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Rebuilding the Jersey Shore, One Home at a Time

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's hard to believe it's been six months since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast, including the beloved spot at the Jersey Shore where my family has congregated since the 1940s. We were among the lucky; our little 1949 cottage took on 26 inches of water, enough to ruin the downstairs and all of its contents, but many were far worse off, losing their primary residences indefinitely.

The past six months, it's been tear-out, throw-out and rebuild, and we are still far from being done. We decided to do much of the work ourselves -- all but electrical and some of the plumbing -- with the help of some Macgyver-like friends. For those homeowners that had flood insurance, the contractor estimates have been coming in at anywhere between 1.5 and 2.5 times insurance proceeds, and that's if you can find a contractor that's not already booked solid. Some of those that had no flood insurance have put their homes on the market as is; home prices have not surprisingly fallen sharply, and it's a buyer's market. It's also a sad situation.

Rebuilding is a long and arduous process, which in our case has included at this count more than two dozen working trips to the shore and at least that many to Home Depot (HD), Lowe's (LOW), and some of the local hardware stores that have begun to reopen. Our Honda Odyssey has become a de facto pickup truck; with the seats removed, you can fit several 4-by-8 sheets of drywall, plywood and underlayment.

As a value investor, I've wondered since day one of the tear-out phase which names might benefit from the massive rebuilding efforts.


Let's just say that my own credit card has been working overtime at Home Depot, which has a store about 7 miles from our cottage. I've been there morning, noon and night. So have many others; the parking lot is always full. The place is stocked to the rafters with all of the essentials; in this case heavy on sheetrock, joint compound, insulation, plywood, and framing studs. Sheetrock and insulation are very popular items. Every home that took on water had to quickly rid itself of both of these at least several inches above the water line, in order to stop the mold from spreading. Sheetrock manufacturer USG (USG) is selling a lot of product in the affected areas, as is fiberglass manufacturer OwensCorning (OC), and plywood manufacturer Weyerhaeuser (WY). Interestingly, there have been no shortages of any needed materials, at least in my experience.

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