Ask to see the stragglers
That said, if you’re using a broker, ask to see apartments that have been on the market a long time (60 to 75 days); yes, you’ll probably see some stinkers, but these are also the places where you might be able to get a price break.
Don't bother with Craigslist
You probably know this, but it’s a bait-and-switch wonderland. You’re better off spending your time and energy pursuing other avenues.
Tell everyone you're looking
Most people with really amazing apartments and deals in the city got a back-door hookup through someone. (i.e. “My barista’s ex-boyfriend’s sister was moving to Barcelona...”) So spread the word. Any small community you can mine -- a sports league, writing group, list serve, etc. -- can also produce fertile leads.
Not sure? Apply anyway.
Act now, decide later. Even if you’re not in love with a place, if it seems like it could work, put in an application.