Warren Buffett auctions a lunch date for charity every year, and the winning bid usually stretches to seven figures. He twice sold his used cars to fans for multiples of their Kelly Blue Book value. Someone once even paid more than $200,000 to purchase his old wallet. (It had a stock tip inside.) For those who venerate one of the world’s best investors, money is usually no object when buying a piece of the legend.
A year ago, Buffett put his vacation home in Emerald Bay, a gated enclave next to Laguna Beach, Calif., up for sale. He bought the property in 1971 at the urging of his first wife, Susan, for $150,000—the equivalent of a bit less than $1 million today. At the time, he didn’t think of it much as an investment, he told the Wall Street Journal last year. Laguna was less developed back then, more surfer-and-hippie paradise than multimillionaire’s haunt. The couple and their family often spent summers at the home, as well as time around Christmas, when Buffett would hole up in the master bedroom working on his closely followed annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholders.