warren buffett net worth
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.
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Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B) invested $23.9 billion in this year's third quarter, the most in at least 15 years.
The company bought almost $7 billion in stock last quarter, a 90% jump from the $3.62 billion in the second quarter and a staggering 739% increase from the $834 million purchased in the first.
The $23.9 billion also included the $9 billion acquisition of specialty chemical company Lubrizol Corp., finalized in September, and $5 billion in preferred shares and warrants in Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC).
These billion-dollar investments by the "Oracle of Omaha" are another move signaling his bullish outlook on the U.S. market. He's said repeatedly the United States won't see a double-dip recession - and he's putting huge money behind that forecast.
"He sees something, and it's big," Thomas Russo, a partner at investment management firm Gardner, Russo & Gardner, told Bloomberg.
Where Buffett Placed His BetsBuffett and Berkshire's investments broadened the company's portfolio beyond its financial and consumer-related investment focus.
A Berkshire financial filing showed a $46 billion cost basis in the company's equity investments as of Sept. 30: About $15.9 billion in "banks, insurance and finance," $12.5 billion in "consumer products," and the remaining $17.4 billion in "commercial, industrial and other."
That's a 168% rise in the "commercial, industrial and other" category from Dec. 31, 2010 when such investments totaled only about $6.5 billion, and a 62% increase from 2011's second quarter.
"He's broadly diversifying across numerous industries, and he would perhaps want that to be part of his legacy," David Kass, a professor at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, told Bloomberg. The recent spending "sounds like at least one major investment. And it wouldn't surprise me if it were two or three."
Clearly, if you want to be a stock-market winner, you need to find profit opportunities that offer a predictable, long-term payoff.
And one of the best ways to do that is to capitalize on global demographic trends.