We recently moved within the neighborhood to a floorthrough apartment in an old brownstone. You'd never find a deal like this through a broker, but good karma comes back to you; friends tipped us that a tenant of 23 years was moving out of a neighboring house. [For the record, it's not rent stabilized; just a rare find on a gorgeous block.]
Unfortunately, moving out of a 400 sq. ft. crack den into the apartment of one's dreams has one teensy drawback: we don't have any furniture. Craigslist to the rescue - we have found great used furniture that we could not afford to buy new. With a little patience (and a car) you can get exactly what you want for less than half of what you'd pay for new stuff.
Our latest find is a gorgeous Pottery Barn bookshelf. The only problem? The seller's coop building prohibits moving anything after 5 or on the weekends. Now we've got to Mission:Impossible the thing out of there over the holiday weekend. I'm sure there will be more to this story.