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Tricks the Pros Use to Find Great Rentals

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a house or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to

The quest to find a decent apartment or house for rent in LA's competitive market can be downright crazy-making. And unfortunately, many signs point to it becoming even tougher. With the foreclosure crisis steadily unleashing hordes of new renters onto the market, and fewer renters leaving thanks to the difficulty of securing a mortgage, as well as the lingering skittishness toward buying, the pool of available rental properties keeps getting shallower. It's pretty discouraging, to be sure, but as Thomas Jefferson (probably never) said, anything worth having is worth fighting for. To assist you in that fight to score an awesome place, we're going to share the tools and techniques we use to hunt down properties worthy of being featured in Rent Check.

While there's no question that Craigslist is an invaluable resource, its caveman-primitive interface is an absolute scourge that facilitates all manner of loathsome and/or shady dealings. Among the more infuriating tactics is the widespread practice of carpet-bombing the site with ads for the exact same damn apartment, but with differently worded headlines. When we think of all the time we've wasted clicking on postings only to discover they're advertising something we've already seen and dismissed, we could weep. Thus, our gratitude to the heroes who developed knows no bounds. The site contains all the same postings as annoying old-fangled Craigslist, but configures them so you can see all the photos without having to click on any ads, thereby foiling the multiple-posting pests. You can also see location info, another useful timesaving feature.

Another very helpful--and free--apartment search engine is Padmapper, which aggregates rental ads from several different sites (Craigslist,, and others) and presents them in map form. The interface allows you to filter your results to be as specific or wide-ranging as you like, and you can set up email alerts to be notified as soon as something that matches your criteria has been posted. The site also contains overlays so you can see what restaurants, bars, gyms, and grocery stores are in a given area, along with Yelp reviews.

*The MLS
Not every landlord is keen to offer their rental property to the unwashed masses who trawl Craigslist, especially if that property happens to be their own single family dwelling. Many of these folks instead opt to list their lease properties with a real estate agency such as Sotheby's or Prudential, which means you can find them on the MLS, where renters most assuredly face less competition. One example we just came across is this lovely 1920s bungalow with a swimming pool in Eagle Rock.

Given the sheer volume of online ads, sifting through all of them isn't really feasible or advisable, so filtering with keywords is a must. However, keyword search isn't an exact science, so tinkering and experimenting with different formulas is highly recommended, because sometimes deploying le mot juste can really pay off. We've had success using search terms ranging from particular features (e.g., "original tile") to architectural styles and eras ("Art Deco," "French Normandy," "1920s"), to specific street names. Some more of our tried and true keywords, along with examples of the results they've yielded, are below.??

Keywords:? "Old Hollywood"
Result: Rare Open Apartment in Hollywood's Garfield Court

Keywords?: "Streamline Modern"
Result: Silver Lake William Kesling Triplex Has a One-Bedroom Opening

Keyword: "Historic"
Result: Historic Carriage House in Angelino Heights

Keyword:? "Harper"
Result: West Hollywood Studio For Film Noirchitecture Buffs

Keyword: "1930"
Result: Well-Preserved 1930s Two-Bedroom Townhouse in Miracle Mile
· Curbed's Renter's Guide to Echo Park [Curbed LA]
· Curbed's Renter's Guide to Venice Beach [Curbed LA]
· Curbed's Renter's Guide to Downtown [Curbed LA]
· Curbed's Renter's Guide to East Hollywood [Curbed LA]
· Curbed University [Curbed LA]