Prepare yourself for the hunt 

Despite the recent surge in prices, renters can still find reasonably priced apartment in the downtown neighborhoods. However, finding the right place takes more work -- and a bit of luck as well. Tenants and brokers know what it takes to find a deal downtown.

1. Check the newspapers. "There's a huge variety of rentals available," says tenant Megan Whyte. "I was amazed at how easy it was."

2. Drive the neighborhoods. Often, owners don't bother to advertise an available property in the newspaper, since just putting a sign out on the curb can generate hundreds of calls. "It never hurts to get in your car and drive a little bit," says Valerie Kennedy of Colonialtown Realty.

3. Go through a real-estate agent. Driving up and down the streets can be frustrating, says Bob Sanders of Olde Town Brokers. "We provide a list for [apartment seekers] to try and help them out," he says. Some companies list rental properties on their websites.

4. Consider nearby neighborhoods. If Thornton Park is beyond your price range, "span out a little bit," says Kennedy. Colonialtown, north of State Road 50, and College Park are options. Farther east, apartments are already available just outside the old Naval Training Center.

5. Have your checkbook ready. Unlike managed apartment communities, which generally ask for a partial deposit, landlords downtown often require a full month's rent to hold an apartment. Your ideal place is probably the ideal apartment for dozens of other hunters, and you don't want to lose it to someone else just because you were short on cash.

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