OCEANSIDE, New Jersey - This Sunday marks five years since Superstorm Sandy hit the area. In that time, homeowners have learned many lessons about rebuilding.
First Sandy "soaked" countless families, then a second plague -- contractors who families say wrung them dry. Many will never fully recover.
We paid a visit to some and asked them to share what they would've done differently that could help you.
It's taken five full years of frustration, but Jamie, Lonnie Green and their two sons are finally back home in Oceanside. Three years ago, their home was missing support beams and stripped to the studs. They were hopping mad after paying an unlicensed contractor.
They are home now after moving out for four years.
"I would investigate who you are hiring, even if it's a friend check their license." Jaime Green said.
They had to hire another contractor and their own architect to redo the house.
Ditto for the Dittas in Seaside Heights, where the first contractor hired did the lift and left them -- literally in limbo -- raised but rotting. The home now is no longer on concrete blocks but complete with a garage.
"I never quit, I grew up down here. I have sand between my toes," Mary Ditta said.
Mary and Nick Ditta are finally done after having to call the cops on their unlicensed contractor. He is now in jail.
"I would say not to rush, take your time and investigate who you are giving money to," Ditta said.
Many hard lessons about who you hire were learned by both families. They each admit, the haste to return to normalcy can cloud your judgment.
The young parents, the Greens, also learned a hard lesson about loans and Sandy money left on the table.
"We learned if we took an SBA loan we couldn't get money from NY Rising," Jaime Green said.
But walking away from their homes, like so many did after Sandy, was not an option. They love the communities where they grew up.
Luckily, they built back stronger, better, and smarter than before. Staying positive helped them through many rough patches along the way.