I recently moved from Anchorage to a bedroom community near Seattle. To find an apartment I did use apartment finders or some equivalent (can’t remember now). And I also simply googled “apartments seattle” and “relocated to seattle” and the like. But before I selected this place, I also google-earthed the places I thought were likely prospects. Most places (and I can imagine that DC being so high in population would be one) have a lot of street level photos and such on Google Earth and Bing.
Once I found some likely places, I asked my future coworker (who did live in the Seattle area) if it was a good place. Looking at it on satellite view via Google Earth also allowed me to see how close it was to the light rail (one of my main requirements) and what the neighborhood looked like and so on. My coworker helped me steer clear of “cracktown”.
Then, I simply wrote to the various apartment managers and asked more in-depth questions. IIRC, the apartment complex I now live in actually popped up during one of my google searches, and I contacted them directly. Once I’d selected the apartment, and contacted them, and found out the details, I sent the deposit.
A few things I didn’t realize though were, one, how the places would be heated, and two, what utilities were included in the rent. Having lived in Alaska for most of my life (40 years), it didn’t occur to me that apartment complexes here charge for garbage and water and sewer (it’s all rolled into the rent in most places in Anchorage). Nor did it occur to me to find out what sort of heat was in the apartments. Again, most apartments in Anchorage have either natural gas/forced air heat, or baseboard water heat (again, heated with natural gas).
These have electrical baseboard heat, which is EXPENSIVE! Thank goodness, being from a much colder climate, I don’t have to use them much. Other than a few other minor items, my research resulted in me finding a decent place. It’s cute (the apartment complex I chose had a website where I could view floorplans and such), and pretty convenient to shopping and stuff. A few of the adjacent neighborhoods could be a little nicer, but no problems so far.