Use a Referral Service or Broker
Using an apartment referral service, or an apartment broker, can help you find some choice listings that might otherwise not show up in your search for an affordable place. Apartment referral services basically collect information from you on what kind of apartment you want, considering price range, neighborhood, amenities and other factors [source: Bruce]. Property owners will sometimes give these services discount offers that they don't provide to the general public. The best part is that these services are usually free, since the property managers are footing the bill to bring in reliable tenants [source: Northwestern University].
However, some referral services do charge, especially in very competitive rental markets like New York City [source: NYC Affordable Housing Resource Center]. The down side is that, since property owners pay the brokers, the brokers might put their bosses' interests ahead of yours. For example, you might only see listings from property managers who have a close working relationship with the broker [source: Northwestern University].