of the original approved Path C contractors. They’ve spent the last 2 ½ years giving estimates for RREM Path C projects which are significantly higher than fair market pricing and they’re now finding it difficult to adjust their estimates to the market.
Recent comparisons for projects we have signed, with real numbers: Quoted: $282,000. Dream pricing: $209,000. Quoted: $143,000. Dream pricing: $103,000. Quoted: $128,000. Dream pricing: $88,000.
Be warned. Don’t go bigger than you need and don’t go looking for diamonds on a mountaintop when they’re in your backyard. Caveat emptor.
11 Tips for Good Communications with your Builder – Part II: If you missed this article in the last few blogs, go back to it and read it now. It’s really useful for effective communication and good to reread.
Much of it talks about being nice to others. Sometimes we forget – You get more with honey than you do with vinegar.
Reminder – Repeat: You should not separate the elevation or masonry portion of your project from your entire project scope. These are not items that you should direct yourself, nor will you be able to accurately monitor progress of your project or avoid the inevitable finger pointing if (when) events go awry. You definitely will not save money, though it may appear as if you will.
If you would like to build your own deck, do interior finish like painting, sheetrock and cabinets, or perform some other cosmetic, non-essential service, have at it and save some money. Avoid handling mechanical and structural aspects of your project yourself unless you are specifically qualified and have the time to devote to the effort.
Material and Labor Shortages – Welcome to the New Normal:
Sadly, we’ve all been dealing with material and labor shortages since the winter weather broke, and it will be like this for the foreseeable future.
There is no way around this concern, except to effect better planning and deal with someone who has the resources to bring to the table when material, subcontractors and labor are in short supply. We deal with several elevation, masonry and mechanical contractors in each field and have the flexibility to seek qualified alternates if our first choices are not available. This can save weeks over the life of a project.
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. If you “follow” the blog you will get an email reminder whenever I post. We’re also on Facebook if you want to Friend us or post a comment.
Stop FEMA Now Association: We’re now a proud sponsor of Stop Fema Now (www.stopfemanow.com) which is an excellent organization trying to save and protect NJ Sandsters (as well as other states) from FEMA tyranny. Those folks are doing more to try and protect the interests of Sandsters than all the HUD and DCA committees combined. 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.
Path C to Path B – Update & Multiple Repeat: A note 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, and your project could take 3 times as long.” Sandsters up and down the shore are still switching from Path C to B, so do not listen to anyone who tells you that you are unable to do so. Call / email me for assistance if you cannot get past this point with your program manager.
New development: Dream Homes Mobile Web Site is now Live!
You can now log onto www.dreamhomesltd.com 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: Fall 2015. You should be working now on your design scope and scheduling for a September / October start to your project. We currently have a dozen Sandster projects we are starting in the fall – all have either completed or are actively working on their design scope at this time so permits will be ready and plans can be made to secure alternate housing. Besides, 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, and 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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVI69KoM8DRXqoEblHd94xg
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.
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