& when you do come home, steer clear of the mailbox

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Our friends came home yesterday to see their new kitchen completed, five months after Sandy.  They celebrated—for about five minutes.  Then they opened a letter from the City unceremoniously stating that they must raise or completely destroy their newly rebuilt home.

As it turns out, the people whose houses you saw in my last entry might be the lucky ones.  Delays have allowed those of us in waiting to catch some of the truth as it trickles out.  We are able to make decisions and act (or not act) with slightly more understanding than some of our neighbors who started rebuilding relatively quickly.  The complex and disorganized process in which many homeowners were unknowingly involved is slowly being revealed.

Steve and I are waiting for our letter.  We are hoping that FEMA determines, from looking at the outside of our house (which sort of unfortunately looks pretty good) that the cost of our damage equals more than 50% of the value of the structure.  This should qualify us for the $30,000 in assistance that would replenish a bit less than half the total cost of raising our house.

If they cannot discover the truth of our situation, specifically that repairing our damage will indeed cost more than 50% of our house’s worth—then we are told we can appeal to our city’s building department using our adjuster’s report.  Once we get a letter from the building department stating that our damage is extensive enough, we can apply, through our insurance company, for the FEMA assistance.  Once you see how many agencies are involved—FEMA, the City, the insurance company, and FEMA again, you can understand how applications submitted by people severely affected by Hurricane Irene in the summer of 2011 have not even been considered yet.

Because we were delayed, we now know that our insurance will more than quadruple if we do not elevate.  We know that FEMA is coming around house to house assessing structural damage for the purpose of determining whether or not residents are required to raise their homes.  We know that many residents who live in ranches like ours are being told (only now!) to raise or raze.  We are informed enough to be able to make the decision to lift our house while it is stripped, light, disconnected, and empty of our possessions—if we can figure out how to pay for it.  But at least we know what we need to do and how much money we will need to do it.  Our friends were blindsided.  They’ve spent their savings over five months so that they could enjoy their brand new kitchen for five minutes.

Now they may have to walk away.

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11 responses to “& when you do come home, steer clear of the mailbox

  1. You still have spent a lot of money with this ordeal up to this point. I am glad your house isn’t finished yet, though. Geez, can this be any more disorganized and complicated? Multiple large agencies working together = chaos. The expense on the individuals to do a project TWICE because of the agencies’ lack of efficiency should be on the agencies. Of course, that expense then would come back to the citizens anyway. Obviously, the agencies should have made the raise the house decision much sooner, like within a week of the hurricane. I wonder why it took so long. It seems like they should not allow building that close to the ocean if this is the result. 2011 hurricane victims still waiting? How can anybody afford to live there?

    • Some say the only people who will be able to live here will be a Hamptons-like crowd. We bought our house low so we are hoping if we make this investment and improve the home it will still be a good investment. But yes, there is the issue of all the $ we’ve put into it already (appliances, floors, cabinets, etc bought and in storage, electric fixed, heating repaired). Moving forward with this is the only way now to not lose everything. Of course we would have budgeted better if we knew we had to elevate. We found out really late too (even after researching it and asking several agencies about it)–but at least we didn’t start yet. I am hoping they move quickly with the assistance now that they are forcing so many people to do it and there is slightly more awareness of the issue.

  2. In case anyone else is in the situatio that they’ve already rebuilt, we have learned that you can also contest if you were assessed at over 50% and have already rebuilt. You basically have to go in with an estimate from any contractor (whether it’s one you used or not) who can state that the repairs can be done for X dollars (with the X being less than 50% of what they valued the house at).

    • Ahh–and vice versa; if they tell you your damage is less than 50% and it’s more, you can prove with an estimate that it’s more–which s what we now have to do. Apparently they think our destroyed house is only 25% damaged!!! Why is FEMA bothering with this waste of money when we could have all proven it this way to begin with? Then maybe they’d have the funding to pay my rent.

  3. Wow, how terrible that you should find what may be small mercy in others’ misery. That news is so disheartening. I hope and pray you will get approved and be able to begin your building process. xoxo

  4. I just hope I can help other people figure this all out! I think all our issues as far as these assessment decisions going one way or another can be addressed–but then the money issues lie just beyond. That might be where the real roadblock waits.

  5. Around 50% of people in the area around Long Beach had no flood insurance. Many had prior fema payouts or vacations homes were ineligible for even the $31,900.

  6. Other issue is RE taxes going up in 2015 on these brand new homes. Owners may be forced out by taxes not flood insurance.

    • I know…not something I had even focused on much when choosing to stay. We bought at a good time (2001) So figured staying would pay off after repairing and raising….we hope it really does after taxes go up! We also opened the attic into a loft (more living space) so we will be paying more taxes just for that. At least resale should be good now with two bathrooms and a garage. I’m going to try and focus on that–and the pleasure of living in a brand new home!

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