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Live near transit, more money for your home loan

Guest donaltopablo

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Guest donaltopablo

Anyone here take advantage of this? Sounds like a interesting idea.

Transit users can get break

Bigger mortgages possible


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Beginning today, Fannie Mae will offer the opportunity for metro Atlanta home buyers to get more house if they give up some car.

"Smart Commute" -- already offered in 16 metropolitan areas, including Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City -- allows people to qualify for larger mortgages if they buy houses near transit lines and promise to use them. The Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae, started the program in May 2001.

The financing tool is designed for people who want to be intown but cannot afford its higher housing prices, said Archibald B. Hill III, who directs Fannie Mae's Atlanta partnership office.

Here's how it works: Potential home buyers promise to swap driving for public transportation. The program allows only one car payment per household. The savings on car notes, insurance, gasoline and maintenance are added to income and other calculations that determine mortgage amounts. Mortgage rates do not change. Houses must be no more than one-quarter mile from a MARTA bus stop or a half-mile from a rail station.

"The whole point is to increase affordability for housing close to public transit," Hill said.

Based on the annual median household income in metro Atlanta of $68,796, a couple could qualify for an extra $14,000 on a mortgage through Smart Commute. That figure assumes savings of $250 per month by reducing car use. A single person would qualify for about $11,000 more, with $200 in monthly savings by driving less. Participants will receive six-month MARTA passes, worth $315 each. The maximum loan amount is $333,700.

The program could be a hard sell to people who aren't used to public transportation, said real estate agent Beth Ann Clanin of Bo Bridgeport Brokers. Her customers are often first-time buyers in Kirkwood, Decatur, East Atlanta or Grant Park, areas near several bus lines and train stops. In the last year Clanin has sold 53 houses, and only two clients asked about living near MARTA.

But Clanin sees potential as more people more intown. "I think people definitely yearn not to need cars," she said. "In three years, that program will probably be a pretty heavy hitter."

That's what Fannie Mae officials are hoping for in Atlanta, where the federal government shut off road money in the late 1990s because of poor air quality. Fannie Mae will kick off the program this morning with U.S. Reps. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Cobb County, and Denise Majette, a Democrat from DeKalb County, at the Hamilton E. Holmes MARTA station, the last stop on the west line.

The idea appeals to homeowners Lauren and Bishop Jason Cohen, who live in Collier Pointe, a subdivision across the street from the Holmes MARTA station. She wishes that a Smart Commute mortgage had been available when they bought their two-bedroom townhome last fall.

"We could have gotten an extra bedroom and the hardwood floors I desperately want," said Lauren Cohen, 25, who drives to her job as a program manager for the Jonesboro Housing Authority. Her husband, 29, takes the train to Five Points station downtown, where he works as a tech support associate at Joi, an Internet service provider. They bought their townhome, in part, because it was near MARTA. For now, the Smart Commute program only applies to residences around MARTA stations and near bus stops in DeKalb and Fulton counties. It may be expanded to bus systems in Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties, Hill said.

Fannie Mae will not police car ownership, but to qualify for the program, a credit check must show no more than one car payment. People who own two cars outright still could participate if they promise to take mass transit, Hill said.

Nationally, the program is growing slowly. In Salt Lake City, Cate Burrows of lender America First Credit Union said her company has written about a dozen Smart Commute mortgages in two suburban cities north of the city on a bus line.

In Minneapolis, Melissa Thompson, vice president of product development for TCF Mortgage Corp., said her company has issued about 35 Smart Commute mortgages in just over 2 1/2 years.

Jennifer Eichten, 26, holds one of those mortgages. She and her husband bought a $196,000 house south of the city last March. She commutes about 15 minutes by bus downtown to her job as a law clerk.

Since they bought the four-bedroom house, the couple has saved $5,000 to $7,000 on gasoline, maintenance and parking, Eichten estimated. She also received a free two-year bus pass, valued at $2,200. Before long, she sold her car.

"Once we got the bus pass, I wasn't using my car at all," Eichten said. "We figured, why not save money? It was great freedom to get rid of one of the cars."

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Guest donaltopablo

I've heard the insurance on a car in Atlanta is extremely high (compared to Henderson County, NC). I've also heard it's hard to get a car over 5 years old tested (GA Clean Air Act Testing). If I moved there, I would take transit and save the money.

Well, I've only lived in Atlanta since I could drive, so honestly, I have no idea how bad the insurance is compared to other areas. I can tell you, depending on where you live (zip code) can make a big difference. Insurance rates can vary several hundred dollars between high accident zip codes and lower accident zip codes.

The second part I can tell you is a somewhat false impression. Although it's stricter than some states, it's not cali :D

First all of, emissions testing for all cars, 1996 and newer is done by computer. This is the method nearly every state that requires emissions uses, called ODB-II (on board diagnostics). The ECU in the car itself does all of the emissions testing. If you have a problem, it displays a check engine light. If you have a check engine light, you fail. No check engine light? You pass.

Prior to 1996 model cars, you have to have a sniffer test. But an emissions control device must have failed on the car in order to fail, and usually has to be totally not functioning. Trust me, I have 5 cars, 2 (both pre 96) of them high modded, they all pass legit without a problem and I've even eliminated some of the emissions control equipment. Cars older than 20 years I believe, don't require emissions testing.

One of my parents vehicles passed GA emissions, but failed NC visual inspection (something we don't have).

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:D No, I'm not talking about how strict the test is. I was told most testing stations in Atlanta only test cars built in the last 5 years. It's hard to find a testing station that tests older cars in Atlanta. I wasn't very clear on my last post. Of course in NC I think they test cars differently by area. The big five cities have stricter testing than the more rural counties. In Asheville/Hendersonville the test is easier to pass than it is in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh. I don't know what they test for, but they get "Blue" stickers and we get "Yellow" stickers. Blue means big five cities resident and yellow is mountains, non-urban counties or coastal cities. Now you know how to tell where someone from NC is from by looking at their inspection sticker. Henderson County is Yellow and so is Asheville/Buncombe County.


I looked it up and found this map.


These are the counties that require special emissions testing.
















Concord, Hickory, Fayetteville, Lexington, High Point, Durham, Winston-Salem, Gastonia, Greensboro, Statesville, Charlotte, Pineville, Huntersville, Hillsborough, Salisbury, Monroe, Cary, Chapel Hill, Smithfield and Raleigh, to name the bigger cities in those counties, require testing. Again, I don't know what kind of testing they do. It is a much bigger area requiring testing than I thought! :blink:

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Guest donaltopablo

No, I'm not talking about how strict the test is. I was told most testing stations in Atlanta only test cars built in the last 5 years.

Sorry for the misunderstanding. But that's still a false impression. Maybe within the city it's hard to find a testing station, but most of the testing stations I've seen test new and old vehicles. Also, the 5 years old thing - it's 96 and newer, or 95 and older. Has nothing to do with 5 years, or the age of the car at all... it's all about model year.

I believe whoever told you that was misinformed. I'm not aware of any problems finding a testing station for either type of car. They are a dime and dozen. In fact, most oil change places now offer new and old vehicle testing.

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In North Carolina every station tests every vehicle. I do find it odd that some stations in Georgia don't test some cars? When I first talked to people about going to college in Georgia, I was told by someone my mom works with in Asheville not to register my car in Georgia. That person gave me those reasons. At one time, I thought it would be cool to have a Georgia license plate and drivers license and live in NC. :D I would have to change it back to NC after college though. Also I was told Atlanta doesn't have those BIG stickers blocking half the windshield. :lol:

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Guest donaltopablo

The reason they have stations that either do both, or just 96 and newer vehicles is because of the required equipment.

In order to test pre 96 vehicles, in requires an in ground dyno roller (for load tests on FWD and RWD vehicles) and an exhaust sniffer.

To do 96 and new vehicles, you only need a computer and a gas cap tester.

Since the equipment varies greatly, and obviously the number of pre-96 vehicles on the road is dropping year by year, they opted to allow stations that only test the newer vehicles.

But your right, no stupid stickers in the windshield any more.

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