For this undertaking, Bernardoni anything but scary

Brian Bernardoni (left) as Svengoolie

Most IAR members will know Government Affairs Director Brian Bernardoni (Chicago Association of REALTORS®) from the serious work he does with local government officials on real estate issues. But when it comes to Halloween, at his home in the village of Justice, it’s all about fun, family and friends.

“The politicians who follow me on Facebook often ask ‘How’s Halloween coming along?’” says Bernardoni. “This year I can tell them it’s coming along very well. We won first prize in the village’s Halloween House Decorating Contest!”

Those who have learned about Bernardoni’s passions – the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, old horror movies – were probably not surprised to see him take a serious interest in decorating his home for Halloween four years ago.

Bernardoni started by discussing the idea with his neighbors, “just to see how crazy we all were.” In their first attempt, they garnered a third place in the village contest. The following two years they earned two second-place finishes before this year’s triumph.

And he is very quick to explain that he couldn’t do so well without the creativity, cooperation and muscle of his neighbors.

This year, his garage is divided into four rooms: an executioner’s chamber; a Dr. Frankenstein Laboratory with a Frankenstein monster; a tribute to Chicagoland television icon, Svengoolie; and a “Don’t wake the baby” room, made up of a variety of mysterious, sometimes grotesque, toy baby dolls.

The front yard looks like an old cemetery with a mausoleum, fog and large spider webs. The side yard has numerous places for people in costumes to hide, with several skeletons hung in different places. The back yard has an outdoor movie theater theme with a large canvas hung over a swingset and hay bales for seating.

Inside his home, he’s set up a real coffin, with the room decorated for an old-fashioned wake. He also has a rocking chair that he obtained from the Lizzy Borden estate.

With four daughters (ages 16, 7, 5 and 3), Bernardoni says he resists the idea of making their haunted house scary for children who visit. In fact, his three youngest daughters will escort visitors through the yards and inside their home.

“They aren’t scared of anything we have,” Bernardoni said. “In fact, they’re at the point where they ask ‘What kind of dumb things will Dad come up with next?’”

Over the years, their decorations have drawn the attention from WGN television and Univision (Spanish television).

One of his favorite anecdotes is the closing comment from the Univision reporter who said, “That guy’s wife is a saint.”

Neighbors also appreciate how quickly all the decorations are dismantled every year. This year, they will gone by Monday.

Five days until election Tuesday; check your resources for help

If you don’t plan to vote early, then plan to cast your vote in the Illinois General Election on Tuesday at your local polling place. Schedule yourself a time to vote between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.

With 75 percent of IAR members registered to vote, we can make our voices heard on issues like home rule and on choosing candidates to represent us on the local, state and national levels! If an “Opportunity Race” candidate is in your district, make sure you support him or her.

Today is the last day the election authority may receive absentee applications by mail from registered voters still in the United States. For information on other election deadlines and contact information for state elected officials, check the Illinois State Board of Elections website and use the online tool for your computer or mobile device.

Get out and vote!

In memoriam: Former Rockford AE Terrie Hall dies

Terrie Hall, who led the Rockford Area REALTORS® as association executive for nearly a decade, died Thursday, the association told members in an email today.

Terrie Hall, former CEO of Rockford REALTORS®

Hall joined the Rockford association in 1983 where she worked as an IT specialist. She was named association executive in 1998 and retired in 2007.

“Terrie’s desire to help REALTORS® become successful in their day-to-day operations, her maternal personality, and her vivacious humor will be remembered by all,” according to a statement issued by the association Thursday afternoon.

She had been battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

After Hall found out she had ALS, she worked to create a support group for those stricken with the disease in the Rockford area.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.


Morning Minute: Mortgage interest rates below 4 percent for third week

Mortgage interest rates rose slightly compared to last week but at 3.98 percent for a 30-year, fixed rate, it still remained below 4 percent for the third week in a row, Freddie Mac reported today. The 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.13 percent this week. Read more from Freddie Mac.

In other headlines:

More choice for homebuyers as Chicago listings rise – Crain’s Chicago Business

10 reasons why people don’t get a mortgage – HousingWire

Mortgage Fraud Up – Where Is It Highest? – Dail Real Estate News

Preparation can reduce fear and eliminate cyberthreats

October is scary enough during the Halloween season, especially when my daughter dresses like a mummy. But the threat of data breaches or of viruses attacking my smartphone or computer can literally keep me awake at night!

If you’ve ever had someone steal your credit card information or suffered through technical problems with your favorite electronic device, you know what a pain these situations can be. Cyber Security Awareness Month gives us a reason to bring up the topic, but protecting our information is a year-round concern!

Don’t believe me?  Maybe a few of these statistics will get your blood pumping!

  • One in five Americans have been victimized by cybercrime.
  • A single infected computer can potentially infect thousands and even millions!
  • Cyberattacks increased 91 percent in 2013.
  • More than 552 million identities were exposed by data breaches in 2013.

You can do something about these eye-opening facts!

  • Be vigilant! Don’t think you won’t be a statistic!
  • Keep a clean computer by staying up-to-date on your security patches.
  • When installing software, proceed through installation wizards with caution. You can decline toolbars and other extra applications and still receive your intended program.
  • Roses are red, violets are blue, is your online password protecting you?
    • A strong online password has eight or more characters with a combination of numbers, letters and symbols.
    • Change your password often.

I’ll leave you with a little good news: the amount of spam we receive is down this year! On average, spam only makes up 66 percent of our email.