We know a lot about what Warren Buffett thinks about investments and businesses. But we don't know as much about what he thinks about real estate and homes.
And it turns out, his honest opinion will surprise you.
The surprising insight
As previously noted, one of the more interesting businesses, which now falls into the wide umbrella of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A)(NYSE:BRK-B), is its real estate arm that helps individuals buy and sell their homes.
But one of the most notable things about Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is Buffett's remarks on its website, where he notes plainly:
"When people are making the decision of the magnitude of buying a house, it's the biggest decision a great many families will ever make."
This coincides with his fascinating remarks in the 2010 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders when he said:
"Home ownership makes sense for most Americans, particularly at today's lower prices and bargain interest rates. 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."
So why was it "the third best investment," behind only his wedding rings? He goes on to say:
"For the $31,500 I paid for our house, my family and I gained 52 years of terrific memories with more to come."
So often as it relates to investing we can only consider the measurable return on investment, and what will ultimately make our bank accounts and wallets bigger. But here's a man who notes, although he would've "made far more money" had he placed his money somewhere else, it was such a great investment because of the "terrific memories" he made with his family.
In this same respect, one important insight Buffett learned from Clayton Homes -- a Berkshire Hathaway firm that builds manufactured, modular, and mobile homes -- was that during the Great Recession those who bought from it didn't see nearly the economic troubles faced by many. Why was this?
"Their attitude was all-important: They signed up to live in the home, not resell or refinance it."
Ultimately we must see the benefits of homeownership extend well beyond just our wallets. And indeed when we seek to make them a home, and not only investment, the benefits they provide are so much greater.
Does that mean we should all go out and buy homes? Of course not, as Buffett went on to add:
"But a house can be a nightmare if the buyer's eyes are bigger than his wallet and if a lender – often protected by a government guarantee – facilitates his fantasy. Our country's social goal should not be to put families into the house of their dreams, but rather to put them into a house they can afford."
Underlying all of this are two critical realities. The first is that we must see that homes can make for great financial investments when considered for the long haul. Secondly, we must see the benefits are so much greater when we seek that which is beyond just our wallets to those moments and memories made with family and friends.
But of course, the reality is, we all know you don't have to simply own a house to make wherever you, and your family are, feel like a home.
Patrick Morris owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.