Move, Inc. (move.com and realtor.com)
Move.com skews heavily toward recently erected buildings with multiple available units. For both sites, the options—collected from apartment-community advertisers and new-home builders—tend to be pricey and luxury-laden (the range for Manhattan studios is $2,400--$3,900 on move.com and $1,450--$5,700 on realtor.com). Move.com's listings are refreshed every one to 24 hours, while the listings on realtor.com are updated every 15 minutes—which means if you call about an apartment, you won't be disappointed to learn that someone else moved in months ago.
Naked Apartments (nakedapartments.com)
Brokers aren't always evil. The two Harvard grads behind this site believes the good ones are worth searching for before your apartment hunt begins: Complete an anonymous profile that includes your income and credit score, in addition to your search criteria; agents with matching listings will then send you a list of possible fits. See a unit you like? Check out reviews of the broker—the site's other users have already vetted them for you. If the broker's ratings are poor, you can search the site's list of rentals to find another, more highly rated agent with listings in the same building.
New York Bits (nybits.com)
You can contact management companies that will rent to you directly on New York Bits, instead of paying hefty fees to a broker who screens places for you: The company vets each listing to ensure they are true no-fee rentals, not brokers attempting to lure people to a fee apartment. Use the search tool to home in on no-fee pads meeting your criteria for size, price, amenities and location. Or click through the site's extensive list of rental buildings to find out if, for example, the charming complex across the street from your favorite bakery has vacancies.
PadMapper focuses almost exclusively on the location of your new digs: For best results, type in your desired zip code; available listings, culled form Craigslist and a number of other apartment-search sites, will pop up on a Google map. Use the filter to further home in on units meeting your criteria.
Street Easy (streeteasy.com)
Before you even look at a rental, this site lets you consider details like the schools your new pad is zoned for, potential commute distance and the price per square foot. Street Easy provides listings from owners, brokers and no-fee brokers, but it also arms you with info that can help you score a good deal—including the length of time each has been on the market.
Size is what matters most at Trulia, where you can filter apartments by square footage—in addition to the usual criteria of price range, number of rooms and location. Though the site is skewed toward those who want to buy, it does feature about more than 43,000 rental properties and offers a wealth of user-generated information to those thinking of moving to an unfamiliar 'hood. Similar to Yelp, other hunters post their reactions to the neighborhood's cleanliness and walkability, and weigh in on nearby parks and schools.
Urban Edge (urbanedgeny.com)
The frequently refreshed listings on this site, which are never more than 18 days old, come directly from owners, property managers and leasing managers—no broker postings allowed. Tired of filling out the same search form every morning? Sign up for Urban Edge's tailored Twitter feed, covering new rentals in the nabe of your choice; listings will come to you.
In 2003, Stephanie Diamond began her apartment search with an e-mail to her friends, and continued to receive notices of new vacancies long after finding a place and settling in. She collected the leftover listings in an e-mail she forwarded to her contacts list, and that e-mail list has since grown into a free weekly newsletter containing a dossier on newly available, no-fee art studios and living spaces for sublet, share or lease. Anyone can sign up to receive the list, which will never include listings from brokers or other entities charging a fee. Diamond still compiles the newsletter personally, making sure no brokers or scam artists slip their posts in the Listings Project. Sign up or post a listing (sliding scale, $10--$25) at stephaniediamond.com/listings.
This free app—available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android—runs a GPS search to turn up listings (mainly for pricier pads; for example, studios in Manhattan run from $2,025 to $3,418) near you. You'll get contact information for the apartments, so you can call or e-mail the property manager, listing agent or owner directly. Once you've scheduled viewings, the app will provide a map from where you are to each destination. With the iPhone version, you can snap pictures and jot down notes as you take your tours, then save them with the property listing on your phone to keep track of what you've seen.