I found Craigslist to be the best place to look when renting an actual house, so hopefully you’re on the right track. Never used rentals.com, for actual apartments I tended to use the local classifieds or pick up one of those free booklets in the grocery store.
I had the same problem last year when I was looking for a house/duplex to rent. I could find nothing in the paper and the rent.com’s of the world are just hu-fucking-mongous apartment complexes. I did find a place via craigslist and another (which I didn’t end up taking) by driving around in desireable neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs. It sucked. I’m considering moving, but am running into the same problem, so I probably will stay where I am because finding a new place is going to be such a tremendous pain in the ass. There have GOT to be a ton of places for rent in this city, why can’t I find any of them? I want to give you my money, Mr. Landlord! Help me help you by being discoverable!
Do you live in a small city? I just randomly tried Atlanta and Dallas and Wichita, and after refining on Houses and Homes, saw a single outlier on the first page of either. Those “Spotlight” ads at the top didn’t seem to be filtered, but those appear to be a sort of special-placement deal. The standard listings definitely seemed to be filtered properly.
I also noticed that when I switched cities, that Houses and Homes filter was no longer in effect and had to be clicked again. Kind of silly, but easy enough to click on it after each new city search.
Odd. The forrent dot com website shows 333 listings in Denver alone. With addresses so you can drive by and talk to someone in the rental office, and phone numbers so you can call and check on availability.
Eh. I like the online way. I’d rather filter stuff out by picking out people who are misleading in their ads or shady in their emails, rather than having to go all the way over to view an apartment and seeing it for myself.
It was pretty simple - I sent out emails to a dozen or two likely contenders; after I picked out the scams and the no-responses and the borderline shady, I had about a half a dozen left. Made appointments by phone (losing 1 or 2 from their poor professionalism in the process), picked a house I wanted to rent, and filled out my application. Worked out just fine. Even then I still went to one that was misleading (yes, we allow dogs as our ad says, but only for existing residents who have a good history with us, and only adult dogs, and they have to pay the full replacement cost of pretty much the entire apartment’s interior for thousands of dollars up front, nonrefundable), but at least I just wasted my time once.
Nothing against using local classifieds, but they seemed to charge too much to place the actual ads, so all of the places that wanted reasonable rents were Craigslist-only. I tried 'em, sure, but in the end I wanted a good value for my money. Because of their pricing structure, it cost the same for an ad for an entire apartment complex or a single house, so you can imagine that the number of single house ads was pretty small and limited to stuff in high price ranges.