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Lasso your next NYC apartment with a flick of the mouse

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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.