So you think you want to raise your Highlands Home…

When considering estimates for a house raising in Highlands, 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 just speaking to people around town, you should consider asking these questions:

1 – How high do you want to raise your Highlands 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, and what happens if you don’t raise it?

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 – Can you actually raise your Highlands Home?  Do NOT just rely on the house raising company, think about employing  a structural engineer to let you know if the house actually can be raised and any concerns in doing so? This is a big deal and you really need to understand what could go wrong. You may consider just bull dozing and starting from scratch if you want an elevated home.

4 – Who is responsible if something goes wrong – cracks, structural damage, collapse, blown over (this happened on Sea Drift) – who pays for what? What are the insurance limits? Is the house raiser bonded? At 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?

5 – How much are 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 actually afford it? The house raising estimate typically does not cover this, so make sure you understand costs before you raise your house.

6 – How the heck do you get in?– So you raised your house 15 feet in the air,cool..  how the heck do you 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 – Should you finish underneath your raised home? 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. It COULD be considered a garage.  Investigate that before you decide to finish your new playroom and lounge area.

8 – How long is it going to take?? 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 is actually Included? There are a lot more costs than just raising your home. You might need to hire a mason to finish the walls for the new space & a carpenter for the stairs.

10 – What are the costs and who actually does the Detachments? You need to consider 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 I have not seen or heard of any Federal Program that will fully pay for raising a home. We have all heard a lot of myths and BS, some of it from OEM, local Politicians, FEMA, and well meaning friends and family, 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 the Sandy Fiscal Aide package before Congress probably isn’t going to make a material difference to a Highlands homeowner, so until that is resolved, please be very careful as to what you decide to do. Government assistance should NOT be relied on.


  1. Well here’s my question…I was under the impression that if you lived in a certain area and had 50% more damage to your home – you didn’t have a choice! Personally, I would like to elevate my house anyway so I’m not arguing against it, but I thought the boro was going to set the mandatory height requirements?


    • I know they are going to get pressure from FEMA to do so, and the pressure will be put back on the residents. From what I hear they did a similar thing back in ’92. I just don’t know if they have follow through ability on this.


    • I spoke to P. Vitale who is handling all this and what is happening is Highlands is going to do what ever FEMA tells them. All homes in downtown highlands with a V zone will have to to elevated minimally. Every resident will have 4 years to do this and after the 4 years if the home is not elevated the fines that will incur will surpass thousands and thousands. Apparently the grants have just started processing for Hurricane Irene and will be months if not years before anyone will see paperwork for a grant for Sandy. People like me who were set to close on the day the storm hit will not get the grant since we would be buying a home that is considered a pre-exisiting condition. Thats a great way to get the town back up and running.


    • I would like to raise my house also but there is so much uncertainty for all of us. The main thing is More than likely most of us even if we were equity positive before the storm are not now and then when you factor in the additional cost of the lift either out of pocket or via loan then you are completely underwater with no clue as to when you would be equity positive again. I was equity positive over $100k prior to the storm so at best I am flat.

      For me I would need to take a loan. I don’t see a bank giving me a loan if I am even or underwater at this point. That leaves the possibility of the SBA emergency loans. Then all affected by Sandy have until the end of the month to apply for a loan from the SBA. They have a range of 1.68% to 4%. With a maximum of 240k in loan. $200 for the structure and $40 for the contents. Unfortunately they also deduct what the insurance settlement would be. The only way the math works from a cash flow standpoint is if I could borrow at the lowest rate and refi the mortgage and use the difference to cover the FEMA shortfall for the lifting. That would add 2 years to my mortgage and increase my monthly nut by $100. While being underwater it is still a lower cost than walking away and renting something until my credit is repaired. It would alos likely be much less costly than the increased flood insurance premium based upon what I have heard afetr calling Fema, SBA and my insurance company for an idea. Unfortunately none of them could give me a real number just a very broad range.

      As far as any way the municipality can give you are hard time they have their backs against the wall because if we are forced to raise and we have 1200 plus homes in Highlands in the same boat then I wouldn’t be surprised if 50% or more just walk away from their homes either because they don’t qualify for a loan or can’t afford the extra carry cost. That would then cause Highlands and a huge number of towns in NY and NJ not getting enough property tax revenue to provide essential services and then they file for bankruptcy.


  2. If you ask people who were in town in 1992 they will tell you they’ve been on that list since then for funds to raise their homes!


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