hi everybody! i guess this post will be most helpful to the ncsu crowd. i just got back from a weeklong raleigh blitz signing my apartment lease and what not. my impression of the area was this:
campus area- good restaurants, some cool stores but wouldn't want to live there. plenty of stores within walking distance to campus. campus is pretty large.
cary- caters to yuppies with all the typical chain stores/restaurants. apartments are pricier than ones closer to state and include amenities like putting greens and business centers (which i wasn't keen on paying for).
apex/holly springs/fuquay varina/morrisville- these areas are a blend of wisteria lane-esque housing plans, apartment complexes, strip malls, and neighborhoods that look like they've been there forever. i ultimately decided to move to apex because i got a nice 1 bedroom apartment that felt safe and was convenient to shopping etc. the drive to state is about 20 minutes from any of these areas, but i felt like it was a worthwhile trade off. more safety and nicer housing for a bit of a commute.
i made a list of potential apartments using www.aguide.com before i made my trek, which i found to be very helpful. i also made use of craig's list while i was down there to get a pretty awesome couch for $48 (the benefit of living near rich people who have nothing better to do that redecorate their homes twice a year).
couple things to keep in mind- i'm from pennsylvania and normally some utilities are included in the rent here. i did not find that to be the case normally around state. you'll be lucky to get trash included if you go with a managed property. pet deposits and pet rents also caused some sticker shock. there is apparently a property tax for bringing an out of state vehicle in state as well.