Looking for some wisdom on the best approach to owning a home? Here’s a sampling of 5 real estate tips from Warren Buffett, right, the third richest human being on the planet.
1. The Basic Premise of Home Ownership — That Homes Increase In Value Over Time — Is Sound
Last spring, the Congressional Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission called Buffett in for an interview. He was asked to explain some of his bubble-era investment decisions, as well as to give his take on what in the heck had happened to the economy. In the process, Buffett expressed his belief that the housing bubble was inflated by an irrational, widespread belief that home prices would only ever go up — an extreme corruption of a generally valid premise. “It’s a totally sound premise that houses will become worth more over time because the dollar becomes worth less,” Buffett declared.
The sound premise, Buffett explained, got distorted and eventually caused the housing crisis when Americans started buying multiple homes to cash in on what they assumed was guaranteed appreciation, taking out “liar’s loans,” buying homes with no down payment and with unaffordable monthly payments — and lenders let them — all because of the assumption that prices could never go down.
Clearly, this assumption was wrong. As Buffett said in an earlier shareholder’s letter: “A pin lies in wait for every bubble.”
2. Buy Low (And Now Would Be a Good Time for That)
Buffett writes a letter to Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders every year that is chock-full of his review of the company’s fortunes (literally) over the preceding year, his analysis of the stock market and the economy in general, and his smart, plain English tips on life and money and on life.
In last month’s annual shareholder letter, Buffett addressed the industry-leading 2010 performance of one of his company’s holdings, which sells and finances manufactured homes. During that discussion, the money maven declared that now would be a sensible time to buy a home, in light of record-high affordability: “Home ownership makes sense for most Americans, particularly at today’s lower prices and bargain interest rates.”
And Buffett didn’t stop there. He pointed out his own tenure as a homeowner as an example. “All things considered, the third-best investment I ever made was the purchase of my home, though I would have made far more money had I instead rented and used the purchase money to buy stocks,” he wrote. Then, to clarify for the readers who’d want to know what numbers one and two were, Buffett elaborated: “The two best investments were wedding rings.”