As with everything we post, please keep in mind that our aim is to just share information and ultimately give you food for thought.
We are not Financial Planners, Lawyers or other wise sages, so you need to take this information and use it as part of your own research. Always remember your particular circumstances are unique and hence you need to do what is right for you and your family.
One of the key discussions we keep hearing about is house raising and flood proofing. Although you can take other steps to flood proof, besides house raising, we are going to focus on house raising in this article, with our goal being to provide some guidance on things you need to keep in mind and ask.
House Raising Estimates? When you get an estimate for a house raising, make sure you ask the following questions and clearly understand who is responsible for what and how things will be coordinated. It isn't as simple as just raising your house and in speaking to people around town, we find that 99% of the people we speak DO NOT fully understand what the house raising estimate covers. So ask these questions:
1 - How high will you raise the home? If you are worried about getting Flood Insurance you need to check with your insurance company to figure out how high your home has to be raised. You should also consider resell value of the home. Raising a house that doesn't allow you to walk under the raised part or park a car, will probably affect your resell value.
2 - Curb Appeal? What will it look like after it is raised? You may need to hire an architect to draw up plans of the new elevation. This is often overlooked and is very important. If you just raise the house and don't consider the new look, you might just be stuck with a house forever. Remember to consider how all four sides are going to turn out.
3 - Will it work? Are you just relying on the house raising company or are you going to employ a structural engineer to let you know if the house can be raised and any concerns? This is a big deal and you really need to understand what could go wrong.
4 - Who is responsible? If something goes wrong - cracks, structural damage, collapse - who pays? What are the insurance limits? Is the house raiser bonded and if so to what limits? What are you responsible for? What are you going to be left paying for if something goes wrong? Does your homeowner's insurance have special clauses? You might find yourself standing alone.
5 - Mechanicals? Once your house is raised you need to budget for reconnecting your furnace, air conditioning, plumbing, cable, electric and gas. This will require Plumbers, Electricians and new home inspections. What is your budget? Can you afford it? The house raising estimate typically does not cover this, so make sure you understand before you raise your house and your literally left in the dark and cold.
6 - Getting In/Out - So you raised your house nine feet in the air, good for you! How are you going to get in out of the house? Do you need to rebuild porches, decks and stair cases? Do you need a new frontage? Make sure you understand these costs before you do the work, it can add up quickly.
7 - To Finish or Not? If you do raise your house, you can opt to do it so that you now have a new ground floor living area. You can finish it off with drywall, HVAC, etc. but make sure you keep in mind that this new space on the ground floor may not be covered by Flood Insurance. If there is another flood, more then likely anything on this ground floor will not be covered. Investigate that before you decide to finish your new playroom and lounge area.
8 - Timing? How much time do you have after the raising to get everything else in place - HVAC, electrical, etc. How long will the house raising take - how many days start to finish? You will need people standing by to do their part of it all - are they going to be ready and committed? What if they can't?
9 - What's Included? You might need to hire a mason to finish the walls for the new space. Figure out this cost and how it is coordinated.
10 - Detachments? Who detaches all the mechanicals and the garage and the porches and other items? What are their fees?
These simple questions can help you put things into perspective and also develop a realistic budget of what it is going to cost to really raise your home. Please do not make the mistake of thinking that you can use your flood claims to cover the cost. Unless you are extremely lucky, your insurance company is going to pay what they see fit to get your home back together, to pre-Sandy conditions. If you use that claim money to raise your home, you are still going to have to pay to get your home back to pre-Sandy conditions. So raising your home and paying for it has to be done with funds above and beyond what you get for your Flood Loss.
To date we have not seen or heard of any Federal Program that will fully pay for raising a home. We have heard a lot of myth and BS, some of it from OEM, Politicians and FEMA, so please be very careful what you latch onto and hope for…investigate everything.
Do not commit to any contracts until you are very clear of how you are going to pay and EXACTLY what funding is available by who and when. For the record we don't see the Sandy Fiscal Aide package before Congress as making a material difference to a homeowner, so until that is resolved, please be very careful as to what you decide to do, if you are counting on Government assistance.
I highly suggest you get all the costs involved for raising your home factored and then figure out how you will afford it. After you do that, any grants, loans or other funds that might be handed out, will be a welcome payday. Otherwise, if you move forward and really are hoping that you will get some sort of assistance you might be in for a rude awakening - so tread with caution, your home is on the line.
Lastly, please be very careful about ICC and other programs. We have yet to meet someone who can do all of the above for $30,000.00. Not that $30,000.00 in assistance isn't welcome, but please my fellow neighbors, be very weary of anyone who can do all of the above for $30K. Again, do your research, don't rely on others, in fact don't even rely on what is printed in this article. Ask questions, hold people accountable and demand clear facts in writing.
Sea Bright, NJ
Mr. Gomez is one of the people behind the facebook page Sea Bright 411, a resource for Sandy survivors.