New Refinancing Program for Loans Not Owned by Fannie or Freddie

Last updated on December 13th, 2017

Yet another mass refinancing program has been proposed, this time by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.

His program, “The 4% Mortgage: Rebuilding American Homeownership” (RAH), is geared toward underwater borrowers who have kept up with their mortgage payments, but haven’t been able to receive assistance via existing programs.

It specifically targets those who hold mortgages that aren’t government-backed, and therefore do not qualify for HARP or HARP II. Presumably, it includes those with jumbo mortgages as well, who have also been left out of the refinancing party.

So basically all homeowners with private-label mortgages, which is a figure somewhere north of three million. Clearly a lot of individuals have been left out.

A refinancing program for these borrowers is certainly overdue, so perhaps it could work. Let’s look at the details.

How RAH Would Work

A temporary, government-backed trust would be created by the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, or the FHA to purchase mortgages from banks, credit unions, and mortgage lenders that meet the program’s criteria.

The trust would create a secondary market for the loans, and sell bonds to raise funds so it could purchase the mortgages.

Investors would buy the bonds because of their implied government guarantee, thus creating ongoing liquidity to fund the program.

RAH would make money via the near 2% spread between the cost of funds and the interest rate charged to homeowners, and therefore would not need taxpayer money to operate.

It would only offer mortgages for three years, at which point it would only exist to service the mortgages. Once all the loans were sold, paid off or refinanced, it would be closed down entirely.

The guidelines are pretty straightforward.  If you’re current on your mortgage payments, you qualify.

There do not seem to be any loan-to-value limits, though those with mortgages greater than 140% LTV would need a write-down to qualify. In other words, these homeowners would probably be out of luck.

Additionally, borrowers would still need to pay mortgage insurance until their LTV dropped to 80%, and those who chose to participate would not be able to entertain a short sale for the first four years of the loan. Makes sense.

RAH Mortgage Options

There are three options for homeowners, including a 5% 30-year fixed mortgage, a 4% 15-year fixed mortgage, and a two-part combo mortgage.

The first two options are pretty self-explanatory. You get a better deal with the shorter-term mortgage, but you’d be more invested, as much larger payments would be required each month.

In both cases, you’d be paying above the prevailing market rate, which is how the program would have funds to operate, but ideally much lower than your existing mortgage rate.

Their case study assumes a borrower has a mortgage rate around 7% on a first mortgage, and 8% on a second mortgage, so switching to a 15-year mortgage would leave payments nearly unchanged.

But those who stayed with a 30-year mortgage term could save $500 or so a month in some cases, which would boost the economy and reduce foreclosure starts.

The third option would be a two-part combo loan with a soft second mortgage. The mortgage would be broken up into a first mortgage at 95% LTV, and a second mortgage for the remaining balance.

The soft second would not accrue interest for the first five years, and would not require any payments during that time.

This would essentially make it act like a temporary principal reduction, without the “moral hazard” of reducing balances for some but not all homeowners.

Does It Make Sense?

The program seems to be fairly sound in theory, and provides enough of a benefit to borrowers without putting too much risk on whoever decides to helm the program (via those higher-than-market mortgage rates).

And it’s certainly a worthy idea, given how many homeowners still can’t take advantage of loan modifications, most of which are reserved for those with government-backed loans.

But it might be too late for most borrowers, who have either already been foreclosed on or have simply given up on their current home.

At the end of the day, you kind of have to wonder how many homeowners are still waiting for help six years later…

For the record, Obama floated a similar idea back in February called the “Broad Based Refinancing Plan,” though because it requires congressional approval, is likely dead in the water.

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

In the Market? Here’s What You Should Know About Contingencies

Home contingencies are aspects of home purchase contracts that protect buyers or sellers by establishing conditions that must be met before the purchase can be completed. There are a variety of contingencies that can be included in a contract; some required by third parties, and others potentially created by the buyer. While sellers in the current market prefer to have little to no contingencies, the vast majority of purchase contracts do include them, so here’s a primer to help you navigate any that come your way!

Financing Contingency

The most common type of contingency in a real estate contract is the financing contingency. While the number of homes that sold for cash more than doubled over the last 10 years, the majority of home purchases — 87% of them, in fact— are still financed through mortgage loans.

Why is this important? Because most real estate contracts provide a contingency clause that states the contract is binding only if the buyer is approved for the loan. If a contract is written as cash, in most cases, the financing contingency is removed.

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Why Does The Financing Contingency Exist?

This contingency exists to protect the buyer. If a buyer submits a winning offer, but can’t get approved for a loan to follow through with the purchase, this clause can protect the buyer from potential legal or financial ramifications.

Tip: Homeowners can, and should, request to see a buyer’s prequalification letter before accepting their offer.

Home Sale Contingency

For many repeat homebuyers, they must sell a property in order to afford a new home. Whether they’re relocating for work, moving to a larger home, or moving to a more rural area, 38% of home buyers in a recent survey reported using funds from a previous home to purchase a new one. This is where a home sale contingency comes into play; this clause states that the buyer must first sell their current home before they can proceed with purchasing a new one.

Why Does This Contingency Exist?

This is another contingency that exists to protect the buyer. If their current home sale doesn’t close, this clause can protect the buyer from being forced to purchase the new home. In other words, they can back out of the new home contract without consequence. Keep in mind that in a seller’s market, this type of contingency offer is less desirable to sellers; in fact,  they may rule out your offer completely if this is included.

TIP: In many situations, homeowners can negotiate escape clauses for the home sale which would allow them to solicit other offers and potentially bump the current buyer out of the picture.

Home Inspection Contingency

Not only is it common, it’s also wise to include a home inspection contingency in any offer. Whether it’s a new home or an existing home, there is no such thing as a flawless house. Home inspections can uncover hidden problems, detect deferred maintenance issues that may be costly down the road, or make the home less desirable to purchase completely. A home inspection contingency essentially states that the purchase of a home is dependent on the results from the home inspection.

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Why Does This Contingency Exist?

Whether it’s a roof in need of replacement or an unsafe fireplace, homebuyers need to know the maintenance and safety issues of the properties they’re interested in purchasing. If a home inspection report reveals significant (or scary!) findings, this protects the buyer from the financial burden that repairs would require. This is why agents will tell you it’s never a good idea for a home to be purchased without a home inspection contingency.

TIP: The findings from the report can usually be used to negotiate repairs or financial concessions from the seller.

Sight-Unseen Contingency

Especially during sellers markets, it’s not uncommon for a home to have dozens of showings within the first couple of days of listing. This breakneck pace can create a scenario in which homebuyers may not be able to coordinate their schedules to get a timely showing appointment. To help prevent missing out on the chance to buy a home, buyers in this situation will sometimes make offers on the home, sight unseen.

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There’s no sugarcoating it…this is a high-risk strategy with ample opportunity for negative consequences. However, if this strategy is used, many real estate agents will add a sight- unseen contingency to their offer. This contingency states that the offer for purchase is dependent on the buyer’s viewing of, and satisfaction with, the property.

Why Does This Contingency Exist?

In a market with shrinking inventory, desperate buyers want a fighting chance at a hot property; in some cases, that can only exist by submitting an offer before they can see it in person.

TIP: Sight unseen offers are also high risk to the seller. If you include this contingency in your offer, try to keep other seller requests to a minimum. 

Why Contingencies Can Be Positive

In a seller’s market, buyers may feel the pressure to remove as many contingencies as possible in order to compete. But, it’s important to remember that contingencies are actually safeguards in place to prevent buyer remorse, expensive future repairs, or financial calamity. It’s always crucial for buyers to hire a seasoned real estate agent who can advocate for their best interests, negotiate and strategize in safe and competitive ways, and advises them of the risks of each decision.

Looking to Buy? Don’t Go it Alone!

The homebuying process is a complex one, but that doesn’t mean you’re left with all the heavy lifting. Find your dream home and a local agent on Homes.com, then visit our “How to Buy” section for all the step-by-step insights for a smooth process.


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

ETFs vs. Mutual Funds: Why Investors Who Hate Fees Should Love ETFs

While the mutual fund universe is much larger than that for exchange-traded funds, more and more investors are discovering that they can save huge amounts in both fees and taxes and put more money in their pocket by switching to ETFs.

An ETF is a collection of usually hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of stocks or bonds held in a single fund similar to a mutual fund.  But there are also a number of significant differences between the two.

When Comparing Fees ETFs Come Out Clear Winners

Numerous studies show that over the long term, managed mutual funds cannot beat an index fund, such as an ETF.

For example, according to the SPIVA scorecard, 75% of large cap funds “underperformed” the S&P 500 over five years through Dec. 31, 2020.  Almost 70% underperformed over three years, and 60% over one year.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg, with most other managed mutual funds — both domestic and international — underperforming their applicable index.

This is partly explained by the higher fees of managed mutual funds, which cut into the investor’s return. According to Morningstar, the average expense ratio for a managed mutual fund in 2019 was 0.66%. Compare this to a well-diversified portfolio of ETFs, which can be put together with an average blended fee of 0.09%, according to ETF.com. Try getting a fee that low with mutual funds.

What makes the gap in fees even greater are the invisible transaction costs for trading securities inside a mutual fund. Due to the difficulty in calculating these invisible trading costs, the SEC gives mutual fund companies a pass in disclosing them to the consumer.

But University of California finance professor Roger Edelen and his team gave us a pretty good idea when they analyzed 1,800 mutual funds to determine the average invisible trading costs.  According to their research, these costs averaged 1.44%.  Keep in mind this is “in addition” to the average mutual fund expense ratio of 0.66% mentioned above.

An ETF, on the other hand, is cloning an unmanaged index, which generally has very little trading going on, and therefore these hidden trading costs are little to nothing.

Between the expense ratio and the invisible trading costs of a managed mutual fund, the total average expense is easily over 2% for mutual funds, which is over 20 times more than the typical expense of an ETF.

Tax Savings Are Another Win for ETFs

ETFs can also save the consumer money by avoiding taxable capital gains distributions that are declared by the mutual fund even when the investor has not sold any of their mutual fund shares. Mutual funds are required by law to make capital gains distributions to shareholders. They represent the net gains from the sale of the stock or other investments throughout the year that go on inside the fund.

Keep in mind this capital gain distribution is not a share of the fund’s profit, and you can actually have a taxable capital gains distribution in a year that the mutual fund lost money.

ETFs, on the other hand, do not typically trigger this sort of taxable capital gain distribution.  The only time you have a taxable capital gain is when the investor actually sells his or her shares of the ETF for a profit.

They’re More Nimble Then Mutual Funds, Too

An ETF trades in real time, which means you get the price at the time the trade is placed.  This can be a real advantage for an investor who wants to have better control over their price. However, with a mutual fund no matter what time of the day you place the trade you get the price when the market closes.

A Sticking Point to Consider: The Bid and Ask Elements of ETFs

While ETFs have many attractive advantages, a potential problem to look out for has to do with their bid-ask price structure. The “ask” is the price the investor pays for the ETF and the “bid,” which is normally lower than the asking price, is the price the investor can sell the ETF for. 

Highly traded ETFs have a very narrow spread between the bid and ask price, often as little as a single penny. But a thinly traded ETF can have a much larger spread, which under the wrong circumstances could cause the investor to sell the ETF for as much as 4% or 5% less than they paid for it.

Mutual funds on the other hand, set their prices at the close of the market and investors pay the same price to buy and sell, so this risk is eliminated.

Another Point to Ponder: Premium or Discount

ETFs can trade at a premium or discount to its net asset value, or NAV.  Simply stated, this occurs when it trades at what is usually a slightly higher price or a slightly lower price than the value of the ETF’s underlying holdings.

While most ETFs exhibit very small discounts and premiums, some, especially those that are more thinly traded, can stray further away from the true value of the underlying holdings.  For example, if an investor bought an ETF that was trading at a premium well above its NAV, he or she could be subject to a potential loss if the price of the ETF moved closer to its NAV price and the investor needed to sell.

You never have to deal with this issue on a mutual fund because the shares are always priced at the NAV.

The Bottom Line

In spite of these potential disadvantages, for the cost-conscious investor who plans on holding his investments for a while, ETFs may be one way to reduce their fees, allow for more nimble trading and reduce their taxes compared with their mutual fund cousins.

President, Piershale Financial Group

Mike Piershale, ChFC, is president of Piershale Financial Group in Barrington, Illinois. He works directly with clients on retirement and estate planning, portfolio management and insurance needs.

Source: kiplinger.com

UGMA vs. UTMA Account – Which Is Better to Save for My Child’s College?

For many people, a college education is crucial for their career prospects. Yet college is an expensive endeavor. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for the 2016 – 2017 academic year, undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board were estimated to run $17,237 at a public institution, $44,551 at a private nonprofit institution, and $25,431 at a private for-profit institution. For that reason, many parents start saving for their child’s college education while that child is still in diapers.

There are several ways to save for education. People often think of 529 plans when it comes to saving for college, but you can also use Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) and Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) accounts. Each account has different benefits and drawbacks. Before choosing how to save for your child’s education, learn more about how these accounts work and what features they offer.

529 Plan, UGMA, & UTMA Defined

Before delving into the pros and cons of these accounts, it pays to understand what each account is.

529 Plan

A 529 savings plan is a tax-advantaged account named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. These accounts help you save for education. Money in the account accumulates tax-free, and distributions are tax-free as long as you use the money for qualified education expenses.

Qualified expenses include:

  • Required tuition and fees
  • Books, supplies, and equipment
  • Computers, peripheral equipment, software, and Internet access
  • Room and board for students who are enrolled at least half-time

Initially, 529 plan beneficiaries could only use the money for higher education expenses. But in 2017, the government expanded the definition of qualified expenses to include up to $10,000 annually in K-12 tuition.

UGMA & UTMA Accounts

In most states, children under the age of 18 don’t have the right to contract, so they can’t own investments. At one time, that meant parents who wanted to transfer assets to a child for their college education had to hire an attorney to establish a trust.

The UGMA and UTMA made these transfers a lot easier. The UGMA established a simple way for minors to own securities such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The UTMA is similar but also allows minors to own other property types, such as real estate, fine art, patents, and royalties.

Now, parents, grandparents, and other family members can open a UGMA or UTMA custodial account at a bank or brokerage. When they open the account, they have to provide the name and Social Security number of the minor and appoint a custodian who is in charge of managing the money in the account until the child reaches the age of majority (typically 18 or 21, depending on the state).


Differences Between 529 Plans & UGMA or UTMA Accounts

UGMA and UTMA accounts as well as 529 plans provide ways for parents and other adults to help save for a child’s education, but there are several differences.

Use of the Account

You can only use 529 plans for saving for education. You can always withdraw money in the account for other purposes. But if you don’t use the funds for qualified education expenses, you’ll face some tax consequences: You can withdraw the amount you contribute tax-free, but the earnings portion of the distribution is taxable at your ordinary income tax rates. You’ll also owe a 10% penalty.

But you can use funds in a UGMA and UTMA for other purposes.

Tax Advantages

A 529 plan has an advantage over UGMA and UTMA accounts when it comes to tax-advantaged growth.

In a 529 plan, you don’t have to worry about paying taxes on earnings within the account since the funds grow tax-free.

In a UGMA or UTMA account, you may have to pay taxes on earnings, even if you don’t withdraw money from the account. You don’t have to worry about paying taxes if the child’s income is $1,050 or less. Above that amount, the IRS taxes income between $1,050 and $2,100 at the child’s tax bracket and income above $2,100 at the rate for trusts and estates, which could be a lot higher than the child’s tax rate.

For 2019 through 2025, the tax brackets for trusts and estates are:

If taxable income is: The tax is:
$2,600 or below 10% of taxable income
$2,601 to $9,300 $260 + 24% of the amount over $2,600
$9,301 to $12,750 $1,868 + 35% of the amount over $9,300
$12,751 and above $3,075.50 + 37% of the amount over $12,750

Tax Filing Requirements

One challenge parents often run into with UGMA and UTMA accounts is tax return filings. With a 529 plan, the plan’s earnings don’t impact either the parent’s or child’s tax return since the account is allowed to grow tax-free. Once you start taking money from the account, as long as you use it for qualified education expenses, you simply report those nontaxable distributions on your annual return.

UGMA and UTMA accounts can be a little more complicated. For most people, these accounts are hassle-free during the saving years, as they rarely generate enough interest and dividends to necessitate filing a tax return for the child. If the earnings within the account are over $1,050 for the year, the parents may be able to report the child’s income on the parents’ return by attaching Form 8814 to their Form 1040.

The parents can make this election as long as the child meets all the following conditions:

  • The child is under age 19 (or under age 24 and a full-time student) at the end of the year
  • The child had only interest and dividend income
  • The child’s gross income was less than $10,500
  • The child doesn’t file a joint return with a spouse
  • The child didn’t make any estimated tax payments, have federal income tax withheld, or have an overpayment from a prior year applied to the current year

The truly complicated part comes when the child needs funds from the account to pay for college expenses. At this point, they need to sell investments in the account to withdraw funds. That generates capital gains. Parents can’t elect to report capital gains on their own returns, so they typically have to file a separate tax return for the child.

Ownership & Control of the Funds

When it comes to ensuring the child uses the money for educational purposes, 529 plans also have an advantage.

With a 529 plan, the account owner keeps control of the funds no matter the beneficiary’s age. If you save for your child’s education and your child decides not to go to college or doesn’t need all the money, you can switch the account over to another beneficiary or withdraw the money yourself (and pay taxes on the distribution).

With a UGMA or UTMA account, ownership and control over the funds go to the child once they reach the age of majority. At that point, they can spend the money however they’d like. If the child doesn’t need the money to pay for their education, you can’t transfer the account to a different beneficiary.

Contributions & Investment Options

UGMA and UTMA accounts have the advantage when it comes to the flexibility of contributions and investment options. You can fund UGMA and UTMA accounts with cash, investments, real estate, art, patents, royalties, and more. You also have wide latitude when it comes to investing assets in the account.

With a 529 plan, you can only contribute cash, and investment options are limited to those allowed by the particular plan.

You can contribute as much as you want to a 529 plan, but the amount you contribute to the plan each year goes toward your annual gift tax exclusion amount. For 2019, the annual gift tax exclusion amount is $15,000 ($30,000 for a married couple who elect to split their gifts), meaning if you give more than that amount to any one beneficiary’s 529 plan, you must file a gift tax return that year. However, there’s one exception. The IRS allows you to give five years of contributions all at once without paying gift taxes. For 2019, that would be $75,000 for a single person or $150,000 for a married couple.

Impact on Student Aid Eligibility

For financial aid purposes, assets in a UGMA or UTMA account are considered assets of the student. That means they have a significant impact on student aid eligibility calculations — federal financial aid formulas consider 20% of the money in a UGMA or UTMA account as money available to pay for college.

On the other hand, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) treats funds in a 529 plan as assets of the parent, so it has a lower impact on financial aid eligibility. The FAFSA formula considers a maximum of 5.6% of the money in a 529 plan to be available to pay for college.

If you already have assets in a UGMA or UTMA account and you’re worried about the impact on financial aid awards, you can cash out and reinvest the proceeds into a 529 plan. But before you do, talk to your financial advisor or accountant for help calculating the taxes you’ll pay on any capital gains.


Final Word

If you want to give your child a leg up on saving, which account should you choose? It comes down to your goals. If the primary purpose of your savings is education, a 529 plan offers better tax advantages. If you or your child aren’t sure whether they plan to use the funds for education, buying a home, or any other purpose, you can contribute to a UGMA or UTMA account.

Are you saving for your child’s education? Which type of account are you using?

Source: moneycrashers.com

Are the Low Mortgage Rates a Home Buyer Trap?

Despite a slight uptick this week, mortgage rates are still pretty much rock bottom, and unarguably at ridiculously low levels.

This has sparked yet another refinance boom, with mortgage application volume rising to its highest point since May 2009, per the latest data dump from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

This is great news for existing homeowners with plenty of home equity looking to refinance to a lower rate. It’s also working out nicely for those who don’t have equity thanks to programs like HARP 2.0.

All in all, it’s a gift to these borrowers who are experiencing some serious monthly mortgage payment relief.

But what about new and prospective home buyers?

Are People Buying Because of the Low Rates?

With rates this low, you have to wonder if it’s all a big trap (whether intentional or not) to lure would-be buyers off the sidelines and into the game.

If you’ve followed the housing market lately, at least in certain regions of the country, such as Los Angeles, homes are speeding into pending status just days after being listed.

In fact, many are pending just one or two days after being listed. It’s looking like a serious seller’s market, though obviously a very unconventional one.

The low rates have increased affordability so much that a new pool of buyers has essentially been created, which has facilitated both standard and short sales.

Again, great news for those who have waited very patiently to sell their homes; many can finally do so!

And perhaps even better for the housing/mortgage market, with seemingly bad loans being replaced with better ones.

Heck, I’m even seeing a ton of flips that are actually selling for a tidy profit. I thought flips were dead?

Reminder of the Homebuyer Tax Credit

But it all seems reminiscent of the boost seen with the now infamous homebuyer tax credit.

That “free money” created a short-lived, yet steep run-up in home prices as first-time home buyers came out in droves.

Just a short time later, it became clear that those who purchased a home did so at a premium, and their tax credit was quickly eclipsed by a larger loss in home value.

If you take a look at this home price chart, you’ll see how the homebuyer tax credit stoked demand, but its effect was clearly fleeting.

In fact, those who purchased before the tax credit expiration were actually worse off compared to those who bought later on.

To bring it all together, home prices were pumped up as a result, similar to what we may be seeing with the record low mortgage rates.

With rates so low, homeowners and their clever real estate agents probably feel they can list their homes for more than they could have six months ago.

And the whole “it’s never been a better time to buy” adage is back.

Economy Still in Disarray

The big problem is that the economy is still a huge mess, with the European crisis hanging over our heads, and domestic unemployment still far from unresolved.

Then there are the millions of homes in the process of foreclosure, or knocking at its door.

So is this artificial stimulus actually going to help the real estate market long-term, or is it just another quick fix with no staying power?

My gut tells me that this recent run-up in prices and virtual 180 in consumer sentiment is bad news.

Getting into a bidding war over a house just months after no one was interested seems really fishy.

Additionally, all these calls of a “housing bottom” are concerning as well. You always have to wonder when every single media outlet (including your local news channel) is claiming that the worst is behind us.

Of course, the low rates have led to lower mortgage payments, even with the recent home price increases factored in.

So there’s some serious power behind those rates. The question is will you be able to buy a home next year at an even better price with a similar (or even lower) interest rate?

Read more: Home prices vs. mortgage rates.

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

What is a Good Entry Level Salary?

Recent grads — or even just those starting a new career midstream — may wonder what sort of offer to expect when negotiating a starting salary. While it’s unlikely an early-stage hire will outearn senior management from the get-go, it can be key not to accept a pittance below the going market rates.

Since pay can vary greatly based on location or line of work, there’s no one answer to the question, “What is a good entry level salary?” The size of the paycheck will differ based on where someone lives, the industry they work in, the hiring institution or company, and other hard-to-tabulate variables.

So, how might a job seeker figure out a good entry level salary before sitting down with the new boss or an HR representative to talk pay? Here are some helpful resources to get a handle on entry level rates across the US, including tips for negotiating compensation:

Understanding Entry Level Salaries?

Entry level salary information changes on a regular basis, but many job-focused websites offer insights into the going rates. For instance, ZipRecruiter, a well-known American employment marketplace, lists the average U.S. entry level salary by state , which ranges, at the time of this writing, from $12.61 per hour or $26,219 per year in North Carolina to $17.09 per hour or $35,750 per year in New York.

Still, even state-by-state averages don’t show the whole picture. Although more than half of US states have minimum wage requirements higher than the federal minimum wage, which remains set at $7.25 per hour, the amount an early-career hire might expect can also vary by county and city within the same state.

According to Glassdoor, the average entry level salary in the Jacksonville, FL area is $14 per hour, whereas the average in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area is significantly higher at $16 per hour.

Along with location, the industry one works in can play a big role in what kind of starting salary a new hire might expect. For instance, a data scientist at a tech company might be able to earn as much as $95,000 right out of the gate, while a newly minted journalist might expect something closer to $30,000.

(Psst: early-stage college students might want to align their eventual courses of studies with one of these high-paying entry level jobs.)

One way to grasp what sort of salary that might be expected is targeted research on the specific industry, location, and even position and company.

Researching a Good Entry Level Salary

Recent grads wanting to understand if they’re being offered current market rates for a particular job (or location) can turn to the internet to research details. Some sites that might offer resources for those job seekers include:

Payscale , for example, allows employees to create custom “pay reports” based on their job title, years of experience, and city.

Salary.com offers a similar feature, allowing job seekers to search for positions by keyword and compare them accordingly.

Glassdoor is another well-known web resource that publishes employee-generated information on salary by specific company and position. It also hosts reviews by current and former employees, which may help a job applicant learn more about what it’s, actually, like to work there. (In some cases, Glassdoor lists interview specifics that could help future interviewees better understand what’s expected from them).

After researching average pay by role, location, and company, job seekers might also next want to mull over how to negotiate an acceptable offer.

Negotiating a Higher Offer

So, what can a job seeker do if their dream job doesn’t (initially) come with a dreamy paycheck? What are some tips for negotiating?

While it’s not always possible to eke precious water from a parched stone, coming to the negotiating table prepared to negotiate can help job applicants angle for a more generous compensation package.

Negotiating a salary can be scary, especially for a recent grad who’s not used to the salary tango. Nevertheless, negotiating an offer up front can have a significant effect on one’s paycheck (and, by extension, one’s long-term earnings).

One Glassdoor press release estimated that the average US employee could be earning 13.3% more—if they negotiated.

Preparing to Negotiate

How might a new hire negotiate a higher-paid entry level salary? Well, having a well-researched entry level salary forecast in mind is one place to start.

Of course, it’s not likely that early-career hire can simply negotiate up to a data scientist’s $95,000 salary if that’s not the norm for the role or location they’ve applied for.

But, it’s still possible to make the case to hiring managers for why a higher rate is merited. When making this case, it could be helpful to give concrete examples of how a worker’s current skills might benefit the company. In these conversations, it may be possible to push an offer up a few percentage points (especially when the skills required are in high demand).

Glassdoor suggests that job seeker’s practice their negotiating pitch. Doing so ahead of time can help some to hone a confident delivery style. What’s more, knowing why a higher salary is being requested could also allow some new hires not to sell themselves short. Adopting negotiation tactics might help some new grads or career changers to meet their salary goal (or inch closer to it).

On top of baseline salary, it’s also possible in some roles and industries to negotiate for other valuable forms of compensation—such as, fitness stipends, work-from-home time, funding for continued education, and more.

Of course, negotiating a good entry level salary is not necessarily an easy undertaking. The Harvard Business Review warns soon-to-be negotiators to prepare for tough questions, especially where salary is concerned. Interviewers may put candidates on the spot, asking if they’re considering other offers or if the position is their top choice.

In an already uncomfortable situation, some candidates may stumble or misspeak if they don’t know how to justify what they’re asking for.

One simple place to start is asking whether it’s possible to negotiate the offer in the first place. Candidates may also inquire about future career growth and promotion potential, which could lead to a bigger salary later down the road.

Navigating Post-College Life, Financially and Beyond

Navigating life after college can be exciting and challenging. Trying to make ends meet on an entry level salary might be particularly tough, especially when on the hook to pay back student loans—as 54% of young adults who went to college took on some debt , including student loans, for their education.

A flexible and adaptable approach to finances and where one lives could make the transition to post-college life more manageable.

For instance, recent graduates who are in a position to choose a new place to live, might opt to move to one of the top cities for college grads. Cities like Houston or Nashville (to name just two) have boasted strong economies, affordable rent prices, and low unemployment rates.

Learning how to make a budget can also go a long way toward covering common expenses—even when one’s starting salary leaves a few zeroes to be desired. That said, there’s only so much instant ramen to eat or cups of coffee to skip out on.

For those feeling weighed down by student loans while earning an entry level salary, additional options exist. Those with outstanding federal student loans, for example, may qualify for income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness for public service, or deferment.

Refinancing educational debt with a private lender is one extra option that could save money each month—or help the borrower pay off student loans faster.

Student loan refinancing may allow recent grads to make lower monthly payments toward their existing debt, freeing up some extra cash. Or, it could help a borrower to save money on interest paid on the loan as a whole, allowing them to pay off the debt total faster.

It’s important to note that refinancing with a private lender causes borrowers to forfeit certain guaranteed federal benefits, like income-driven repayment (IDR).

SoFi refinances both federal and private student loans, offering no application fees and no prepayment penalties. Those who refinance their student loans through SoFi get access to a wide range of exclusive member benefits, including career coaching, financial advice, and more—at no additional cost.

Checking your refinance rate won’t have an affect on your credit score and could be the first step toward saving thousands of dollars—or making more affordable monthly student loan payments.

Interested in student loan refinancing? Applying with SoFi might be a smart money move for you.



SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.

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Source: sofi.com

Stock Analyst Accuracy – Why Ratings Can Be Wrong & When to Listen

The stock market is a complex machine made up of intricate technologies, financial experts, and investors.

Some of the most highly-regarded experts on Wall Street are the research analysts who spend their days looking into opportunities in the stock market. These analysts make their money by sharing their opinions about what they believe will happen in the future.

Knowing that successful investing is born in research, many beginner investors make the decision to blindly follow the opinions of analysts rather than doing their own research when making investment decisions.

This is a very dangerous activity. Here’s why.

What Do Stock Market Research Analysts Do?

Research analysts — also called investment analysts, securities analysts, equity analysts, sell-side analysts, or financial analysts — are financial professionals charged with analyzing the financial stability and potential for growth of publicly traded companies.

Research analysts look into company metrics like historic revenue growth and earnings growth. They also dive into market conditions.

For example, if the company being analyzed is in the computer gaming industry, the analyst researches how large that industry is, how fast it’s growing, and what percentage of the industry the company has tapped into.

Once their research is complete, research analysts make predictions, including:

  • Earnings Per Share (EPS). Stock market analysts will attempt to predict the earnings per share (EPS) that companies they follow will produce. EPS divides the total net income generated in any given period by the number of shares of the company in existence.
  • Revenue. Research analysts also take a stab at predicting how much revenue the company will generate over the next year. Investors pay close attention to revenue because when revenue grows, it shows that sales are increasing, helps to increase profit margins, and ultimately leads to increased profitability for the company.
  • Share Price. Finally, research analysts make an attempt to predict what the price of the stock will become over the next year. This statistic is known as the price target.

Stock market analysts also make recommendations and providing ratings, generally including:

  • Buy. A buy rating, sometimes called an Outperform or Overweight rating, insinuates that buying the stock at the current share price is a good deal. This rating means the analyst believes that the stock has the potential to produce gains that outperform the overall stock market’s returns in the next 12 months.
  • Hold. A hold rating, sometimes called a Market Perform or Equal Weight rating, suggests the stock is likely to perform in line with the overall stock market. Analysts don’t believe that you’re going to earn returns any larger than the average across the market but believe that growth is still likely ahead.
  • Sell. The sell rating, also called the Underperform or Underweight rating, is a recommendation that investors avoid the stock if they don’t already own it and sell it if they do. This rating means that the analyst believes the stock’s performance will lag compared to the stock market as a whole, and purchasing of the stock could lead to losses.

Why You Shouldn’t Blindly Follow the Opinions of Research Analysts

With predictions surrounding earnings per share, revenue, and share price, coupled with ratings from research analysts, many newcomers believe the research legwork has been done for them, deciding to dive into any stock analysts deem to be a strong investment opportunity.

After all, isn’t that the analysts’ job? Why put the time into researching something that the professionals have already analyzed?

There are plenty of reasons to research your own investment opportunities rather than blindly following analysts. While research analysts are highly paid experts that have a knack for making decisions in the stock market, their opinions often can’t be trusted as the basis for objective investing decisions, as you’ll see below.

1. A Vested Interest

Research analysts don’t make predictions on stocks for the pure joy of helping investors. They have to make their six-figure salaries somewhere. As a result, these analysts often work for:

  • Brokerages. Although regulatory authorities are supposed to keep sell-side analyst opinions as far away from brokerages as possible in order to maintain objectivity in the investing process, that doesn’t seem to be happening. Brokerages often make investment recommendations based on the research provided by their analysts. This often creates a bias, with analysts recommending stocks that are best for their employers rather than the investors their employers serve.
  • Mutual Funds, ETFs, and Index Funds. Analyst opinions have the ability to move the market. A positive opinion about a company can send a stock soaring while a negative opinion can cause sharp declines. Mutual funds and many exchange-traded funds (ETFs) employ research analysts, which gives the analyst a vested interest in forming an opinion about a stock that’s in the best interest of the fund’s portfolio, and not always an unbiased depiction of what to expect from the stock.
  • Hedge Funds. The Big Short Squeeze involving GameStop, AMC, and several other stocks outlined the battle between hedge funds and retail investors. However, some of the research analysts most trusted by retail investors happen to work for the hedge funds that bet against them. Again, the analysts’ employment at hedge funds creates a potential bias when making predictions about trending tickers.

The bottom line is that research analysts aren’t working for you. Who they work for can create biases that make their work unreliable at best; the average retail investor simply shouldn’t trust them.

2. Analysts Are Highly Inaccurate

You would think financial professionals who spend their lives analyzing opportunities in the stock market would be pretty good at what they do. You might be surprised to learn that the average stock market analyst isn’t nearly as accurate as you may think.

Here are the stats analysts don’t want you to know, courtesy of FactSet.com:

  • Historic Performance: The majority of publicly traded companies listed on the S&P 500 beat analyst expectations when reporting financial results, and this percentage is growing quickly.
  • EPS Surprise: In the fourth quarter of 2020, 81% of companies listed on the S&P 500 reported a positive EPS surprise, meaning that these companies beat analyst expectations. That’s a huge miss on a key valuation metric used by most investors.
  • Revenue: In the fourth quarter of 2020, 79% of companies listed on the S&P 500 beat analyst expectations in terms of revenue.

Those are staggering statistics that show the highly paid research analysts who are expected to be pretty accurate had up to an 81% failure rate. If your investment advisor admitted to being wrong 81% of the time, would you continue to pay them to manage your investment portfolio?

3. Misleading Predictions Artificially Inflate Success Rates

Unfortunately, Wall Street doesn’t gauge the success of Wall Street analysts based on the accuracy of their EPS, revenue, or share price predictions. Research analyst success is gauged solely on their ratings system. What percentage of buy-rated stocks grew, and what percentage of sell-rated stocks fell?

Analysts use this incomplete view to their advantage, artificially inflating their success rate.

For example, say an analyst has a buy rating on a stock and expects earnings per share will come in at $0.50 on revenue of $50 million for the quarter. They know that when companies beat analyst expectations, investors react in positive ways.

So the analyst may make a public prediction that the company will report earnings of $0.45 per share on $47 million in revenue. These publicly stated estimates leave room for error and then some.

When the company reports its financial results, it is more likely to beat expectations than it would be if the analyst had shared their true opinion.

Moreover, as a result of the beat expectations, the stock is more likely to climb, making the analyst’s buy rating more likely to be placed in the books as an accurate one.

4. Stock Price Predictions Are Only Good for One Year

Building wealth in the stock market is a long-term process. Most successful investors invest with a time horizon measured in decades.

However, research analysts only follow 12-month time frames. A stock with a great outlook in the short term may be a horrible long-term investment.

Moreover, short-term predictions in the stock market are exposed to the short-term volatility that’s become the norm, making them highly unreliable. After all, stock market analysts can’t predict major events that may cause short-term volatility.

One of the best examples of this is the COVID-19 pandemic.

An analyst may have seen great promise in a well-run and profitable travel company in May of 2019, with no sign that a pandemic was coming that would grind most travel to a halt. The analyst may have expected strong revenues and earnings over the next year, coupled with incredible share price growth.

By the end of the 12-month time frame, the analyst would have been way off. In May of 2020, travel stocks were having a horrible time. Almost nobody could expect a travel stock to have a great year when half the country is locked down.

Many of these stocks saw a strong recovery as 2020 came to a close and travel restrictions eased, but the research analyst’s view doesn’t go any farther than the 12-month mark.

So was the analyst right or wrong for liking the travel stock in May 2019? This example demonstrates why the short-term nature of analysts’ predictions makes them pretty unreliable.

5. Research Analysts Are More Likely to Rate a Stock a Buy Than a Sell

The vested interest research analysts often have in the stocks they cover clearly comes out when you look into the statistics of the ratings they provide.

According to FactSet, there were 11,147 analyst ratings on S&P 500 companies as of December 31, 2017. Here’s how the total universe of analyst ratings broke down:

  • Buy Ratings: 49.5%
  • Hold Ratings: 45.3%
  • Sell Ratings: 5.2%

Sure, it’s true that more publicly traded companies do well than fail. However, you’d be right to question whether 94.8% of stocks are worth buying or holding.

Moreover, it’s impossible for 49.5% of stocks to outperform the market, 45.3% of stocks to trade in line with market performance, and just 5.2% of stocks to underperform the market. The numbers just don’t add up.


Wall Street Analysts Have Their Place

Although it’s never a good idea to blindly follow anyone into an investment, including research analysts, these analysts do have their place. For all their shortcomings, here’s how research analysts can provide valuable insights to everyday retail investors:

1. As a Source of Validation for Your Own Research

Hopefully, by now, you know that you should do your own due diligence before you invest in a company. However, it’s nice to have some way to validate your research.

Analyst opinions are a great way to do that.

Sure, analyst predictions aren’t always accurate, but if you’ve done your own research and believe that a stock is going to rise in value, it’s a good idea to look into what percentage of analysts rate the stock a buy.

If the overwhelming opinion among analysts is a buy rating, chances are you’re on the right track with your research.

TipRanks is a free way to go about seeing how many analysts cover a stock and what their overall opinion on the stock is.

2. As a Clear Red Flag on Stocks In Trouble

Analysts generally have a bias when it comes to stocks they cover, and they tend to rate stocks in a positive way. As such, if the vast majority of analysts that cover a particular stock rate it a sell, that acts as a big red flag that something is wrong with the company.

Sure, you don’t want to blindly follow analysts into a fire, but you also shouldn’t ignore blatant warnings that a stock is likely to fall. If lots of analysts are heading for the exits, they might be smelling smoke.

3. As a Gauge of Popularity Among Investors

Analysts don’t tend to waste their time researching stocks that nobody’s interested in. Instead, they want their research to be read and their name to be seen.

As a result, you can use the number of analysts that cover a stock to gauge that stock’s popularity. After all, the more popular a stock is, the more liquid an investment in it becomes.

For example, consider the following:

  • Amazon.com (AMZN). Amazon.com has 31 analysts covering the stock, all of which rate it a Buy. This suggests that an investment in Amazon.com would be a highly liquid one — there are lots of buyers for it on the market — because the stock has garnered quite a bit of positive coverage.
  • Tesla (TSLA). 29 analysts are weighing in on Tesla stock, with seven Buy ratings, seven Sell ratings, and 15 hold ratings. Once again, the high level of analyst coverage suggests that an investment in Tesla would be highly liquid.
  • Gevo (GEVO). Gevo, on the other hand, has two analysts covering it, both of whom rate it a Buy. Although the ratings and opinions are positive, the lack of widespread analyst coverage suggests that the stock is less popular than Amazon.com or Tesla, and thus, less liquid. That means you may have a harder time finding a buyer to pay your asking price if you decide you want to sell your shares.

The simple fact is that it takes investors to move the stock market. If nobody’s buying or selling, prices aren’t going up or down.

As such, the popularity of a stock you’re considering investing in should play into your decision to invest.


Final Word

This article admittedly has been critical of stock market analysts. The fact is, professional analysts are human beings who make their best efforts to succeed in their careers, just like you. They’re not bad people, but their interests aren’t always aligned with yours.

Interests among two conflicting parties rarely align; that’s why nothing gets done in Congress. Nonetheless, each party plays an important role, with analysts and retail investors essentially representing separate parties in the case in the stock market.

The bottom line is that nobody is going to hold your best interest as highly as you will. As such, you shouldn’t trust anyone’s opinion more than your own when it comes to your money. Instead, do your own research and look to experts to validate your own educated opinions.

Source: moneycrashers.com

7 Super Small-Cap Growth Stocks to Buy

Stocks with smaller market values are outperforming by a wide margin so far this year, and strategists and analysts alike say small caps should continue to lead the way as the economic recovery gains steam.

“The U.S. economy is currently trending toward high-single digit GDP growth in 2021 as COVID-19 vaccine distribution expands and we gradually emerge from the pandemic,” says Lule Demmissie, president of Ally Invest. “That environment favors small-cap names, which tend to have a more domestic focus than larger multinational firms.”

Small caps tend to outperform in the early parts of the economic cycle, so it should come as no surprise that they are clobbering stocks with larger market values these days.

Indeed, the small-cap benchmark Russell 2000 index is up 13.6% for the year-to-date through April 8, while the blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average added just 9.5% over the same span.

Keep in mind that small-cap stocks come with heightened volatility and risk. It’s also important to note that it can be dangerous to chase performance. But small-cap growth stocks – particularly in this environment – can offer potentially much greater rewards. 

Given the increased interest in these securities, we decided to find some of analysts’ favorite small caps to buy. To do so, we screened the Russell 2000 for small caps with outsized growth prospects and analysts’ highest consensus recommendations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Here’s how the recommendation system works: S&P Global Market Intelligence surveys analysts’ stock recommendations and scores them on a five-point scale, where 1.0 equals a Strong Buy and 5.0 is a Strong Sell. Any score below 2.5 means that analysts, on average, rate the stock as being Buy-worthy. The closer a score gets to 1.0, the stronger the Buy recommendation.

We also limited ourselves to names with projected long-term growth (LTG) rates of at least 20%. That means analysts, on average, expect these companies to generate compound annual earnings per share (EPS) growth of 20% or more for the next three to five years. 

And lastly, we dug into research, fundamental factors and analysts’ estimates on the most promising small caps. 

That led us to this list of the 7 best small-cap growth stocks to buy now, by virtue of their high analyst ratings and bullish outlooks. Read on as we analyze what makes each one stand out.

Share prices are as of April 8. Companies are listed by strength of analysts’ consensus recommendation, from lowest to highest. Data courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence, unless otherwise noted.

1 of 7

Q2 Holdings

Digital banking technologyDigital banking technology
  • Market value: $5.7 billion
  • Long-term growth rate: 150.0%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.68 (Buy)

Q2 Holdings (QTWO, $103.06) provides cloud-based virtual banking services to regional and community financial institutions. The idea is to make it so that smaller firms – which are sometimes small caps themselves – can give account holders the same kind of top-flight online tools, services and experiences as the industry’s big boys.

To that end, Q2 recently announced the acquisition of ClickSWITCH, which focuses on customer acquisition and retention by making the process of switching digital accounts easier. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Q2’s business model and execution has Wall Street drooling over the small cap’s growth prospects. Indeed, analysts expect the software company to generate compound annual earnings per share growth of 150% over the next three to five years, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. 

“In the last year, the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation efforts and investments of the financial services industry, and we believe Q2 Holdings is well positioned to support and grow its customer base,” writes Stifel equity research analyst Tom Roderick, who rates the stock at Buy. 

Of the 19 analysts covering Q2 tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, 10 call it a Strong Buy, five say Buy and four rate it at Hold. Their average target price of $152.25 gives QTWO implied upside of almost 50% over the next 12 months or so. Such high expected returns make it easy to understand why the Street sees QTWO as one of the best small-cap growth stocks.

2 of 7

BellRing Brands

A man drinking a protein shakeA man drinking a protein shake
  • Market value: $962.8 million
  • Long-term growth rate: 21.6%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.60 (Buy)

BellRing Brands (BRBR, $24.37), which sells protein shakes and other nutritional beverages, powders and supplements, is forecast to generate unusually healthy EPS growth over the next few years. 

Stifel equity research, which specializes in small caps, says BellRing offers a “compelling growth opportunity” thanks to its positioning in the large and fast-growing category known as “convenient nutrition.”

U.S. consumers are increasingly turning toward high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods and beverages for snacks and meal replacement, Stifel notes, and BellRing Brands, spun off from Post Holdings (POST) in late 2019, is in prime position to thrive from those changing consumer tastes. 

After all, the company’s portfolio includes such well-known brands as Premier Protein shakes and PowerBar nutrition bars. 

In another point favoring the bulls, BellRing’s “asset-light business model requires limited capital expenditures and generates very strong free cash flow,” notes Stifel analyst Christopher Growe, who rates the stock at Buy.

Most of the Street also puts BRBR in the small-caps-to-buy camp. Of the 15 analysts covering BRBR, eight call it a Strong Buy, five say Buy and two have it at Hold. Their average price target of $28.33 gives the stock implied upside of about 16% over the next year or so. 

With shares trading at just a bit more than 25 times estimated earnings for 2022, BRBR appears to offer a compelling valuation.

3 of 7

Rackspace Technology

Cloud technologyCloud technology
  • Market value: $5.3 billion
  • Long-term growth rate: 21.8%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.50 (Strong Buy)

Rackspace Technology (RXT, $25.61) partners with cloud services providers such as Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL), Amazon.com (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT) to manage its enterprise customers’ cloud-based services. 

And make no mistake, this sort of expertise is much in demand.

The pandemic accelerated many industries’ migration to cloud technology. As such, plenty of firms have discovered they need all the help they can get when it comes to transitioning and managing their operations – often with more than one cloud service provider.

“The prevalence of a multicloud approach has created integration and operational complexity that require expertise and resources most companies lack,”  writes William Blair analyst Jim Breen, who rates RXT at Outperform (the equivalent of Buy). “This creates an opportunity for a multicloud services partner to enable businesses to fully realize the benefits of cloud transformation.”

Breen adds that research firm IDC forecasts the managed cloud services market to grow 15% a year to more than $100 billion by 2024.

As the leading company in the field of multicloud services, bulls argue that Rackspace stands to benefit disproportionately from all this burgeoning demand. 

Speaking of bulls, of the 10 analysts covering the stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, five rate RXT at Strong Buy and five call it a Buy. The bottom line is that Rackspace easily makes the Street’s list of small-cap growth stocks to buy.

4 of 7

Chart Industries

Cryogenic technologyCryogenic technology
  • Market value: $5.3 billion
  • Long-term growth rate: 34.2%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.50 (Strong Buy)

Shares in Chart Industries (GTLS, $146.76), which manufactures cryogenic equipment for industrial gasses such as liquefied natural gas (LNG), are riding the global secular trend toward sustainable energy.

The market certainly likes GTLS’ commitment to greener energy. The small-cap stock is up more than 410% over the past 52 weeks – analysts expect a torrid pace of profit growth over the next few years to keep the gains coming. Indeed, the Street forecasts compound annual EPS growth of more than 34% over the next three to five years.

Analysts say the company’s unique portfolio of technologies gives it an edge in a growing industry. To that end, they applauded its $20 million acquisition of Sustainable Energy Solutions in December because it bolsters the company’s carbon capture capabilities.

“In the context of the decarbonization megatrend, Chart is a one-of-a-kind play on the global shift to more gas-centric economies,” writes Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov in a note to clients. “There is upside potential from large liquefied natural gas projects. Notwithstanding the lingering headwinds from the North American energy sector, we reiterate our Outperform [Buy] rating.”

Stifel, which chimes in with a Buy rating, says GTLS deserves a premium valuation given its outsized growth prospects. 

“With potentially a decade or more of high single-digit to low double-digit revenue growth, more recurring revenue, accelerating hydrogen opportunities, and the potential big LNG surprise bounces, we expect shares could trade north of 30 times normalized earnings,” writes analyst Benjamin Nolan.

The stock currently trades at nearly 30 times estimated earnings for 2022, per S&P Global Market Intelligence. Small caps to buy often sport lofty valuations, but with a projected long-term growth rate of more than 34%, one could argue GTLS is actually a bargain.

Raymond James and Stifel are very much in the majority on the Street, where 12 analysts rate GTLS at Strong Buy, four say Buy, one has it at Hold and one says Sell.

5 of 7

NeoGenomics

Lab equipmentLab equipment
  • Market value: $5.5 billion
  • Long-term growth rate: 43.0%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.33 (Strong Buy)

NeoGenomics (NEO, $47.87), an oncology testing and research laboratory, is still coming out from under the pressure of the pandemic, which led to the cancellation of legions of procedures.

But there’s been quite a lot of activity at the company, nevertheless, and analysts still see it as one of the better small-cap growth stocks to buy.

In February, the company said longtime Chairman and CEO Doug VanOort would step aside to become executive chairman in April. He was succeeded by Mark Mallon, former CEO of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (IRWD). The following month, NeoGenomics announced a $65 million cash-and-stock deal for Trapelo Health, an IT firm focused on precision oncology. 

All the while, shares have been lagging in 2021, falling more than 11% for the year-to-date vs. a gain of 13.5% for the small-cap benchmark Russell 2000.

Although COVID-19 has been squeezing clinical volumes – and bad winter weather is always a concern – analysts by and large remain fans of this small cap’s industry position. 

“We continue to find the company’s leading market share in clinical oncology testing and expanding presence in pharma services for oncology-based clients to be a very attractive combination,” writes William Blair equity analyst Brian Weinstein, who rates NEO at Outperform. 

Of the 12 analysts covering NEO tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, nine call it a Strong Buy, two say Buy and one says Hold. With an average target price of $63.20, analysts give NEO implied upside of about 32% in the next year or so. That’s good enough to make almost any list of small caps to buy.

6 of 7

Lovesac

A Lovesac storeA Lovesac store
  • Market value: $917.3 million
  • Long-term growth rate: 32.5%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.14 (Strong Buy)

The Lovesac Co. (LOVE, $62.47) is a niche consumer discretionary company that designs “foam-filled furniture,” which mostly includes bean bag chairs. 

Although it operates about 90 showrooms at malls around the country, revenue – thankfully – is largely driven by online sales. That’s led to a boom in business as folks, stuck at home, shop online for ways to spruce up their living spaces.

Shares have followed, rising about 45% for the year-to-date and more than 1,000% over the past 52 weeks. And analysts expect even more upside ahead, driven by a long-term growth rate forecast of 32.5% for the next three to five years, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. 

Stifel, which says LOVE is among its small caps to Buy, expects the consumer shift to buying furnishing online to persist, and even accelerate, once the pandemic subsides.

“Lovesac is well positioned for continued share gains in the furniture category with its strong product, omni-channel capabilities and enhancements to the platform, many of which were initiated during the pandemic,” writes Stifel’s Lamont Williams in a note to clients.

The analyst adds that LOVE has a long ramp-up opportunity thanks to a new generation of home buyers.

“As the housing market remains healthy there is the opportunity to capture new buyers as more middle- to upper-income millennials become homeowners and increase spending on [the company’s] category,” Williams writes. 

Of the seven analysts covering the stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, six rate it at Strong Buy and one says Buy. That’s a small sample size, but the bull case for LOVE as one of the better small-cap growth stocks to buy still stands.

7 of 7

AdaptHealth

An elderly person using a walker during home rehabAn elderly person using a walker during home rehab
  • Market value: $4.3 billion
  • Long-term growth rate: 43.0%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.11 (Strong Buy)

AdaptHealth (AHCO, $37.61) comes in at No. 1 on our list of small caps to buy thanks to their outsized growth prospects. The bull case rests partly on demographics and the aging of baby boomers. 

AdaptHealth provides home healthcare equipment and medical supplies. Most notably, it provides sleep therapy equipment such as CPAP machines for sleep apnea – a condition that tends to increase with age and weight.

With the majority of the boomer cohort of roughly 70 million Americans hitting their 60s and 70s, home medical equipment for sleep apnea and other conditions is increasingly in demand.

Mergers and acquisitions are also a part of the company’s growth story, notes UBS Global Research, which rates AHCO at Buy. Most recently, in February, the company closed a $2 billion cash-and-stock deal for AeroCare, a respiratory and home medical equipment distributor. 

“AdaptHealth exits 2020 with material themes of accelerating growth,” writes UBS analyst Whit Mayo. “In each quarter of 2022, we assume that AHCO acquires $35 million in annual revenues, closing these deals at the middle of the quarter. This drives estimated acquired revs from yet to be announced deals of $70 million.”

Small caps have been rallying in 2021, but not AHCO, which is essentially flat for the year-to-date. Happily, the Street expects that to change sooner rather than later. With an average target price of $47.22, analysts give the stock implied upside of about 25% over the next 12 months or so.

Of the nine analysts covering AHCO tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, eight rate it at Strong Buy and one says Buy. As noted above, they expect the company to generate compound annual EPS growth of 43% over the next three to five years.

Source: kiplinger.com

5 Myths (and 5 Truths) About Selling Your Home

True or false: All real estate advice is good advice. (Hint: It depends.)

Everyone has advice about the real estate market, but not all of that unsolicited information is true. So when it comes time to list your home, you’ll need to separate fact from fiction.

Below we’ve identified the top five real estate myths — and debunked them so you can hop on the fast track to selling your property.

1. I need to redo my kitchen and bathroom before selling

Truth: While kitchens and bathrooms can increase the value of a home, you won’t get a large return on investment if you do a major renovation just before selling.

Minor renovations, on the other hand, may help you sell your home for a higher price. New countertops or new appliances may be just the kind of bait you need to reel in a buyer. Check out comparable listings in your neighborhood, and see what work you need to do to compete in the market.

2. My home’s exterior isn’t as important as the interior

Truth: Home buyers often make snap judgments based simply on a home’s exterior, so curb appeal is very important.

“A lot of buyers search online or drive by properties before they even enlist my services,” says Bic DeCaro, a real estate agent at Westgate Realty Group in Falls Church, Virginia. “If the yard is cluttered or the driveway is all broken up, there’s a chance they won’t ever enter the house — they’ll just keep driving.”

The good news is that it doesn’t cost a bundle to improve your home’s exterior. Start by cutting the grass, trimming the hedges and clearing away any clutter. Then, for less than $50, you could put up new house numbers, paint the front door, plant some flowers or install a new, more stylish porch light.

3. If my house is clean, I don’t need to stage it

Truth: Tidy is a good first step, but professional home stagers have raised the bar. Tossing dirty laundry in the closet and sweeping the front steps just aren’t enough anymore.

Stagers make homes appeal to a broad range of tastes. They can skillfully identify ways to highlight your home’s best features and compensate for its shortcomings. For example, they might recommend removing blinds from a window with a great view or replacing a double bed with a twin to make a bedroom look bigger.

Of course, you don’t have to hire a professional stager. But if you don’t, be ready to use some of their tactics to get your home ready for sale — especially if staging is a trend where you live. An unstaged house will pale when compared to others on the market.

4. Granite and stainless steel appliances are old news

Truth: The majority of home shoppers still want granite counters and stainless steel appliances. Quartz, marble and concrete counters also have wide appeal.

“Most shoppers just want to steer away from anything that looks dated,” says Dru Bloomfield, a real estate agent with Platinum Living Realty in Scottsdale, Arizona. “When you a design a space, you need to decide if you’re doing it for yourself or for resale potential.”

She suggests that if you’re not planning to move anytime soon, decorate how you’d like. But if you’re planning to put your home on the market within the next couple of years, stick to elements with mass appeal.

“I recently sold a house where the kitchen had been remodeled 12 years ago, and everybody thought it had just been done because the owners had chosen timeless elements: dark maple cabinets, granite counters and stainless steel appliances.”

5. Home shoppers can ignore paint colors they don’t like

Truth: Moving is a lot of work, and while many home buyers realize they could take on the task of painting walls, they simply don’t want to.

That’s why one of the most important things you can do to update your home is apply a fresh coat of neutral paint. Neutral colors also help a property stand out in online photographs, which is where most potential buyers will get their first impression of your property.

Hiring a professional to paint the interior of a 2,000-square-foot house will cost about $3,000 to $6,000, depending on labor costs in your region. You could buy the paint and do the job yourself for $300 to $500. Either way, if a fresh coat of paint helps your home stand out in a crowded market, it’s probably a worthwhile investment.

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Originally published April 1, 2014.

Source: zillow.com