If you have been keeping up with our coastal blogs, you’re well versed in the challenges that come along with building and renovating on the coast. So, now, let’s dive in to see what happens in the real world. Often, clients come to us with what they think is a straightforward challenge; “we want to renovate our home, it is on the water, we have a survey, now what?!”
WHAT’S THE PROCESS
First, let’s analyze the survey. There is a lot of information that comes on a survey, so let’s stick to the major items. On the far left, we see our property designated in orange, with the existing house in grey. In the middle, shown in pink, is the small buildable area we are allowed to build on. From this information we can extract that the house was built before the zoning regulations were created. And in the diagram on the right, we see a large dashed line indicating our site is between two FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) designated flood zones; Zone AE (EL 12) and Zone VE (EL 14). Falling in between two flood zones indicates we must follow the regulations set by the stricter zone.
WHAT ARE OUR OPTIONS
1. A minimal renovation to follow the 50% rule.
In a lot of the cases we see, the value is in the property is in the land, and not in the building. Therefore, the 50% rule (for this situation) does not provide enough money to make the house what the owners desire.
2. Demolish the existing building and start from scratch.
In our example project, the existing lot is undersized, according to the town zoning regulations. If we were to tear down the existing home and start over we will need to meet all the current regulations. This option is often most cost effective; but the pink buildable area will only allow a small footprint that would not recreate the four-bedroom home.
3. Bringing the home up to FEMA compliance by renovating the home.
It seems like this is the way to go, right? In order to maintain the four-bedroom home that is already existing; then yes. But not so fast.
Often coastal homes have been there a long time and what started out as a two-bedroom home is now a four-bedroom home. People move walls without permits, your realtor sells you a four-bedroom home and the town thinks you have a four-bedroom home. However, the septic system was designed for the original two-bedroom home. This tiny lot now must support a larger septic system or go back to being a two-bedroom home, which is not what the owners purchased.
This is the frustrating reality when you thought FEMA regulations were the only challenge.
We must now bring in a civil engineer to test the soils to see what repair/replacement can fit on our site.
What becomes even more evident once you start to work on coastal properties is that nothing is easy.
There are so many factors and there is always a process. My recommendation: hire a professional to help you through the process.