The Oracle of Omaha has been bullish on housing in the United States for sometime. Though many investors disagree, Buffett has been quoted saying if he could buy a portfolio of single-family homes right now, he'd be on it. Well, Warren found a way to basically do that. Now, investors have a couple of options if they want to follow Buffett into the land of a housing turnaround.
Home on the firing range
Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway
There is data that supports his thesis. Foreclosure filings have been on the decline for nearly two years and are at a five-year low, while new housing starts are at an incredible 40-year low. With the U.S. population on the rise, there will be a point in the near future where demand will surpass supply. And with home prices down a bit, it's truly a buyer's market. By having billions to throw around, Berkshire can buy bargain-priced assets going into what looks like an attractive housing environment.
Other famed value investors share Buffett's housing mentality. Pershing Square's Bill Ackman has a large position in Fortune Brands Home and Security
So with some of the greatest value investors of all time calling the return of housing, this may be a good time to get in on the action.
A match made in Omaha
Besides the obvious strategy of investing in Berkshire, or, for that matter, Fortune Brands, there is another play in housing that directly benefits from Buffett's involvement. Leucadia National
As a much smaller company, but with an equal interest in the joint venture, Leucadia is in a position to profit from Berkshire's monstrous purchasing power. If Berkshire is successful in obtaining the portfolio, and uses Berkadia as the loan servicer, it will benefit both companies over the long term. Leucadia, though, will be affected much more substantially, making it more attractive to investors than a pure Berkshire play.
Leucadia trades at around 10.5 trailing earnings. Compared with Berkshire's P/E of 17, this is a much cheaper way of getting in on the ResCap deal. Its stock also trades below book value. On the other hand, the premium in Berkshire's price reflects the confidence investors have in Buffett's ability to run the company. While Leucadia is, as mentioned, very well diversified, it doesn't have "The Greatest Investor of All Time" at the helm. As a housing play, though, Leucadia may be one of the best choices available to investors right now.
Berkshire's lawyers are in court arguing over the ResCap deal as I write this. I have watched the battle unfurl over the last few weeks, as Berkshire is competing with other suitors over the property. In my opinion, and the opinion of most analysts, Berkshire has the upper hand in the argument, offering lower fees and a more attractive purchase price. Buffett is unmatched in his ability to make a deal in a situation like this.
Though, like any deal, something could fall through. Keep an eye on the developments as they come out, and invest accordingly.
Whether the Berkadia venture is a success or not, Berkshire Hathaway is a long-term pick in my book. It's run by the best, and has a portfolio that is set to earn incredible returns many years from now, regardless of whether Buffett is still coming into the office every day. Our analysts have written a report, mentioning Berkshire, that involves stocks bought by some of the smartest guys out there. Check it out, for free.
Fool contributor Michael Lewis owns none of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.