Here's an interesting way to search for an apartment: Instead of typing in zip codes or neighborhoods, pull up a map, draw a line around your desired neighborhood, and then take a leisurely stroll with your mouse across the listings caught inside your real estate net.
Hotpads.com, a national map-based real estate search site, recently launched just such a "hand drawn search" tool. Pictured left is the search we 'drew,' pulling up 1-bedroom rentals in dog-walkable distance of Tompkins' Square Park. Other situations where the lasso approach would be handy: Searching for a place a few blocks within school, work, or subway stop; carving out a buffer zone around an ex-boyfriend or current mother-in-law; and staying within the delivery zone of your favorite Indian restaurant.
The lasso feature is a little tricky to spot (look for the lasso button on the left hand side of the screen, below the zoom-in/out controls) but fun to use. Listings are drawn from major management companies, multiple listing services, individual brokers, and regular people who can list their apartments for free.