How does one get a "good investment"
and a home at the same time?
Past performance can be a good criteria but it isn't always. Proof of that can be seen in the stock market and at different times the Real Estate market in different parts of the US that have seen substantial declines at times. The Puget Sound area has been spared what much of the rest of the U.S. has experienced.
RENT-ABILITY AND SALE-ABILITY
When I am considering a "good investment", I look at rent-ability and sale-ability. At the same time when I am considering what improvements I may make to our home, I look at it differently. Resale value of the improvement is important but I also realize that I get the enjoyment out of a certain improvement that I may not reap value from at time of sale. So one needs to consider the goal.
APPEAL VS. UTILITY
Appeal helps some for resale because appeal will help a property sell for more money. The money you get out of a house in the future compared to other properties will depend on the demand at the time. How much demand there will be for the particular property you are considering may be an unknown. In the event that we enter difficult economic times, it is safer to have a property that has more livable space and more bedrooms than one that has appeal. The opposite seems to be true during times of economic boom. So knowing that, the decision toward appeal is one you need to make because no one really knows the future.
Regarding rent-ability, normally the more the bedrooms, the better. People in the rental market are usually looking foremost for a place to live that they can fit in. They won't be as appeal oriented as a buyer. A nice looking property will bring in more rent but not proportionally to the extra price paid. For example, a small sharp home may rent for $1000 monthly. A larger home in a poorer neighborhood for the same price may rent for $100 more. Both properties may have the same value but the one with more space will normally have more rental value. When I am considering an investment, rental value is very important. An extra $100 a month for example on my initial investment of $10,000 for example returns 12% extra annually. That is substantial.
So it depends on really what you are looking for and how long you intend to stay. I believe that making a purchase while rates are low is a wise move. It may be hard to balance appeal and utility if you are looking for a place to live as well as to rent out in the future.