A: Before pounding the pavement, surf the Web. Browsing online listings will give you a sense of what current prices are like in your area, and unlike the classifieds (or some brokers), most real-estate Websites filter out apartments that don't match your specified size, price range, and neighborhood. Many sites include floor plans and photos to help you decide in advance whether a place is worth a visit. And some sites, like nyrealty.com, let you check out recent sale prices in particular Manhattan buildings. Brokers say Internet real-estate shopping will soon be the norm. For now, there are enough quality sites to make it worth being an early adopter. Here are some of the more useful ones:
* NewYorkRealty.com (not to be confused with nyrealty.com) This is a giant network of resources, including many brokers and flat-fee apartment listers. Caveat emptor: No-fee apartment-list scams are rampant, so before you write a check to any of them, pay a visit to the Better Business Bureau's Website (NewYork.BBB.org) to see whether it has any marks on its record.
* nyaptstore.com The city's original purveyors of no-fee apartment lists, they now practically give their lists away -- they do charge for a $40 mandatory credit report -- in the hope of attracting more traffic to their site.
* Apts-Illustrated.com For a $250 broker's fee, they'll e-mail you the instant that one of their apartments becomes available. We looked over their listings and found a good range of prices and neighborhoods.
* Homenet.com Here you'll find links to prominent brokers like Corcoran, Stribling, Halstead, and Bellmarc and their databases of available apartments.
* nycrgb.com You can't shop for an apartment here, but the Rent Guidelines Board's Website contains plenty of useful advice on how to find a cheap apartment and a summary of tenant rights, along with links to all the local newspaper classifieds.