Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What We Can Take From Warren Buffet

Recently, Warren Buffet sent a letter to his stock holders in which he outlined six key points to his success. They are rather simple and based upon sound common sense; the trick is not in knowing them, but in applying them. As they are quite general in nature, they can also be applied to the net lease market, which after all, is just another form of investment.

Stay Liquid. Warren Buffet wrote:

"We will always arrange our affairs so that any requirements for cash we may conceivably have will be dwarfed by our own liquidity. Moreover, that liquidity will be constantly refreshed by a gusher of earnings from our many and diverse businesses."

There are two simple lessons to be gleaned from this advice, 1.) Have cash, and, 2.) Ensure investments produce cash. While seemingly easy to follow, it is clear from the recent real estate and financial crisis that these principles are quickly lost. Overleveraging and risky investments can too easily entice people from the shores of sanity. When investing in net leases, ensure you are not overleveraged and that your investment is a sound, income producing property.

Buy When Everyone Else Is Selling.

"We've put a lot of money to work during the chaos of the last two years. It's been an ideal period for investors: A climate of fear is their best friend. . . . Big opportunities come infrequently. When it's raining gold, reach for a bucket, not a thimble."

This is pretty easy to understand but hard to follow. First of all its takes a considerable amount of bravery and foresight to run in the opposite direction as everyone else, secondly, it takes well planned fundamentals to ensure one has the cash to take advantage of the situation. However, for investors who do have the resources, allowing fear to inhibit investment opportunities defeats the entire purpose of investing.

Today’s commercial real estate market is obviously at a low point but those who insist on “waiting for the bottom” are in reality waiting for someone else to start investing first. In order to capitalize one must first mobilize and do so before the mob.

Don't Buy When Everyone Else Is Buying.

"Those who invest only when commentators are upbeat end up paying a heavy price for meaningless reassurance,"

Nothing is free. That includes “reassurance”, with which one buys off the cognitive dissonance of a decision. The most utilized source of this are the opinions of other people; we all care deeply about “what others think”. The price for this can be easily assessed in terms of cash, as demand increases price. Thus, the more people it takes to lend support to your investment, the more money you will pay for it.

Value, Value, Value.

"In the end, what counts in investing is what you pay for a business -- through the purchase of a small piece of it in the stock market-- and what that business earns in the succeeding decade or two."

When investing in commercial real estate it is very important to obtain an asset which produces value. There are many ways of assessing this, but stability overtime is usually the most reliable. A few years ago, many would have rather owned an artificial island off the coast of Dubai instead of a less luxurious grocery store in a high traffic area; it is easy now to see which one time has judged the better.

Understand What You Own.

"Investors who buy and sell based upon media or analyst commentary are not for us,"

It is important to study the fundamentals of what you wish to acquire, with net leases this is especially important. Location, credit tenant rating, past returns, and lease agreements can all impact an investment tremendously. Before making an investment it is vital to understand its attributes.

Defense Beats Offense.

"Though we have lagged the S&P in some years that were positive for the market, we have consistently done better than the S&P in the 11 years during which it delivered negative results. In other words, our defense has been better than our offense, and that's likely to continue."

Aggressiveness can be a value but it must be paired with a secure end. There is no gain in being aggressive in a market which bottoms out. As Napoleon said “Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.” It is important to create a strategy which will provide in both high and low tides. Take the necessary time to pick the proper asset and then proceed forth with vigor.

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