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If Warren Buffett was going to invest in anything right now, where would he put his money?
At first, that question may be difficult to answer. But if you think about Buffett's classic investment approach – focusing on real assets with a reliable return and prizing valuation – it gets a little easier.
Try the housing market – single-family rental homes to be precise.
"If I had a way of buying a couple of hundred thousand single family homes and I had a way of managing them… I would load up on them and take mortgages out at very very low rates," Buffett said in an interview with CNBC. "It's a very attractive asset class right now."
It's a classic buy low, sell high opportunity – and one that more and more investors are taking advantage of.
In fact, sales of investment and vacation homes surged 65.4% last year to 1.2 million units, the highest level since 2005, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Naturally, low home prices were a major catalyst for that surge.
Last year, U.S. home prices were down 33.8% from their 2006 peak. But another factor was increased interest from investors – many of which boast six-figure salaries and desire a more consistent return than the stock market offers right now.
"I have doctors, lawyers, an engineer from Apple who told some of his buddies," Brian Hardie, who manages rental properties, told Forbes about his clients.
And with foreclosures on the rise this year, there will be an even greater opportunity for entrepreneurial investors, which means Hardie's client list at Regency Property Management will likely continue to grow.
Indeed, foreclosures that had previously been held up by litigation relating to robo-signing and other malfeasance on the part of banks are once again moving back through the system following a $26 billion settlement five major banks reached in January.
A February report from RealtyTrac showed new default notices – the first step in the foreclosure process – were up 1% from January. Furthermore, default notices increased dramatically in some states, such as Pennsylvania (35%), Florida (33%) and Indiana (37%).
As the NAR recently pointed out, 20% of February home sales were foreclosures. And if RealtyTrac's forecast for a 25% increase in foreclosures this year comes to fruition, the number of distressed sales will rise even further.
Meanwhile, the heightened rental property interest, dually helped by inflation, has given landlords more power – which means rents across the country are increasing.
This has created an optimal situation for investors that have the wherewithal to make it work for them.