As someone who is living in Laos for one year now, it is amazing how fast we settled down. We found a house and friends. But how did we get there? Actually we are not fans of the expat group for women but of some expat and relocation services. We like the ads at the Simuang Supermarket and at the Phimpone Supermarket. and, even more important, talk to your neighbors. They know better what to do when a heater is broken or the water is leaking. Also look for groups on google or Facebook. Best for events is Paisai on Facebook, and starting from there you can get connected very well.
For real estate there is a huge competiton right now. Look for Laohomes or for http://www.rentsbuy.com/, they know the market for houses and apartments quite good.