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Dream Homes – Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog – 11-6-16 – Election 2016 – Rebuilding Seminar 11/16 – RREM & FEMA Fraud – Time out Of House (& Mind)

Dream Homes Ltd.

Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –


Election 2016 – Sandsters are proud to be called Sandsters – RREM is putting Builders Out of Business and causing Homeowners Heartache – Time out of House – November 16th Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar – Getting Accurate Estimates & Courtesy – RREM Fraud Update – Contractors & Homeowners

Hello Sandsters –

I hope this blog finds you all well and healthy. It’s been a while since the last real blog, although my open letter to Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno was posted and sent out a couple of weeks ago. Strangely, no one called me to discuss any of my ideas.

Today, we have a bunch of new items for you, but primarily discuss the election and getting out to vote. We mention the term Sandsters – and what it means to people. We outline average times for plans, permits and project completion. We talk again about how RREM (and dishonest home owners) are putting small contractors out of business. We welcome 6 new clients, 3 more of which are unfortunately victims of bad contractors. We repeat warnings about committing RREM fraud – on both sides – homeowner and contractor. Finally, we mention our next Rebuilding seminar – which is this Wednesday November 16th at 6 pm at Tuscan Bistro & Bar in Toms River.

Note to Sandsters – and those who dislike the term “Sandsters”

I invented the term Sandsters to describe a group of 25,000 – 30,000 people who were affected by Sandy. It was meant to create a feeling of solidarity and offer the knowledge that there were other people in the same boat.

It is not meant to be disrespectful or demeaning.

Most Sandsters like it. A very few people don’t like it.

To those few who are hung up on a term and have time to read a negative meaning into the term, get over yourselves.

I’m proud to be a Sandster and I’ve met a ton of great people in the last 4 years who are all rising above the aggravation, loss and inconvenience of being flooded out of their homes. Most of these people love knowing there is a group of people trying to achieve the same goals.

It’s been great knowing and working with all of you, Sandsters. I hope I can continue helping Sandsters for many years to come.

November (11/16/16) Dream Homes Event & Last Seminar Review:

Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar – Wednesday November 16th – 6 PM – Tuscan Bistro in Toms River.   This seminar has been running for 3 ½ years and counting…

Our next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar will be held Wednesday November 16th, 2016 from 6 pm at the Tuscan Bar and Grill on Hooper Avenue in Toms River, across from the Ocean County Mall. Remember we focus on and are only accepting reservations from Sandsters that are early in the process, and have not completed design work, or chosen a builder or architect, and need guidance and direction. 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.

Note: We are only accepting 15 reservations for the 11/16 seminar, since we’ve discovered that is the ideal number of people for us to offer the best advice and counsel. If you want to come, reserve your space early.

Once again, our trade partners and professionals will be speaking. Our project manager Tim Tennis in the north region will be speaking and answering specific questions about your project. Tim Ferguson from Hale Built House Lifting will be available for questions about elevating and moving houses. 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 Dan Wheaton speaking, who is an architect we work with. I’ll be moderating and answering your general questions about the rebuilding process and construction in general. 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.

Election 2016 – Get out and Vote – Give up and Move out!

It’s safe to say that this election has more people disgusted with the antics of our 2 main candidates and waiting impatiently for the election circus to be over. Never have we had such a great degree of apathy, annoyance, aggravation, disdain and impatience for the process to end in a presidential election in this country. People around the world are asking, “What’s going on with those Americans?” We look like a bunch of idiots internationally.

Many people don’t want to vote, since they don’t like either candidate.

I think regardless of who you are voting for, we can all agree with those sentiments.

I know I can’t wait for this insane comic spectacle to be over, but I am writing today on this subject to remind you of why we do indeed have to get out on Tuesday and vote.

We must vote because an independent free electorate is one of the most important reasons why so many thousands have died over the years in defense of our freedom and right to live in a democracy. Simply put, if you exercise an opinion of any type you have a moral obligation to cast your vote and exercise your franchise. If you don’t vote, shut your mouth and don’t complain.

Deciding for whom to vote is almost incidental. If you know who you like, vote for them. Don’t vote along party lines because you should, or your parents and grandparents have – vote for who you think will do the best job. If you don’t like either of the candidates, fine. Vote against the one you dislike more.

You owe it to yourself. You owe it to our country.

Providing a free society is never cheap, and it has been very costly in terms of lives and hardship since this country was incepted.

Your payment for that debt is the vote you cast. It is a moral obligation.

Don’t know who to vote in for president? Don’t feel bad – you’re in good company. By some polls, 22% of the eligible voters have still not decided which presidential candidate to vote for – we’re 48 hours away from the election.

If you can’t decide, show up anyway and cast your vote for state and local candidates. Don’t just stay home with the excuse that you can’t decide which presidential candidate should get your vote. Be counted at the local and state level.

Sandsters, you owe it to yourselves to vote and exercise your sovereign right as a citizen. You also owe it to your country and what it stands for. Don’t miss the opportunity to exercise the most valuable right you have.

Time out of House – Total Time – Running Totals:

Here’s an update on a subject I’ve written about many, many times.

Average total project time: 7-8 months.

Comprised of:

Average time to prepare plans: 4-6 weeks.

Average time to get permits: 4-6 weeks (Brick, Toms River, Manahawkin, Little Egg – 2-4 years. Just kidding).

Average construction time: 3-4 months.

Important Note: Time you should be out of your house: 3-4 months

Do not order disconnects until you submit your permits. When they come in, they are the last item the building department needs to issue the permit. If you leave your house when you first sign a contract and start preparing plans, you’ll be out of the house an extra 3 months. Unnecessary.

A warm welcome to some additional new clients in Toms River, Lavallette, Ocean Beach and Bayville… Please note: we are now Spring 2017 projects so give us a call so we can have you in before next summer.

In the last month, we’ve been retained by 6 new clients – thanks for your confidence and trust in us at the Dream Homes team!

Note: Schedule your project: The market is heating up again, due to a number of factors (dishonest contractors going bankrupt or being indicted, honest contractors going out of business because of RREM and homeowner fraud, out of state contractors moving back out of state to purportedly greener pastures) so if you haven’t retained a professional for your project, expect delays.

At this point, the only way you can still lift in 2016 is if you have plans ready to be submitted or already approved.

If you want to be in for Summer of next year, it’s time to get moving. Stop dithering. He or She who hesitates is lost (or at least delayed).

Open Letter to Kim Guadagno – Last Blog.

No response to my letter. RREM still lethargic about payment and process, still approving contractors who are about to be indicted or arrested and allowing them to keep ripping people off, still not policing homeowner disbursement of funds.

Note to NJ Government: The RREM program is, once again, off the rails and heading merrily off into the field. Help.

Projects – Good – Cheap – Fast – Pick any 2

It’s an old saying but fairly accurate. You can usually get 2 of the three. It’s impossible to get good and cheap and fast.

Repeat: RREM causing small contractors to go out of business – and helping dishonest homeowners to rip off their builders.

Fact #1: RREM through their direct actions is putting small contractors out of business. Their bizarre, Byzantine payment terms, their insane clawback provisions and their incessant change in policy, has made it completely impossible for a 3-5 home a year builder to work for anyone in the RREM program.

Fact #2: RREM through their indirect actions is putting small contractors out of business. They are assisting tacitly in the systemic, continuous perpetration of homeowner fraud, by not requiring payment to contractors for work that has been completed. This is illegal, immoral and truly counterproductive to the macro intent of the RREM program.

Thankfully, this is not affecting Dream to too great of a degree. We carry no debt and are in a very strong financial position. Out of 160 clients in the last 3 years, we have only 4 people who we’ve had to pursue through litigation. All of them have eventually paid, including legal and late fees. All of them have been audited (FINALLY!) by RREM. All of them are subject to civil penalties. All of them had added significantly to the RREM scope of work and decided they didn’t want to pay for any of their extra work when they couldn’t scam RREM out of the money.

This is atrocious individual behavior and incredibly bad oversight by the RREM program.

The fact that there is no RREM mechanism to prevent this from occurring is absurd. Instead of fostering competition which leads to better consumer pricing and choice, it has had, and will continue to have, the opposite effect of destroying smaller builders due to nonpayment.

Facts, Facts, Facts – Repeat about Shore House Lifters and others

If you are one of those unfortunate folks who isn’t hanging on my every written word, (can you believe there are still people out there like that??), you missed the last blog, and you’re dealing with, or considering dealing with Shore House Lifters, stop reading this blog right now and click on the 8/14/16 blog for a very detailed warning and caution before proceeding any further with this company. I’m tired of cleaning up their messes. And Price Home Group’s. And G&L Construction. And Axis Builders. Colmyer. Central Construction. And the list goes on and on…Be careful who you are dealing with.

Hiring Your Own Architect or Engineer: Pros (none) and Cons (many)

I’ve written about this in the past, and have shared various thoughts. This is an update which reflects my most recent experiences.

The upshot, though a general statement, is that dealing with your own design professional does not save you any money and generally costs you time and stress.

1st, the reality is that the architectural/engineering cost to you is the same (usually less), whether you deal with the professional yourself or retain your builder to handle this aspect of the project.

2nd, you will save yourself a tremendous amount of time, since you will avoid the constant interaction between your professional and your builder. Your builder will handle the professional discussions and break it down for you in simple language you can understand.

3rd, you will avoid excess costs which are incurred when you design your plan with your architect without input from the person who will be building your project. Remember – architects and engineers draw pretty pictures, which sometimes are not the most cost effective methods to achieve your objectives. Sometimes (too often) the plans cannot be actually constructed as they are designed.

Last but not least, if there is an error and you’ve designed your own plan, you’re responsible for your architect’s errors. When you give a plan (that you’ve designed) to a builder to estimate, any errors in the plan are ultimately your responsibility and will cost you money.

Points to ponder, Sandsters. Sometimes we try to save money – and end up stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.

What you SHOULD ask before you hire a builder or general contractor:

The real questions are, “How many projects have you completed?” (We’ve finished 155 in the last 3 years, and over 1500 new homes in 200 + developments in the last 2 decades)

“How many projects are unfinished?” (We have 0 unfinished projects)

“How many clients are suing you for misappropriation of funds, fraud or consumer fraud?” (We have 0).

What is the Difference between Non-Performance & Fraud versus a Difference of Opinion?? Important Repeat:

I’ve written about this in the past several times but the topic bears repeating (over and over) again.

Sandsters, there’s a world of difference between the two above categories. You are well served to understand this difference prior to embarking on a renovation project.

Notwithstanding any of the drivel regularly posted on Facebook, having a disagreement

with your builder, does not mean they are defrauding you or abandoning your project. Misunderstanding is materially different from contractor fraud, abandonment, mismanagement or incompetence.

The objective is to complete the project and move you back into your home. It is not about personalities, or who is right or wrong. It is about dealing with, and accepting, that human communication is complicated and fraught with misunderstanding

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.

Last Look or If you don’t ask, you’ll get nothing: 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 written estimate.

I recommend this particular technique 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 builder 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 your 1st choice builder to meet your budget number.

That being said, your builder 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. Come to the seminar or call us and we will send you the handout.


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.

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 – 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.

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 HYPERLINK “”

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

You can now log onto HYPERLINK “” from your mobile device and see a mobile site tailored to a smaller screen.

Definitions & Important Considerations That Can Delay Your Project:

RREM Program Manager: RREM Program Managers DO NOT supervise the construction of your project. You do, as you should, since it is you that is responsible for how the money is spent. RREM Program Managers manage the paper flow for your project, authorize payment disbursements and (try to) lead you through the confusing RREM maze. That’s it. Nothing further.

They do not consult with you on construction process, give legal advice or comment on who you should choose as your builder, or advise if they are competent and stable.

You are the only person responsible to oversee the professionals you hire. A sobering truth, but one worth remembering.

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 the 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.

These two items 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 a number of 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, find us on You Tube.

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, 150 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