I'm in the middle of a hunt for a new place to live, and have been using a variety of tools to keep an eye on local openings. The best offense against the horde of competitors seems to be finding those small, obscure listings, as well as utilizing as many sources as possible.A new service called Rentbits, created by some former Google employees, is officially launching this morning and is joining a crowded group of other search verticals that help people solve this problem.
The tool grabs sources from all over the Web with its crawling technology. In most cases I found the results came from ApartmentHunterz.com, but mixed in with those were listings from Sublet.com and CityCribs.com. A lot of it depends on which city you're looking in, as the service includes some local listing sites. Craigslist however, is nowhere to be found, which is unfortunate.
Also missing is an advanced search. You can set how many rooms you're looking for and how much you want to pay, but there's no way to add things you're looking to be included like hardwood floors, a dishwasher, or laundry room. If these amenities are listed, they'll be included as part of the search results, but some way to weed out places that don't have some of these amenities would be useful.
Despite the handy metasearching qualities of Rentbits, I continue to be impressed by another search vertical called HousingMaps. It's a very simple mashup that uses Craigslist data and keyword search, and combines that with Google Maps. However, the key in any of these services is to mix a great list of sources with a highly customizable search tool--something that Rentbits doesn't quite have yet.