I can tell you a thing or two about property values in Astoria. Even the short sales (very far and few between) are hitting Killer numbers! Over the last ten years, why not look at 1996-2012. I have seen the same unit sell 4 times. Each time adding 12-16%. Astoria is One of those places. Homes on the N Train path Command money. Still you can find a reasonable buy from time to time!
If you are looking for only an investment, buy a fixer upper house, don't live there, fix it and either rent it out or sell it at a profit. If you don't know what you are doing this could present other problems.
A home is a place to hang your hat and enjoy. The way I look at it, if you rent.... the money you would be giving your landlord every month will do nothing for you come tax time. When you own, you can deduct a good portion of the interest and propety taxes year end against your income taxes.
Long term, I would think it is better to buy than rent.
All the best