How to Find an Apartment (No Craigslist Necessary)

A sign advertises an apartment for rent along a row of brownstone townhouses in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn.

A sign advertises an apartment for rent along a row of brownstone townhouses in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn.  (2016 Getty Images)

Finding a rental apartment can feel daunting, to say the least. Where do you look? How can you gain an edge on the crowds of other apartment hunters competing for the best digs?

As with a job search or dating, it's best to explore numerous avenues rather than just one or two, because you never know where you'll turn up a promising lead. But how?

Check out the following tips on how to find an apartment fast.

Spread the word

The first thing you should do when looking for a new apartment is put the word out to everyone you know.

"Networking with friends, family, and colleagues is a great way to seek out vacancies," says Conrad Pool, president of Sleepwell Property Management. "You never know; perhaps a friend or family member happens to know somebody who is looking for a tenant or moving out of an apartment that you could get the jump on."

Also, don't be afraid to use social media; it's perfect for apartment hunting. Blast it out to your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram family, and see what comes to you.

"The more people you tell that you're looking for a new apartment, the better," says Pool. "You'll have that many more people looking for you, and it will increase your chances of finding an apartment quickly."

Log on to the right apartment listing sites

There are a variety of apartment websites out there, but your mileage may vary.

"The internet is vast and is going to give you a wide selection of apartments, but it's not always up to date and many of the apartment listings that you see online are already rented by the time that you're seeing them," says Pool. Plus, the quality of selections may vary by market. So check out your options (including and, OK, Craigslist) and find one that's right for you.

Find apartments using your phone

Download mobile apps (again, you might want to try a few, including the rental app). Browse rentals and apartments by location; set up filters for apartments that allow pets, have parking, include laundry facilities, and so on. Plug in your must-haves in the app, and see what's within blocks of your geolocation. This is a great tactic if you're checking out a neighborhood and decide you like the vibe.

Talk to locals where you want to live

Try to introduce yourself to people in the area or building where you'd like to live. Since tenants typically hear about neighbors who might be vacating long before a listing goes live, if you can get the inside scoop, you can be first in line. Talking with tenants in the complex you're eyeing has other benefits as well.

"First, if you play your cards right, you may get a recommendation, which will help your chances during the application stage," says Sacha Ferrandi, founder of Source Capital Funding. "Second, you will gain another perspective on the building/neighborhood atmosphere from someone who is not trying to 'sell' the unit. Sometimes you might find out something the landlord left out that can save you a lot of future headaches."

Contact property management companies

Reaching out directly to property management companies can also give you an edge.

"They typically have large portfolios with thousands of different units, and oftentimes they know about units that aren't listed yet, but that will be coming up in the near future," says Pool. Also check to see if the property management companies you are casing have Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages. If they do, you'll probably be able to find direct listings on social media right on your smartphone.

Use an agent or broker

Though it may cost you a commission worth about one month's rent, having a real estate agent in your corner may be worth it. Agents and brokers have access to listings of apartments you'll never find by yourself. They may also take some of the stress out of the process for you by helping narrow down the field of possible rentals, saving you time and money in the long run.