New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Happy 4th! – Testimonial to the USA – RREM Rebuilding Seminar 7/13 – Foundation Ideas -“Last Look”

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –


Testimonial to the USA – We’re Great & Getting Better!

 Foundations – Caution Bankrupt Companies – Rebuilding Seminar & Giveaways – Last Look & Working with your Favorite Contractor

Hello Sandsters and Happy 4th of July!

Hopefully your 4th of July weekend is going well and you’re enjoying your summer so far.

In honor of the 4th, we have a testimonial to the USA to remind us that things aren’t so bad and actually a bit better than we may think. We have some bankruptcy cautions you should be aware of, and cautions about having multiple contractors work on your home at the same time. We have some foundation design ideas and options, and we once again talk about the concept of “Last Look” when you are getting estimates for your project. We talk about cheap money and foolish behavior and stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. Finally we mention our next Rebuilding seminar – which is Wednesday July 13th at 6 pm at Tuscan Bistro & Bar in Toms River. This one is going to be great so if you haven’t reserved a space, call today.

July Dream Homes Events:

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar –Wednesday July 13th – 6 PM – Tuscan Bistro in Toms River.

This seminar is going to be great – don’t miss it. We’re also giving away a Klein Tool Bag & a $50 Home Depot Gift Card to 2 lucky Sandsters.

Our next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar will be held Wednesday July 13th, 2016 from 6 pm at the Tuscan Bar and Grill on Hooper Avenue in Toms River, across from the Ocean County Mall. Once again, we’ll focus on Sandsters that are early in the process, and have not completed design work, or chosen a builder or architect. We offer engineering & architectural design advice, RREM guidance at the initial stages, and help with choosing the right builder or contractor. Please call to reserve a space if you would like to attend since refreshments will be served and space is limited.

Rich McGowan from Prospect Mortgage will talk about financing options with the SBA to help bridge the gap from your RREM and ICC funding. Kathy Dotoli, who is a worker’s compensation lawyer in Toms River, will also give her excellent presentation on precautions to take to ensure a smooth relationship with your contractor. We’ll have one of our architects or engineers speaking, though we’re not sure exactly which one. This is a great chance to meet our professional team, and there’ll be plenty of time for discussion about your project so bring your info (or send it to us ahead of time) and get some questions answered.

America is Good – and getting Better!

This was an article in the January 24, 2016 Sunday Star Ledger, that I thought was so good that I’ve been carrying it around for 5 months, with the intention of putting it in a blog. Like many other things, I get there eventually…today is a perfect day to summarize this inspiring piece. I hope you enjoy my summary, but please go online and find the full article. It was written by Michael Grunwald and was in the Politico section of that week’s paper. Much of Mr. Grunwald’s article was so well written that I quoted directly and didn’t add a single note.

Entitled “Ignore the Haters. America is great and getting greater” and starts with a recap of the miasmic, bizarre presidential primary race and how 25% of the public believe the US is headed in the wrong direction. As is the case often in life, and with many other loud unpleasant stimuli, we should ignore the noise and focus on the substance.

Unemployment is down to 5%, from a high of 10% in 2011. Private sector jobs have grown for 72 consecutive months, making this period the best for job creation in the 21st century.

The housing market rebounded.

Growth is modest but steady. Inflation is low. Interest rates are low. Corporate profits are at an all time high.

Most importantly, all the doomsday scenarios have failed to materialize – double dip recession, runaway inflation, runaway interest rates, out of control energy prices, a health insurance death spiral, and a run-on or failure of the dollar. None of these things have occurred.

Gas is $2 a gallon. The federal deficit is down to $500 billion from $1.4 trillion.

Crime in big cities actually dropped an additional 5% in 2015. The teen birth rate is down 60% since 1990 and that’s not due solely to abortions, which have fallen by 33%.

We’re importing significantly less oil from our peaceful gun-toting Arab friends, which is a wonderful thing. Wind generation is up 300% and solar generation is up 2500% since 2008 (remember – these usage numbers were very low to begin with, but still….)

The financial markets are much safer. Banks have more capital on hand and have begun responsibly lending again. The number of undocumented immigrants crossing our borders has been stable for 5 years.

Though we have had tragedy, only 85 Americans have been killed by terrorists or jihadists since 2001, ,which is significantly less than lightening, toddlers with guns, or any disease you have ever heard of.

It’s generally an exciting time to be a human being. We’re living longer, there’s less war, less infant mortality, less abject poverty. We carry phones in our pockets that are more powerful than supercomputers of 2 decades ago through which we can access the accumulated world knowledge 24/7.

There’s still no better place to live than the United States – we have the most dynamic economy, the most powerful military and one of the highest overall qualities of life anywhere on the planet.

The point is not that things are perfect, because they are never that. The point is that things are better than they have been and will hopefully continue getting even better in the future.

Happy 4th of July to everyone…thank God we live in the United States of America.

Foundation Thoughts:

This is one of the most important (and complicated) topics in rebuilding and one we don’t spend enough time discussing. When you are trying to decide on the best method, there are numerous options as well as varied cost differences.

Without discussing the entire range of options (which is a book in and of itself) I’d like to bring your attention to one design concept which can save you money and help you with some of your exterior finish decisions.

Instead of running a complete concrete block foundation up from your existing block or your new footing, consider partial or full wood framing for your above ground foundation system.

Though it is not a traditional concrete block foundation, wood framing affords different options for interior as well as exterior finished. It also weighs significantly less than concrete block, which may be the difference between constructing a completely new foundation and adding on to existing block.

Wood frame construction for your foundation walls costs less than block (15% – 20%) but must be finished on the exterior in some manner. Concrete block is usually parged with 2 coats of mortar and is in itself a finished surface.

On the other hand, frame walls need either cement board as an exterior sheathing material, need siding extended down from existing siding, or need to have some other wall treatment such as cultured stone.

Summary and take – awayFoundation choices: Frame construction above grade is a good alternative to using only concrete block, and has advantages in weight, but to get a true financial and practical picture of your foundation choice, you have to consider both the inside and outside finishes you will want to use

Repeat – Partial: Money’s So Cheap Now, It’s Almost Criminal to Wait to Improve Your Real Estate….

It’s always a cost/benefit calculation at the heart of it.

Money’s cheap right now so the smart money invests in capital assets, which appreciate when interest rates rise.

Interest rates are definitely going to rise in the short term, although probably very little and very moderately.

I wrote about this more extensively in the last blog, so please review that if you are trying to figure out what you should spend money on in your project.

A new thought for the Sandsters out there that are thinking of not taking grant money (whether ICC, RREM, LMI, or LRRP) because you cannot improve to a greater extent than what you started with.

This is an extremely short sighted way of thinking.

ICC claims have to be made by October of next year, or you miss the opportunity to claim the $30,000 you are entitled to. Silly behavior to not accept money for an activity you will have to do at some point.

RREM grants are FREE Money. Ignore the grant at your own peril. If you do nothing, you will be penalized when you go to sell or refinance. If you get any RREM money, it is better than not accepting it and doing nothing. If you can’t get that great new deck or the new kitchen you want right now, remember that grant money is meant to put you back where you were before, not turn a $200,000 beach bungalow into a $500,000 shore house.

If you want to improve over and above the grant money you are receiving, you will have to spend some of your own money. See above and the last blog – at 4%, borrowing money for capital improvements is the best choice you can make for your real assets.

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog – Reader Survey: Do you have any specific topics you would like covered in the Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog that I haven’t mentioned? Send me an email or give me a call and I’ll try to include them in one of the upcoming bogs. Construction science is a pretty varied field and there is always something new, whether it is a method, a material or a design technique. Let me hear your questions, especially if it’s an item I haven’t written about.

Delays – 2 Reasons that cause the Biggest Delays & Biggest Issues:

Excessive change orders and lack of, or slow, payment are the most common causes for project delay.

If you don’t have money on hand to fund your project and are depending on RREM, it’s really important that you keep on your RREM Program Manager about the progress of your payment requests. If you don’t say anything, disbursements take much longer and this can translate to delays in paying your builder, which could slow your project.

See the June 5th blog for more detail.



They are still in operation while reorganizing.


Definition: You can lose your deposit, or money invested if the federal bankruptcy trustee deems the contract invalid for any reason.

Again, in the “I can’t believe these people are not in jail” category, a HOUSE LIFTER at the SHORE (READ BETWEEN THE LINES HERE SANDSTERS) who is a very popular (read: cheap) elevation company, which I have been writing about forever, chose the inventive path of declaring personal (instead of corporate) bankruptcy. They are screwing their clients throughout NJ – I just signed another client last week who instituted suit for lack of performance.


BE CAREFUL Sandsters. Make sure the people you are dealing with are representing solid, real companies.

Finding the Right Builder…Repeat – And the Really Interesting Last Look Method that works!

I’ve written about this several times in the past, but it bears repeating.

Focus on finding someone you like and trust to manage your project. Then get them to your budget number.

It makes a lot of sense to do business with someone you like and are comfortable with.

They don’t have to be the biggest, or the one your friends all like, or have an office around the corner, or be someone who did your deck 8 years ago, but they should be someone you can talk to. Understand and trust.

Last Look or If you don’t ask, you’ll get no where: If you are making a final decision and are between 2 builders that you like, where one is slightly more expensive but you like them much more and one is cheaper but you have concerns over him,

Ask the builder or contractor you like and want to use to meet your proposed budget number or the other estimate.

I recommend this particular technique for discussion because it is easier for you. There is less detail and discussion about particular pricing and ultimately you don’t really want or need to know all the whys and why nots and details of a particular estimate.

If your first choice can meet the price you need or at least the other valid estimate from another contractor, that’s good enough for you.

Anyway, you have nothing to lose by asking.

That being said, your choice should also:

1) Have an office that you can visit

2) Has been in business for long enough time to have learned how to do what you are contracting for

3) Have completed numerous projects similar to yours

4) Have current insurance and licensing and

5) Not be asking you for a huge non-refundable deposit up front.

This category, as well as worker’s compensation and social security disability, is something Kathy Dotoli, who is an attorney in Toms River, covers in depth at our Rebuilding seminar. Feel free to call her directly at 732 228 7534 for further discussion.

Signing Blind Contracts

If a builder or contracting is asking you to sign a contract with a non-refundable deposit, without plans or a defined scope of work, be careful. If an estimate is based on a set of assumptions which turn out to be inaccurate, you should have the right to cancel the contract and have the unused balance of your deposit returned to you.

Further detail in past blogs.

Repeat: Good Advice – Contractor’s Corner

– Tips and Warnings about Speaking Directly to Workers and Sub-Contractors on Your Project:

Short version – DON’T DO THIS! Maintain one field point of contact on your project – either the project manager or the owner – and one point of contact in the office.

If you are a couple, one of you can deal with the finance issues with the builder’s bookkeeper and the other can deal with construction issues with the site super or builder. There is nothing wrong with this concept as long as there is one point of contact on your side and one on your builders for both the construction as well as the financial category.

Repeat: Does Anyone (Carpenters, laborers, helpers, contractors) Really Want to Work Rebuilding New Jersey? Atlantic Northeast Construction is running 6 RREM crews for elevation work and 3 crews for new home construction and we’re constantly hiring (and firing!!) at least 2 new people a week. We’re one of the best builders out there (we pay promptly and are very honest) and always have room on our team for the right people, but good people are 1 in 10 at best. If you are competent and positive and looking for work or know someone who is, give them my email or phone number and have them call me.

Note: If you are looking for a part time job for which you will not show up, DON’T CALL US.


New Townhome Announcements: Some great news for Sandsters on the new home front – we’re planning an 88 unit town home waterfront community locally which will open at the end of 2017 and be very affordably priced.

Facebook: Please visit us and like us on Facebook! I am a social media illiterate but thankfully there are some great people on the Dream Team that are Facebook addicts and will communicate with you on Facebook 25 hours a day…

Dream Homes – New satellite office – 2818 Bridge Avenue in Point Pleasant:

Dream Homes has been so busy in the Point, Brick, Manasquan area in the last year that we recently opened a branch office for client service, sales and construction at 2818 Bridge Avenue in Point Pleasant. You are welcome to bring your surveys, plans and paperwork to that location if it’s easier than scanning, faxing or bringing documents to our main office on Rt. 9 in Forked River. Please call us for hours if you want to visit this location.

Contingency funds vs. Design scope funding:

I’ve written and spoken extensively about this item but Sandsters are continually confused about it, so I’ve started to include it below in the glossary of definitions which is a part of each blog. See below for more information.

Tip – Follow the Nearly Famous Blog: If you don’t want to miss any of my blogs, go the blog and “follow” it directly. Some times 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 a proud sponsor of Stop Fema Now which is an excellent organization trying to save and protect NJ Sandsters (as well as other states) from FEMA tyranny. To get involved and either donate or volunteer your time to this worthy effort, please visit their web site, which is

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.

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. The numbers on your Flood Elevation Certificate indicate how high in vertical feet your crawl, finished floor and grade are above sea level at the ocean beach. 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.

Footprint: A building “footprint” is defined as the disturbed area of the lowest level including the garage.

Ex: a 1200 square foot ranch with a 240 square foot deck has a footprint of 1440 square feet.

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.

Design scope: These costs are defined as architectural and engineering fees, all survey costs (survey, plot plan, foundation as built, flood elevation certificate and final survey), soil boring & geotechnical costs, cribbing diagrams, permit fees, soil conservation design, and wind load calculations.

Please note – you do not get $15,000 in cash to spend on your design scope. You get up to $15,000, depending on what your actual costs are. So if your design costs are $9,200 you get $9,200. If they are $14,000, you get $14,000. If they are $16,600, you get $15,000. The balance of any remaining money in the $15,000 design scope budget does not go back into your grant and you don’t get to keep the extra cash.

If you signed your grant prior to October 1, 2014, you are not eligible for the extra $15,000 in design scope funding. Note: I have seen a number of clients kick, scream & please enough to have the $15,000 added to their grant, even though they had signed before 10/1/14, but that is not the policy.

Contingency costs: This item is part of your grant package and is designed to provide for unforeseen events or conditions that must be corrected in order to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) and finish your project.

These are not mistakes, omissions or errors on your part, your builder’s part or the design professional that did the plans. Rather they are items that are not knowable or evident in the actual structure until it is elevated, or the result of one of the shore townships deciding arbitrarily to change, invent or augment the existing building code. These items include (but are definitely not limited to) rotten or termite infested sheathing, wall studs or sill plates, twisted, broken or rotten girders, site conditions or changes needed to comply with current codes which were not in place when the house is built, upgrades to water pits or valves required by the MUA, installation of hard wired smoke & CO2 detectors, installation of condensate lines to the exterior from the dryer, and about 50 other items that we’ve encountered. These items should be itemized by your builder in a separate sheet and submitted to RREM. 95% of the time you will be reimbursed.

There is not a monetary limit to this contingency, although it is generally 5% – 10% of the grant amount.

The contingency does not come out of your grant award.

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 Sandsters, 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 elevate & move homes, demolish and build new homes, and develop and build new neighborhoods. In the past 23 years, we’ve having completed over 1500 new homes, 125 elevation projects and 500,000 square feet of commercial buildings. We work with private clients as well as Path B clients in the RREM program. Call, text or email to set up an appointment for a free 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.

Good luck and good building!



Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

New Home Builder #045894

Home Improvement Contractor #13VH07489000

PO Box 627

Forked River, NJ 08731

Office: 609 693 8881 F: 609 693 3802

Cell: 732 300 5619




Twitter: #foxbuilder