This week's book giveaway is in the OCPJP forum. We're giving away four copies of OCA/OCP Java SE 7 Programmer I & II Study Guide and have Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates on-line! See this thread for details.
Altenatively, move the properties files to the applications current classpath. What I have done in the past for production was to package the properties files in a JAR and put a resource manager class inside the same JAR. That way I could easily move the bundle around as needed and use the resource manager's class loader to find the properties. Of course this is good for read-only purposes. In your development system, or when you need the properties to be manipulated, you keep the properties and the resource manager in the same package structure inside your normal classpath.