Warren Buffett on Housing

We are big fans of Berkshire Hathaway and its founder Warren Buffett. As a matter of fact, we think Berkshire Hathaway is one of the most underpriced stocks out there – which at $119,000+ per share is saying something about its “intrinsic value.” Luckily for mortals, the class B share is about $80 per share. What does Mr. Buffett say about housing? Below is a quote from his Annual Letter to Shareholders. Here it is:

“Housing will come back – you can be sure of that. Over time, the number of housing units necessarily matches the number of households (after allowing for a normal level of vacancies). For a period of years prior to 2008, however, America added more housing units than households. Inevitably, we ended up with far too many units and the bubble popped with a violence that shook the entire economy. That created still another problem for housing: Early in a recession, household formations slow, and in 2009 the decrease was dramatic. That devastating supply/demand equation is now reversed: Every day we are creating more households than housing units. People may postpone hitching up during uncertain times, but eventually hormones take over. And while “doubling-up” may be the initial reaction of some during a recession, living with in-laws can quickly lose its allure.

At our current annual pace of 600,000 housing starts – considerably less than the number of new households being formed – buyers and renters are sopping up what’s left of the old oversupply. (This process will run its course at different rates around the country; the supply-demand situation varies widely by locale.) … Fortunately, demographics and our market system will restore the needed balance – probably before long. When that day comes, we will again build one million or more residential units annually. I believe pundits will be surprised at how far unemployment drops once that happens. They will then reawake to what has been true since 1776: America’s best days lie ahead.”

This is taken from Page 3 of Berkshire Hathaway’s Annual Letter to Shareholders. The above link refers to http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2011ltr.pdf.


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