The next few weeks offer several opportunities for fire survivors to get expert advice and information regarding the complex challenges in rebuilding, financing and insurance. To find these events and more, check the events page on the Coffey Strong website, make sure you are registered with Coffey Strong and receive our regular emails, and follow us on Facebook too.
United Policyholders Roadmap to Recovery Workshop
Tuesday evening April 24th, 2018 at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 547 Mendocino Ave. in downtown Santa Rosa
Negotiating successfully with your insurer
Resolving claim disputes informally and formally
Waivers, deadline extensions
UP Survey results summary
Permits and building code requirements
Debris removal reimbursement
Sandra Watts, an insurance professional with 20 years of claim adjusting experience (with State Farm)
Amy Bach, policyholder advocate
Nathan Quarles, County Rebuilding/Permit Sonoma
Steve Jensen, Santa Rosa Resilient City Permit Center
Michael Gossman, County of Sonoma, Government-sponsored debris removal program insurance reimbursement information
Coffey Strong – Construction, Rebuild Strategy and Finance Seminar
(free open to all Northbay Fire Survivors, not just Coffey Park residents-please register on Eventbrite)
Coffey Strong is hosting an event that is open to all Northbay Fire Survivors. This event is to help address and provide solutions to the most current and pressing issues fire survivors face. Please help share the event info below.
Overview of the rebuilding process
Strategies from two prior fire survivors to get control of your funds from your insurance company
Strategies to maximize your rebuild funds
Processing escrow draws and pre-liens to protect from paying twice
Construction Contract protection
Matthew Grill – Coffey Strong Volunteer, Prior Fire Survivor with building and development background
Kunal Nagpal – Prior Fire Survivor, Current Builder, and Lender
Kevin Smart – Exchange Bank Residential Lending Vice President
Coffey Strong meeting with CA Senator Mike McGuire.
The Financial Planning Assn of SF and it’s Certified Financial Planner® volunteers would like to offer FREE, no-strings attached financial planning advice to the Coffey Park Neighborhood. We know how important a good financial sounding board can be as you make financial decisions around the impact of the recent wildfires. CFP volunteers are offering one-on-one financial counseling sessions on Saturday, 3/17, from 12pm to 4pm. No business cards will be handed out. Your name will not be used for any type of marketing or sales activity. We want you to know that we are offering a safe place to get financial advice. Appointments are one hour in length.
2-15-18 by Matthew Grill, with from Lihn Pham and Jeff Okrepkie
12 Tips for a Healthy Building Contract
Contracts are an essential part of the construction industry. A contract between a property owner and a building contractor, setting forth the terms under which construction is to be carried out, the basis of remuneration, the time scale, and the penalties, if any, (for failure to comply with terms of the contract) is termed as a building/construction contract. Before you sign this kind of a agreement, it is important to understand the terminology and scope of this agreement you are establishing.
The AIA (American Institute of Architects) A101 agreement is a standardized contract that is used by owners and contractors. It is fair and balanced. Any changes that are made to the standard document are noted or stricken so all parties can see the modifications. Using this agreement will lessen the need for an attorney to review, or limit the attorney review time. Most general contractors should be very familiar with this contract, and they should have no problem using it. This will allow the owner to be in control of the contract versus the general contractor supplying it. This is not to say the owner cannot use the general contractor’s contract. Just remember that the contractor wrote it.
Everything that is in the plans needs to be explicitly included or not included in the contract. Make sure the general contractor is covering the entire plan for the home, then clearly listing out the exclusions and the allowances. There should be nothing left up in the air. Here is an example.
Tip 1: Check for what is left off the contract
Carefully verify what is being excluded to make sure there are no gaps in what the general contractor is covering. It is possible that you would need to budget for additional items that don’t appear on the agreement. Also, if getting multiple bids, verify that the exclusions match for all the general contractors you are considering. The difference in exclusions could account for why one general contractor’s bid is lower than the other.
Tip 2: Beware the potential added cost of allowances
Allowances, or owner options, are variable costs that can add up. Pricing should be largely defined in the bid and contract. It is fine to have a couple of small allowances that make sense. Too many allowances is a red flag and could provide a contractor the ability to increase the contract amount well over the base contract. If there are owner upgrades that were not identified at the time of contract signing, but options the owner elected to add to the contract work, a separate Change Order should be prepared outlining the additional work, and the document should be signed by both the owner and the builder.
Tip 3: Architect’s responsibility
The architect should put all of the specifications for the home on the plans. This includes cabinet quality and style, countertop type, appliance brands/type, lighting and plumbing fixture specifications, flooring type/selections, and etc. Specifications will allow contractors to make their bid based on accurate pricing, and will ensure that the homeowner is covered so that change orders do not occur because of missing information.
Tip 4: Change orders add up
Change orders can be a costly addition to a project especially when a contractor comes in with a low bid. Change orders are an area where contractors can make up a lot of ground on a low bid. It will be tough not to have an occasion change order, but the key is to limit the exposure and put the contractor on notice that change orders will be scrutinized.
Tip 5: Insurance matters
The general contractor and all subcontractors need to name the homeowner additionally insured, and it should be spelled out in the agreement.
Liability insurance: Minimum: $1,000,000 single claim, with $2,000,000 aggregate limits. Be sure to verify if this is a per location limit or total for the entirety of the project. Builders can group individual home rebuilds together as a single “project”. If there IS NOT a per location limit, then losses at other addresses can diminish the limits of coverage and impact you in the case of a claim.
Workman’s compensation: Minimum: $1,000,000
Employee automobile coverage: Minimum: $1,000,000
Additional insurance types:
Builders Risk: (this can be provided by the owner or the contractor). Builders risk covers all property during the rebuild. This includes raw materials like stacked dry wall but also the house during construction, as it isn’t a completed building. Some homeowner’s insurance companies will cover the builders risk exposure during the rebuild. Verify who will be providing this insurance with your builder and insurance company.
Professional Liability: Verify that all architects and engineers have professional liability or “errors & omissions” insurance. Most general liability policies do not cover professional services.
Tip 6: Construction schedule
There needs to be a defined construction schedule in the agreement. The homeowner should be able to track where the home will be by certain dates and when they can expect completion. A construction schedule cannot be prepared until building plans have been approved but the City, so make sure you clarify with the builder when you should expect a construction schedule following plan approval.
Tip 7: Construction Delays
There needs to be some language that protects the homeowner in the event there is a delay that is inside of the contractor’s control where they can terminate the agreement. Especially, with the projected labor shortages and other factors. An example could be if the project sits for 30 days with no progress or if the job is more than 60 to 90 days behind schedule, the owner has the right to cancel the agreement.
Tip 8: Draw Schedule
There needs to be a clear understanding in the agreement of how and when the contractors will get paid. If there is a mortgage company holding the insurance funds, there is a timeline that needs to be defined so that the contractor’s payment draw schedule can be reconciled with release of insurance proceeds. The last thing anyone wants is a misunderstanding of funding. The contractor and subcontractors could pull off the job if they do not get progress payments in a timely manner.
Tip 9: Funding details are so important
Unlike a new construction loan, where the funding is dictated by a construction draw schedule provided by the contractor, in a fire-rebuild, the money to pay the contractor comes from the mortgage company. Customarily, the mortgage company will issue the insurance proceeds in thirds:
The initial one-third of the insurance proceeds is released upon receipt of the above-listed documents and the payment check(s). It is not uncommon to have to wait 3-4 weeks for that first payment to arrive.
The second installment payment from the mortgage company is issued at 50% completion of the construction,
The final one-third draw is issued at substantial completion (95% or better) of the project.
The mortgage company will need to be notified by the owner when the project is 50% complete, and when substantial completion phases approach since they will send inspectors to verify the construction progress before they will issue payments. Some mortgage companies may be willing to issue draws in different increments, but that is something to address once you know what your contractor’s requirements are for their payment draws. At any rate, the communication between you and your Contractors is pivotal and it will help the entire process along, and keep cash flowing for the contractors.
Tip 10: Insurance deprecation hold-back
The insurance company is likely to hold back 20-25% of the initial payout. Once the project is completed they will release the depreciated funds that are held back. Check with your adjuster to see if they can promptly release those funds and how many days/weeks until they expect you to receive supplemental payments. If there is a mortgage company, the insurance supplemental check(s) will be made out to the homeowner and the mortgage company. This customarily adds 3-4 weeks from the time of your receipt of the insurance payments to the time those funds are processed and issued by the mortgage companies. Make sure to request overnight delivery of all payments from the mortgage company, and all of the check(s) that you send to them are overnighted as well. This could save weeks between deliveries.
Tip 11: Documents needed for draw release
The contractor must submit the following for progress payments. These documents are for mortgage company disbursements and protection of the homeowner. The mortgage company may require less documentation, but the homeowner must get the following to protect themselves.
An invoice for the percentage of work completed in accordance with draw schedule outlined in the contract.
A conditional lien release on progress payment from their company and all subcontractors and material suppliers.
Proof that the general contractor has verified that the subtractors have paid their employees in accordance with the new state law that went into effect January 1, 2018.
Once paid, the contractor, subcontractors and material suppliers must provide an unconditional lien release on progress payment. Future draws will not be issued until all unconditional lien releases for prior payments are given to the owner.
To release final payment:
An invoice for final payment in accordance with the draw schedule outlined in the contract.
The contractor must have all City sign-offs for the owner to occupy the home.
A conditional lien release on final payment from their company and all subcontractors and material suppliers.
Proof that the general contractor has verified that the subtractors have paid their employees in accordance with the new state law that went into effect January 1, 2018.
Notice of completion must be filed within 10 days of final payment.
Once paid by the owner, the contractor, subcontractors and material suppliers must provide an unconditional lien release on final payment.
Tip 12: Dispute resolution
In the event, there is a dispute between the owner and the contractor, it is best to have language that spells out dispute resolution. Always consult with a lawyer for the best language and advice. The example below allows for steps that will not end up in a court, but will be decided by binding arbitration which is much quicker and less expensive.
by guest author Linh Pham, construction consultant
Mortgage Company Controls Insurance Funds
Once you have an agreed scope and cost of repairs and your insurance company has issued payment, for those Homeowners who have a Mortgage Loan on their home, the insurance payment will include the Mortgage company (or Companies if you have multiple lenders on the home), on the payment check(s). By law, Mortgage companies are required to be named on the insurance payment(s), as they have a vested interest in the property, namely the balance of your loan. They want to protect that interest by controlling the funds, and making sure that the money is applied to the Dwelling restoration so that their assets are protected.
You will have to contact your Mortgage company to request their proprietary forms as those forms will need to be completed by you and your Contractor. Ask the Mortgage company to send you their Loss Draft package (documents & forms) by e-mail so you can save time by not waiting for the package to arrive by US (Snail) mail. You will be instructed to endorse the payment check(s), and send it to the Mortgage company along with the estimate of repairs on which the settlement is based, the claim payment summary from your carrier, your signed Contract with the Contractor, and all the proprietary forms that they require you and your Contractor to complete. Only after they receive the above listed documents and the insurance payment check (s) will they begin their document review and funding process.
Funding for Your Construction Project
Unlike a new construction loan, where the funding is dictated by a construction draw schedule provided by your Contractor, in a fire-rebuild, the money to pay the Contractor comes from the Mortgage company. Customarily, the Mortgage company will issue the insurance proceeds in thirds.
The initial one-third of the insurance proceeds is released upon receipt of the above listed documents and the payment check(s). It is not uncommon to have to wait 3-4 weeks for that first payment to arrive. The second installment payment from the Mortgage company is issued at 50% completion of the construction, and the final one-third draw is issued at substantial completion (95% or better) of the project.
The Mortgage company will need to be notified by the Owner as the 50% and substantial completion phases approach, since they will send inspectors to verify the construction progress before they will issue payments.
Educate Your Contractor on the Payment Process
Make sure that the Contractor with which you are working understands this process, and that they are willing to work directly with you and the Mortgage company so that these funds are released in a timely manner.
Before you sign on with a Contractor, do your best to address the funding issue with your Contractor and verify that he has enough capital to fund the project through the completion. Consider the volume of work being performed by the Contractor because if the Contractor is building 10-50 houses simultaneously, the Contractor may have cash flow issues as these projects near completion.
Be careful in vetting your Contractor to make sure that he actually has enough capital to undertake what he’s promising to do. Ask the Contractor if they have enough capital in reserves and backing or credit lines necessary to float the project through to completion, given the Mortgage companies’ payment practice.
Be diligent and forthright in discussing the funding process with your Contractor, as the way in which the Mortgage companies issue draws may not be familiar to your Contractor, especially if they have no experience with insurance restoration/repairs. Review with your Contractor the mortgage payment process as all parties have to enter into the construction agreement with eyes wide open.
If you are unclear in how the process works, and are uncomfortable explaining the process to your Contractor, you could refer them to a consultant (like Scope Writing Services) as they can also be used to help educate your Contractor on the Mortgage process. You don’t have to go through this process alone.
Pier and Beam Foundation vs. Post Tension “PT” Slab
There has recently been a lot of discussion regarding to a Post Tension, or PT slab on grade and a pier and beam foundation. I too, was looking for the best solution for my home; which is the most cost effective, and what are the pros and cons of each type. I reached out to a respected structural engineer in Sonoma County and he walked me through the options. I’m sharing what I learned from that source to add to the discussion and so you don’t need to duplicate the effort.
Pier and beam-description, pros and cons
A traditional pier and beam is the type of foundation most of Coffey Park’s homes were originally built upon; This means piers are placed deep within the soil, carrying through the clay and into bedrock or stabilized soil. Beams lay across and carry the weight of the house. The clay may raise and lower but the house remains stabilize. With this type of foundation, there is a crawl space under the house and the ground floor is a bit higher than street level. A crawl space provides access to add electrical, move plumbing, etc. One must take care to provide adequate drainage, to eliminate risk of standing water under houses.
What are the pros and cons of pier and beam foundation? Some say it is better insulated choice. Over time, you may get a loose nail or notice a squeaky floor. In general, this is slightly more expensive due to lumber cost and additional labor, although contractor told us there was no added cost to do it this way and another said it would cost significantly more. (Maybe the second contractor just does not want to do them!)
PT slab foundation-description, pros and cons
A PT slab foundation consists of a concrete slab covering the entire first floor. Within the slab are cables, stretched with tension. Once concrete is placed, it provides a very strong foundation.
There are several advantages with a PT slab. If your house sat high on the property and you had a steep driveway, this option might lower the house closer to street level, reducing the incline of the driveway. There might be less of a need to bring in soil. Quicker to build, a PT slab foundation can save on construction time and is usually less expensive. Lastly, without a crawl space, there would never be an issue with standing water under the house.
Drawbacks of the PT slab in a rebuild start with a need for the contractor to excavate around all existing piers on the property a few feet down and remove at least a couple feet of each pier. You would never want any existing pier to ever make contact with your PT slab. After that excavation, the contractor would need to backfill with engineered rock, place a moisture barrier and install the slab. All plumbing under the slab will always remain since you would never want to jack hammer a PT slab; essentially your kitchens and bathrooms on the first floor all remain. Also, a PT slab eliminates the subfloor crawl space so you can no longer access to electrical and plumbing under the house for simple small changes. Duct work for heaters would be located in the walls up high and not in the floor. Since heat rises it does make it harder to heat a house with high ceilings. Lastly, some people say the solid concrete base can be hard on your back.
Making the best decision
Ultimately, the foundation choice depends on your needs and a negotiation with your builder. Both the pier and beam and the PT slab have good issues and both have negative ones. But more information will hopefully help you make the right choice for your new home.
-written by Steve Rahmn, Block Captain Coffey Strong Area 4
With rain in the immediate forecast, we felt it was important to put together a blog post on the impact those rains could have. The key to building a home timely is to get the foundation installed as rapidly as possible before the onset of extended rainy weather. With many lots in Coffey Park needing grading and soil compaction, there must be dry weather for a period of time to get that proper compaction and to avoid mud. The dry time will vary from lot to lot and will also depend on how saturated the ground is.
The concrete foundation and slab are more forgiving with water and can even cure when it rains. However, construction workers do not work when it is pouring rain. A light drizzle and a light amount of mud will not stop them. Heavy rain and a muddy job site will stop the project.
After the foundation has cured
Once the foundation and slab are cured, the project will only slow or stop for heavy rain. Even framing the house will be fine because wood can get wet, with little impact. Once the roof is on, the house is “dried in” and there will be no slow down in the schedule.
by Matthew Gill, professional home builder, who lost his home several years ago to wildfire in Southern California. Gill is the founder of the Fire Victims Coalition a non-profit advocating on behalf of fire victims to receive full rebuilding cost from their insurance providers with no gap in coverage.
Hiring a contractor requires lots of research on the part of the homeowner. What questions should you ask? What kinds of qualifications and experience will be important for a smooth building process? Our local North Coast Builders Exchange is offering a webinar, free to North Bay fire victims, to help educate with practical tips and advice as you begin the rebuilding process.
Hosted on Zoom, a web conferencing platform, you can watch this event live if you have an internet connection.
“What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Contractor”
Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 6:00 – 7:15 p.m.the
Featuring speakers Mike Behler (Behler Construction Co.) and Craig Lawson (CAL Custom Building Services)
Please click the link below to join the webinar on Thursday, December 14 at 6 p.m.:
This is a builders matrix of the 5 largest builders intending to work in the Coffey Park area: APM, DeNova, Gallaher, Stonefield and Synergy. These are builders looking to do a minimum of 50 homes and have the capacity to do hundreds. These are for “turn-key” homes. That means they take care of nearly everything for you, as you can see.
This is not intended as an endorsement for one or another. This is just informational so you do not waste your time if there is a factor that is a deal breaker for you, like what kind of foundation they use. There are also dozens of builders willing to do much smaller groups. There are too many to list but the ones that I have heard most often are The Tuxhorn Company, Shook & Waller, G Family Construction, and American Pacific Builders.