Friday, September 15, 2006

Tax Appeal Season

It is now open tax appeal season for those of us who own property in the Lake View Township of Cook County. The anticipated closing date is slated for October 18th but, as in years past, is subject to change. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, over half of the 127,472 appeals filed in 2005 resulted in a lower assessment. Two of the most common grounds for appeal that I personally have come across as a Realtor are "Lack of Uniformity"--a nearby and comparable home has received a lower assessment; and "Less Than Market Value"--a home was purchased for less than the "fair market" amount assessed. You may request a "Complaint Form" by calling the county Board of Review at 312-630-5540.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tribune Article Reprint Part 1-Geno Petro

Put Spotlight on Lighting

By Annemarie Mannion
Special to the Tribune
Published November 26, 2004

There's no better--and inexpensive--way to create a sense of mood than through lighting, said Geno Petro, a real estate consultant with Chicago Home Estates in Chicago. Petro ought to know. Like doctor-turned-developer Mitch Newman, Petro is following a different career path than he had planned when in college.

Petro majored in theater with an emphasis on lighting design. In Newman's two-story condo in Bucktown, Petro advised Newman to consider not only the look of the light fixtures but how much light they cast when he shows his home.The dining room, for instance, has red pendant lights hanging over the table. It is next to the kitchen, which has under-cabinet lighting and overhead can lights.

Petro played with the dimmer switches to show how the pendant lights should cast a crimson glow. In the kitchen, the under-the-cabinet lights should be lit to create depth, and the overhead lights should be on, but not at their fullest level.

The idea, he said, "is to create a better mood, welcoming and warm as opposed institutional or cave-like," he said.Being able to control the level of lighting a room is important, he said."I think you should have dimmers in almost every room. Especially if you have (ceiling) can lights. When you turn those on, they are just blazing."

The good thing about lighting is that it is relatively inexpensive to add and can change a room's mood or look. "It doesn't cost a zillion dollars to add a dimmer or to get a cool-looking light fixture," he said.And sellers should not ignore natural light. "It's the most important source of light--the light that comes through your windows," he said.Lighting, whether from a lamp or window, can make even a run-of-the-mill room more appealing."It's the best way to make an average room stand out from other average-looking spaces (on the market)," he said.--

Annemarie Mannion
Chicago Tribune

Tribune Article Reprint Part 2-Geno Petro

Upping the `wow' factor of a Chicago duplex

By Annemarie Mannion
Special to the Tribune
Published November 26, 2004

On a clear day, Mitch Newman can see the outline of Chicago's famous skyline. That's not so unusual, perhaps, but Newman can see it from the comfort of his master bathtub.

As a former artistic director for Thirsty Theater, a small theater in the Pilsen neighborhood that stopped productions two years ago, Newman knows how to create drama. And his bathroom--with a taupe-and-cream marble Jacuzzi-style tub, skyline view and glass-enclosed shower--shows it.

"On a good day you can see downtown. It's like the Emerald City. It's amazing," said Newman, who also was a family-practice physician.

The bathroom is in a four-story brick building in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood that Newman built. Using a small inheritance, Newman, 47, decided four years ago to focus on residential development. He worked with an architect to design the three-unit building, which includes the two-story, four-bedroom duplex in which he now lives.

Now Newman is moving on to his next project. Once his unit is sold, he plans to relocate to a condo in a building he is developing in Lincoln Park.Although he has become acquainted with the ins and outs of overseeing building construction, Newman has spent little time decorating his duplex. "I literally bought the dining room table in order to show [the unit]. I have a minimal amount of furniture," he said.Geno Petro, a real estate consultant with Chicago Home Estates in Chicago, agreed that Newman needs to add furniture and artwork and replace generic fixtures to draw buyers' interest and add drama.Newman said his unit will be listed in the $600,000 range.

Because of its higher price and because the unit will be competing with new construction, Newman needs to pay attention to small details that newer units likely will have, Petro said.For instance, the door hardware in Newman's home is gold. Although unit is only 4 years old, Petro said it already looks dated and recommended replacing it with brushed nickel.The same advice goes for the maple pulls on the kitchen's maple cabinets. "I'd go with the brushed nickel knobs. They'd go with the stainless-steel appliances," said Petro.He also recommended painting the master bath to maximize its appeal.The walls are off-white. Petro recommended painting them taupe or a deeper shade to complement the marble.

"If you had one place to paint, I'd paint this room," Petro said. "Most bathrooms aren't huge spaces so you can make a big statement in a bathroom."The bathroom, which is on the top floor, will likely be the last room that buyers see as they complete their tour.However, Petro said that Newman also can attract buyers by creating dramatic statements as soon as buyers walk through the unit's front door."People walk in and they're already deciding if they like it or not," he said.

For example, Newman's front door opens into a small foyer that leads to a staircase with a landing at the midpoint. Petro advised hanging a compelling piece of artwork on the landing's wall to draw buyers' attention as they climb the stairs."You need to have that `wow' factor," he said. "Put something there--like a piece of art that's cool and hip and will jump out a you."He also recommended changing the staircase railing. "I'd change the railing to some kind of stainless steel instead of the [white] painted railing. It will look more contemporary and it would only be a couple hundred bucks," Petro said.

The living room features a fireplace and soaring ceilings. But Petro recommended Newman replace a white ceiling fan with something less generic-looking and move a drafting table piled with blueprints to a bedroom.The unfurnished bedroom then could be turned into a home office, he added."I'd still keep it minimalist. But anything you could put in here that makes it look like an office would be good," he said.Another bedroom has a large entertainment center that looks dated. "That's a hand-me-down. It's probably 25 or 30 years old," said Newman.

If Newman isn't planning on keeping it when he moves, Petro advised replacing it with a newer entertainment center and turning the room, which presently serves as a catch-all for boxes and other items, into a family room. "The next [entertainment center] doesn't have to be so big," he added.The unit also has two outdoor decks--one off the kitchen and one off the master bedroom. Petro advised that Newman arrange potted plants and furniture on the decks to make them look more useable and inviting."It has a city-urban feel to it, which is cool," Petro said of one deck. "

But organize it. Put all the potted plants in one area and then put the patio umbrella up [when the unit's being shown]. Make it look inviting."