10 States With the Highest Sales Taxes

Before you embark on a shopping spree in any of the 10 worst states for sales taxes featured here, you’ll want to make extra room in your budget. Our biggest offender clocks in at 9.55% once both state and local sales taxes are factored in (continue reading our round-up to find out which state is the priciest culprit).

However, retirees and other relocators shouldn’t judge a state by its sales tax alone. While this expense may be costlier in some areas, residents in states with a high sales tax may be able to reap the benefits of other tax-related perks, such as not having to pay state income tax.

Got your attention? Take a look at our list to find out which states will nickel-and-dime you the most on everyday purchases.

Sales tax values are for 2020 and were compiled by the Tax Foundation. Income tax brackets are for the 2020 tax year. Property tax values are for 2019.

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10. New York

The state of New York.The state of New York.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Least tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 4% state levy. Localities can add as much as 4.875%, and the average combined rate is 8.52%, according to the Tax Foundation. In the New York City metro area, there is an additional 0.375% sales tax to support transit. Clothing and footwear that cost less than $110 (per item or pair) are exempt from sales tax. Groceries and prescription drugs are exempt, too. Motor vehicle sales are taxable, though.

Income Tax Range: Low: 4% (on up to $8,500 of taxable income for single filers and up to $17,150 for married couples filing jointly); High: 8.82% (on taxable income over $1,070,550 for single filers and over $2,155,350 for married couples filing jointly).

Starting in 2021, the top rate is 10.9% on taxable income over $25 million (regardless of filing status).

New York City and Yonkers imposed their own income tax. A commuter tax is also imposed on residents of New York City, as well as on residents of Rockland, Nassau, Suffolk, Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, and Westchester Counties.

Property Taxes: In the Empire State, the median property tax rate is $1,692 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the New York State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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9. California

The state of California.The state of California.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Most tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 7.25% state levy. Localities can add as much as 2.5%, and the average combined rate is 8.68%, according to the Tax Foundation. Groceries and prescription drugs are exempt from these taxes, but clothing and motor vehicles are taxed. 

Income Tax Range: Low: 1% (on up to $17,864 of taxable income for married joint filers and up to $8,932 for those filing individually); High: 13.3% (on more than $1,198,024 for married joint filers and $1 million for those filing individually).

Property Taxes: If you’re planning to buy a home in the Golden State, the median property tax rate is $729 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the California State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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8. Kansas

The state of Kansas.The state of Kansas.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Least tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 6.5% state levy. Localities can add as much as 4%, and the average combined rate is 8.69%, according to the Tax Foundation. These rates also apply to groceries, motor vehicles, clothing and prescription drugs. 

Income Tax Range: Low: 3.1% (on $2,501 to $15,000 of taxable income for single filers and $5,001 to $30,000 for joint filers); High: 5.7% (on more than $30,000 of taxable income for single filers and more than $60,000 for joint filers).

Property Taxes: Kansans who own their homes pay a median property tax rate of $1,369 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Kansas State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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7. Illinois

The state of Illinois.The state of Illinois.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Least tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 6.25% state levy. Localities can add as much as 4.75%, and the average combined rate is 8.82%, according to the Tax Foundation. Food and prescription drugs are taxed at only 1% by the state. Clothing and motor vehicles are fully taxed.

Income Tax Range: There is a flat rate of 4.95% of federal adjusted gross income after modifications.

Property Taxes: For homeowners in Illinois, the median property tax rate is $2,165 per $100,000 of assessed home value — the second highest in our round-up.

For details on other state taxes, see the Illinois State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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6. Oklahoma

The state of Oklahoma.The state of Oklahoma.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Not tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 4.5% state levy. Localities can add as much as 7%, and the average combined rate is 8.95%, according to the Tax Foundation. Prescription drugs are exempt and motor vehicles are taxed at a rate of 1.25% (a 3.25% excise tax also applies). Grocery items and clothing are taxable at 4.5%, plus local taxes. 

Income Tax Range: Low: 0.5% (on up to $1,000 of taxable income for single filers and up to $2,000 for married joint filers); High: 5% (on taxable income over $7,200 for single filers and over $12,200 for married joint filers).

Property Taxes: For Oklahomans who own a home, the median property tax rate is $869 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Oklahoma State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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5. Alabama

Photo of AlabamaPhoto of Alabama

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 4% state levy. Localities can add as much as 7.5% to that, and the average combined rate is 9.22%, according to the Tax Foundation. Prescription drugs are exempt. Groceries and clothing are fully taxable, while motor vehicles are taxed at a reduced rate of 2% (additional local taxes may apply).

Income Tax Range: Low: 2% (on up to $1,000 of taxable income for married joint filers and up to $500 for all others); High: 5% (on more than $6,000 of taxable income for married joint filers and more than $3,000 for all others). 

Some Alabama municipalities also impose occupational taxes on salaries and wages.

Property Taxes: In Alabama, the median property tax rate is $395 per $100,000 of assessed home value — the lowest on our list.

For details on other state taxes, see the Alabama State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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4. Washington

The state of Washington.The state of Washington.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Most tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 6.5% state levy. Municipalities can add up to 4% to that, with the average combined rate at 9.23%, according to the Tax Foundation. Grocery items and prescription drugs are exempt. Clothing is taxable, as are motor vehicles. However, there’s an additional 0.3% tax on sales of motor vehicles.

Income Tax Range: Washington has no state income tax.

Property Taxes: Home buyers in the Evergreen State can expect to pay a median property tax rate of $929 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Washington State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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3. Arkansas

The state of Arkansas.The state of Arkansas.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Mixed tax picture

State Sales Tax: 6.5% state levy. Localities can add as much as 5.125%, and the average combined rate is 9.51%, according to the Tax Foundation. Prescription drugs are exempt. Grocery items are taxed at 0.125% (additional local taxes may apply). Motor vehicles are taxed if the purchase price is $4,000 or more (7% tax rate in Texarkana). However, starting in 2022, the rate on sales of used motor vehicles priced between $4,000 and $10,000 will only be 3.5%. Clothing is taxed at the standard rate.

Income Tax Range: Low: 2% (on taxable income from $4,500 to $8,899 for taxpayers with net income less than $22,200), 0.75% (on first $4,499 of taxable income for taxpayers with net income from $22,200 to $79,300), or 2% (on on first $4,000 of taxable income for taxpayers with net income over $79,300); High: 3.4% (on taxable income from $13,400 to $22,199 for taxpayers with net income less than $22,200), 5.9% (on taxable income from $37,200 to $79,300 for taxpayers with net income from $22,200 to $79,300), or 6.6% (on taxable income over $79,300 for taxpayers with net income over $79,300). Beginning in 2021, the top rate for taxpayers with net income over $79,300 will be 5.9% (on taxable income over $8,000).

A “bracket adjustment” of between $40 and $440 is subtracted from the amount of tax due for taxpayers with net income from $79,301 to $84,600.

Property Taxes: For homeowners in the Natural State, the median property tax rate is $612 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Arkansas State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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2. Louisiana

The state of Louisiana.The state of Louisiana.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 4.45% state levy. Localities can add as much as 7%, and the average combined rate is 9.52%, according to the Tax Foundation. Groceries and prescription drugs are exempt from the state’s sales tax, but localities may tax these. Clothing and motor vehicles are taxable.

Income Tax Range: Low: 2% (on $12,500 or less of taxable income for individuals, $25,000 for joint filers); High: 6% (on more than $50,000 of taxable income, $100,000 for joint filers). 

Property Taxes: The median property tax rate in Louisiana is $534 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Louisiana State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

 

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1. Tennessee

The states of TennesseeThe states of Tennessee

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Most tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: 7% state levy. There’s also an additional state tax of 2.75% on sales of single items that applies to the portion of the sales price from $1,600 to $3,200. Localities can add up to 2.75%, with an average combined rate of 9.55%, according to the Tax Foundation. Groceries are taxed at 4% by the state, in addition to any additional local taxes. Clothing is taxed at the standard rate. Motor vehicles are taxed at the basic 7% rate, plus the additional 2.75% on purchases between $1,600 and $3,200. There’s no tax on prescription drugs. 

Income Tax Range: There’s no state income tax in Tennessee. However, dividends and some interest are subject to the Hall Tax at a 1% rate in 2020. The first $1,250 in taxable income for individuals ($2,500 for joint filers) is exempt. 2020 is the last year for this tax, which is being phased out. Also, the tax is waived if you’re over the age of 100.

Property Taxes: In Tennessee, the median property tax rate is $636 per $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Tennessee State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

Source: kiplinger.com

5 Tips for Approaching the Open House

In this article:

For decades, sellers and their agents have been using open houses to help generate interest in their listings. Open houses give the general public the chance to view a home without scheduling a private showing. While open houses do get a lot of curious neighbors and casual browsers, they can be a good opportunity for serious buyers to decide if a home is worth pursuing further, or a way to get a better grasp on neighborhood home values. 

In fact, 59% of home buyers attended an open house during their shopping process last year and 43% of buyers said attending the open house was very or extremely important to determining if the home was right for them.* On average, home buyers attended 2.6 open houses before buying.

Whether you’re a sincere buyer or simply curious about the inside of a home, you should know how open houses work and understand how you can be a good open house attendee. 

Note: If open houses are restricted or unavailable due to public health concerns, work with your agent to arrange a private tour or video tour. All Zillow-owned homes include a self-tour option — just use our app to unlock the door and tour at your convenience.

What is an open house?

An open house is an event during which potential buyers can tour a home that’s on the market. It’s usually hosted by the seller’s listing agent, or by the seller themselves, in case of a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) listing. Open houses usually take place on weekends, during a set range of hours typically midday.

Open house benefits for buyers

No scheduling required: Unlike a private showing, you don’t need to set up a specific appointment to see a home. Simply show up during the open house hours and view the home at your own pace. 

Scope out the competition: If you’re interested in a home, attending the open house can help you gauge interest from other buyers. This can be helpful when determining how quickly you need to submit an offer and how much you should offer. 

Understand current home values: Seeing what homes are selling for in your area and what you can buy at a particular price point can be helpful if you’re just starting your search. 

Redefine your nonnegotiable home features: Checking out homes in person can help you redefine your list of must-haves: Do you really need that extra bedroom? What does a backyard of this size really look like?

How do open houses work?

Not every seller or listing agent will hold one, but here’s the typical process for sellers setting up an open house:

  1. The seller and their agent determine a day and time for the open house.
  2. The agent lists the open house on the local MLS.
  3. The agent advertises the open house on social media, online and with print ads or flyers. 
  4. The agent prepares for the open house — purchasing refreshments, printing flyers, setting up signs and adding little touches to make the home feel welcoming to buyers. (Yes, as a shopper, you can eat the cookies.)
  5. The agent hosts the event, greeting buyers and answering questions about the property and community.
  6. Buyers remove their shoes, tour the home, take pictures and video (if allowed) and jot down important notes. 
  7. Any buyer who liked the house will contact their own agent. They’ll then set up a private showing to see the home again or they’ll submit an offer right away — the latter is common in fast-moving real estate markets.

Who hosts an open house?

The person hosting an open house could be any one of the following: 

  • Listing agent: As the person hired to sell the home, the listing agent should be an expert on the property. 
  • Listing agent’s team member or associate: A busy listing agent may also send another agent in their place — either someone on their team or another agent in their office. They should be experts in the local market, but may not be as familiar with the individual home. 
  • Homeowner: If a home is for sale by owner (FSBO), the homeowner will be hosting their own open house. They’re undoubtedly the expert on the home, but their local market expertise may be limited. 

How to prepare for an open house

There are times when you might just stumble upon an open house while you’re on a walk or running errands. But if you’re intentionally looking for open houses as part of your home-buying strategy, try these tips.

Seek out relevant open houses

If you plan to visit multiple open houses in one day, make sure you’re focusing on listings that fit your criteria for budget and location. It’s not worth wasting time looking at homes outside your budget or those that are too far from your work or school. 

Tip: With Zillow’s home search tool, buyers can filter by homes with upcoming open houses (this filter can be applied in addition to other search filters like price, bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage and location). When you use the open houses filter in conjunction with filters for your other criteria, you can easily find the right open houses for your search.

A map of home listings on Zillow.

You can also tour most Zillow-owned homes any time between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., any day of the week — just select the tour option on the listing. Although the listing agent will not be present, you can avoid a busy open house and rest assured the property is in move-in ready condition.

Do research on the market beforehand

With help from your agent or on your own, find out how each home you’re planning to visit stacks up against others nearby. Is the price in line with similar listings in the area? Are there any defects? Has it gone under contract recently and then returned to the market? Are there a lot of other interested buyers? Has it been sitting on the market for a long time? (“Days on market” is an indicator of a stale listing, but the standard number of days on market can vary based on where you live.)

Stay open-minded

If you’re searching on a tight budget in a hot neighborhood, there’s a good chance that the home that fits the bill will need some TLC. Fortunately, attending an open house can give you a better idea of the home’s condition and potential, while also giving you the opportunity to ask renovation-related questions — e.g., the location of load bearing walls and the details of local regulations. 

How to attend an open house

Now that you’ve done your research and are prepared to add some open houses to your home search, here’s what you should do once the day arrives. 

Ask questions

An open house is your best opportunity to ask the listing agent (or their associate) your questions — don’t be shy. Ask questions that you wouldn’t be able to answer just by reading a home’s listing description, such as:

  • What are the HOA restrictions?
  • Has the seller done a property tax appeal?
  • Have there been any recent renovations or repairs?

Tip: If you’re not currently working with an agent and you ultimately decide you aren’t interested in a particular home you tour, the open house could help you see if the listing agent might be the right person to represent you — many agents represent both buyers and sellers. 

Be honest

If anyone other than the listing agent or the homeowner is hosting the open house, they’re likely an agent hoping to find potential buyer clients. If you’re already working with an agent (or if you have no real interest in buying), be honest.

Check for damage and disrepair

Professional or edited photos can make a home look a lot better online than it is in person. At an open house, take the opportunity to closely evaluate a home’s condition and take note of any potential defects that would factor into your offer price. 

Assess the windows: Look for flaking paint, misaligned sashes and condensation due to air leaks. These could be signs of windows that need replacement. 

Check for water damage: Look for warped baseboards, ceiling stains and musty smells. 

Make note of cracks: Noticeable cracks in the ceiling or drywall could indicate foundation issues. 

Test functions: Open cabinets, doors and drawers. Run the faucets. Check the water pressure. An open house is a good opportunity to make sure every part of the home is in good working order. 

Gauge potential renovation needs: Home improvements can really add up. As you walk through a home, keep an eye out for urgent renovation needs like floors, fixtures or large repainting projects.

Open house tips for buyers

Whenever you attend an open house, put yourself in the seller’s shoes — you’re letting a bunch of strangers walk through your home while you’re not there. While every seller wants their open house to net a buyer, they also want to keep their home safe and their furnishings free of damage.

Do

  • Take off your shoes or wear booties if requested.
  • Greet the host and provide your name.
  • Sign in if necessary or requested (this is a safety issue for the seller and their agent).
  • Take notes on your phone about your likes, dislikes and follow-up questions.
  • Ask if you can capture a video (if the listing doesn’t already include a video).
  • Respect other buyers and guests. 
  • Wait for others to exit a room before you enter.
  • Provide feedback if requested.
  • Thank the person hosting the event.

Don’t

  • Refuse to comply with an agent or homeowner’s house rules.
  • Criticize the home or the owner’s style.
  • Listen in on other visitors’ conversations.
  • Touch the owner’s belongings.
  • Let kids run around without supervision.
  • Bring food or beverages in (except water).
  • Reveal information that would compromise your negotiating power, like your budget or level of interest in the home.
  • Bring pets.

*Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019 survey data

Source: zillow.com

Getting a Low Mortgage Rate

Are you planning to buy a new house, and want to save money along the way? Then here are some ways to get a good interest on your home mortgage, as well as minimize the amount of money you’ll shell out throughout the payment period.

Tip #1: Keep Your Job or Get Promoted

If you’ve been gainfully employed for the past two years, you’re in good shape. If you got promoted during that span, that’s even better. Your application may be disapproved if your employment record is spotty, or if you demonstrate declining earnings.

It’s even tougher when you’re self-employed. You’ll be asked to present your income tax returns over the past two years, and may even be required to accomplish IRS Form 4506, which will let them verify whether your ITR’s are the same ones in the IRS’s records.

Tip #2: Save Up Enough to Cover the 20% Down Payment

When you qualify for a mortgage, you have the option to pay a down payment as low as 5%, but this tends to hike the interest rate and increase the amount of money you’ll shell out in the long run. To get the best interest rate for your situation, opt to pay a 20% down payment.

The reasoning behind this is that a loan with a 5% down payment is considered high-risk, and they’ll cover that risk by raising the interest rate accordingly. On the other hand, paying a higher down payment is an indication of stable earnings and money in the bank, so they can afford to give you a lower interest rate.

Another tip: They’ll also expect you to have enough cash reserves to cover your mortgage payments for the next 60 days. These cash reserves can be in the form of savings and checking accounts, certificates of deposit, or money market funds. It does NOT normally include retirement funds – unless you’re willing to pay additional taxes and penalties.

Tip #3: Keep Your Credit Score Up

In most cases, a credit score of 620 is the minimum required to take out a home loan – and it will likely get you a higher interest rate. On the other hand, you’ll get the best interest rates when your credit score is at 760 and up. How well do you score?

Study your credit score right now, correct any errors, and work on bringing it up over the next several months. With professional credit repair help, you could raise your credit score by over 100 points in a matter of months.

Tip #4: Check If You Qualify For Special Programs

There are special programs out there that qualify you for lower interest rates on your home mortgage, or allow you a smaller down payment with no additional interest. If you or your spouse is a war veteran, you can qualify for a Veterans Affairs loan, which offers protection when you fall behind on your payments.

Other programs benefit first-time home buyers, such as those of the Federal Housing Administration and the US. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And if you plan to buy a house in a rural area, the U.S. Department of Agriculture mortgage program will help you.

Do Your Homework Ahead of Time

Ideally, you should study your home mortgage options two years in advance. This gives you enough time to get your finances in order to get the best deal possible.

Source: creditabsolute.com

Talk Ain’t Cheap: 9 Listing Keywords That Could Cost You

When it comes to real estate listings, the picture you’re painting with certain words can be worth thousands of dollars.

First impressions matter. When it comes to for-sale listings, the first thing most buyers see is a home’s description. But not all listing descriptions are created equal.
LowTierNegRes_Scaled_Big

Based on an analysis of 24,000 home sales in “Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate,” co-authors Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries reveal listings with certain keywords send negative signals about a home’s quality and features. These listings tend to sell for less than expected.

“If you’re not careful, picking the wrong adjective could cost you time, money, and in some cases, lots of both,” they explain.

Check out the nine most dangerous listing descriptors below.

1. Fixer

The word “fixer” implies “fixer-upper.” While a fixer-upper may not seem out of place among lower-priced homes, most buyers expect mid- and high-priced homes to be move-in ready. The numbers back this up. Among the 24,000 home sales analyzed, listings in the mid-price range with the word “fixer” sold for 11.1 percent less on average than expected.

2. TLC

“TLC” falls in the same camp as “fixer.” However in this case, both low- and high-priced homes took a hit when they were described as needing tender loving care. Listings in the bottom tier that mentioned “TLC” sold for 4.2 percent less, and homes in the top tier mentioning “TLC” sold for 8.7 percent less on average than expected.

3. Cosmetic

While you may think you’re putting a positive spin on “needs work” by saying a home needs “a few cosmetic updates,” a buyer likely doesn’t want to hear this. On average, high-priced listings with the word “cosmetic” sold for 7.5 percent less than expected.

4. Investment

While someone looking to buy an investment property might like to see the word “investment,” for the majority of home buyers it signals a home has seen better days. Low-priced listings described as an “investment” sold for 6.6 percent less on average than expected.

5. Investor

Like “investment,” “investor” is a great word for attracting someone who is looking to flip or rent out a property. But for home buyers, it can imply a home is rundown and cheap. For high-priced homes, this might make buyers think there is room to negotiate. And data shows top-tier listings with the word “investor” sold for 6.6 percent less on average than expected.

6. Potential

You might see a home described as “having potential,” but this signals it isn’t a finished product. You don’t want to communicate this to buyers looking for a move-in ready home. In fact, lower-priced homes with “potential” in the listing description sold for 4.3 percent less on average than expected.

7. Bargain

As soon as we hear “bargain,” we’re unfortunately wired to think the opposite. If you think your home is a great deal, a good rule of thumb is to let the price speak for itself. Mid-priced homes described as a bargain sold for 3.5 percent less on average than expected.

8. Opportunity

While high-priced homes may be described as an “opportunity to live on the water” or an “opportunity to live like royalty,” the context isn’t typically so positive in listing descriptions for low-priced homes. In this case, you might expect to see “house-flipping opportunity” or “investment opportunity,” which can have negative connotations for buyers. Listings in this price tier with the word “opportunity” sold for 2 percent less on average than expected.

9. Nice

Like “opportunity,” the word “nice” typically has a positive meaning in listings for high-priced homes — “nice view” or “nice wine cellar,” for example. But for low- and mid-priced homes, “nice” is highly subjective, especially if it’s used generally to say “a nice home.” The buyer is left to interpret what “nice” means. Likely because of this ambiguity, low- and mid-priced listings with the word “nice” sold for about 1 percent less on average than expected.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

Why Is the Housing Market So Hot?

Real estate Q&A: “Why Is the Housing Market So Expensive Right Now?”

If you asked me this same question a few years ago, I would have had the same basic answer I’m about to explain.

And since that time, home prices have surged much, much higher, which basically tells me the same fundamentals have been at play for quite a while now.

Additionally, they may continue to more years to come.

Similar to a market downturn, when things are hot, they remain hot for years, which is why it can pay to hold on, just like those who didn’t sell their bitcoin at first-profit.

Reason #1: There Is Very Limited Inventory and Lots of Buyers

The top reason why the housing market is so high right now has to do with limited inventory, or supply.

It’s one of those fundamental concepts even a child can comprehend. When you have a small or finite amount of something, and people want it, its value goes up.

This is basically what’s been going on with real estate since the market bottomed in 2012.

In reality, supply has been tight ever since the market peaked and the foreclosure crisis took hold because banks were careful to flood the market.

Even back then, it was difficult to scoop up a property because many of them were either foreclosure sales, which aren’t for novice home buyers, or short sales, which took bank approval and months and months to close.

I remember looking at homes in 2012 and it wasn’t much different than today. Sure, home prices were significantly lower, but inventory wasn’t all that great.

Much of what was listed either needed work or wasn’t in the most desirable area. For me, that hasn’t changed over the past decade.

Yes, a good property comes on the market here and there, but if and when it did/does, it becomes a “hot home” and a bidding war ensues.

It’s for this main reason that home prices are at all-time highs nationwide, with the median home valued at roughly $273,000, up from $215,000 in early 2007, per Zillow.

Reason #2: Record Low Mortgage Rates

  • Despite a recent uptick mortgage rates are lower than they were a year ago
  • This has allowed purchasing power to stay strong while home prices rise
  • The only increased burden is a higher down payment for prospective buyers
  • It may remove some buyers from the picture but not enough to lower prices

Now if reason number one weren’t reason enough for real estate to be booming, sprinkle in some record low mortgage rates.

To get this straight, there’s a short supply of something people want and it’s on sale from a financing point of view. No wonder everyone is going wild.

While the listing price might be quite a bit higher than it was five or 10 years ago, the fact that mortgage rates are roughly half the price they were then is huge.

This has kept home purchasing power intact despite a big run-up in home prices, basically only making the required down payment an issue for some prospective buyers.

And remember, because there’s a limited supply of homes available, it doesn’t really matter if some would-be buyers are shut out of the market due to affordability constraints.

There are still enough willing and able buyers to come in and pick up any slack, of which there isn’t much of to begin with.

So the bidding war might only have 20 participants instead of 30 – that’s not going to make any impact whatsoever on the final sales price.

Reason #3: Rising Incomes and Inflation

home price affordability

Lastly, we can’t simply look at unadjusted (nominal) home prices and say whoa, they’re even higher than they were back in 2006 when real estate was in a massive bubble. They must crash!

Yes, unadjusted home prices are about 22.2% above the peak seen in 2006 when the housing market last boomed, per First American (see the blue line above).

But that alone isn’t enough to determine whether the market is overvalued or not.

Ultimately, you have to factor in inflation, mortgage rates, and wages to get a complete picture.

Speaking of wages, median household income rose 6.2% year-over-year in January and is up 74.8% since January 2000.

Meanwhile, real house prices (those adjusted for inflation) were about 25.6% less expensive to begin the year than in January 2000.

And so-called “house-buying power-adjusted house prices” are still 47.8% below their 2006 housing boom peak, meaning rather incredibly, there’s still a lot of room to run.

Just check out the chart above – from October 1993 to December 1994, nominal home prices barely budged one percent, but the Real House Price Index (RHPI green line) increased over 20% because purchasing power decreased by 16% due to rising mortgage rates.

Then from January 2005 to March 2006, nominal house prices surged about 13% while mortgage rates remained mostly steady, pushing the RHPI up a big 15%.

At that time, affordability was eroded because nominal home price appreciation far outpaced purchasing power.

Finally, nominal home prices increased more than 13% year-over-year in January 2021, but house-buying power (yellow line) jumped 19% as the RHPI fell nearly five percent.

Why did housing affordability improve despite rising home prices? Because median household income increased and the 30-year fixed fell from 3.62% in January 2020 to 2.74% in January 2021, per Freddie Mac.

In other words, you can’t look at nominal home prices in a vacuum, aka firing up the Redfin app and saying OMG, that $500,000 home from last year is now selling for $600,000!

You need to consider the big picture and factor in wages and how cheap/expensive financing is.

If you look back at that chart, nominal home prices (blue line) have risen steadily since around 2012, and are now above the scary 2006 housing peak levels.

But the RHPI has reached its lowest point since the series got started in 1990, and at the same time the House-Buying Power Index has surged higher, especially recently.

All of this may explain why despite double-digit year-over-year gains and nominal home prices that might be up nearly 100% from 2006, the buyers are still coming. And they’re bidding over asking!

It also supports the idea that the next housing crash (or beginning of a decline) won’t happen for a while still, perhaps my longstanding prediction of 2024.

In other words, if you’re a prospective home buyer, don’t get your hopes up for a discount anytime soon, though if mortgage rates do rise, we might see a moderation in home price appreciation and perhaps less competition.

But the only real relief will come from increased home building, which is beginning to ramp up as housing starts and housing completions are both up significantly year-over-year.

As to how real estate could go from red hot to ice cold again, picture a scenario a few years out when home builders overshoot the mark and mortgage rates are back at 4-5% for a 30-year fixed.

Oh, and asking prices are up another 10-20% from today’s levels. That’s where you can start to imagine another major correction, especially if the wider economy hits another snag.

Read more: 2021 Home Buying Tips

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.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

You May Have Missed the Housing Bottom, But Not the Mortgage Rate Bottom

Posted on May 15th, 2012

Over the past several months, it has become somewhat clear (insert gigantic grain of salt here) that home prices may have bottomed last year, at least in some areas of the country.

While it’s still too early to say so definitively, it looks like some homes were snatched up at rock-bottom prices a year ago.

These same homes are now valued quite a bit higher, and recent comparable sales are backing up the numbers.

Of course, some are also calling it a “mini bubble,” otherwise known as a fake recovery, spurred on in part by the record low mortgage rates.

But only time will tell…

[Tips for first-time home buyers.]

You Missed the Bottom

Perhaps you’re kicking yourself, thinking you could have purchased that same house for a lot less a year ago.

Yep, you were all set to time the bottom, and seemingly out of thin air, it came and went, and you were none the wiser.

How did that happen? You were watching home prices on a weekly basis, looking at recent sales, surveying market conditions. How could you have missed it?

Well, they always say that timing the market bottom is near impossible, partially because you only know it has actually hit bottom when it’s too late.

So did you mess up? Did you miss your chance to get the steal of the century? Not quite.

[Are mortgage rates negotiable?]

Have Mortgage Rates Bottomed?

For much of the first half of 2011, mortgage rates on the popular 30-year fixed stood around 4.75%.

While this may have seemed like the “bottom for mortgage rates,” they now sit around a percentage point lower, which most people would have never guessed in a million years.

That’s right; today you can snag a 30-year fixed for around 3.75%, which is pretty much unheard of.

And who knows, rates could fall even lower over time, though the more they drop, the less upside there is for lower rates.

You certainly shouldn’t bank on rates slipping any lower because then you’re falling into the same “timing the bottom” trap.

All that said, let’s do the math to see what the difference is using a real world scenario, assuming the home buyer is putting 20% down.

2011 Home price: $475,000
2011 Mortgage rate: 4.75%
2011 Mortgage payment: $1982.26
Total interest paid: $333,613.60

2012 Home price: $520,000
2012 Mortgage rate: 3.75%
2012 Mortgage payment: $1926.56
Total interest paid: $277,561.60

Wait just a minute here. Those who missed the housing bottom are actually ending up with a lower mortgage payment?

While not significantly lower, it’s still roughly $50 cheaper each month to buy the same house today, and results in $56,000 in interest savings throughout the life of the loan (yes, the down payment is slightly higher).

Who would have thought that? Turns out you didn’t necessarily miss out, assuming you are financing the deal via a mortgage, which most of us are.

Put simply, even though you may have missed the housing market bottom, whether by choice or accident, waiting may have actually paid off.

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

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