I lived in Garner right on the Wake and Johnston County lines, just minutes from Clayton. I think Clayton is an amazing area with lots of growth potential. As the bypass continues around from knightdale I think you will see more and more appreciation there. Plus you are close to 40 and 95 as far as travled interstates and that is important to people who have family out of town.
I live in Western NC now and that is where I was born and to me there is just nothing that beats the mountains. The Raleigh area just got to congested for me and when I had my daughter I wanted to move back home to the mountains to raise her. Good schools and good morals here. But I did like Clayton due to the similarties between it and my hometown because they are both small towns (for now).
If you are set on the Raleigh area, I would recommend going with Clayton. I know some great agents there that I use to work with and would be happy to refer you. They have offices in Clayton and know the area very well. Let me know if I can be of any help.
As far as a safe area you can go to each county's website and look up any crime statistics. You can also see the school stats as far as student to teacher ratio's and check out the test score percentages by grade and school. You can look those up by going through the county to the board of educations sites. Yes Cary is a nice area as well as Apex. I use to live in Raleigh, Charlotte, and the Western NC areas. I now live in Greensboro and feel like I have the best of the three. But, if you need help finding out any specific information just drop me a line and I can point you in the right direction and get you the information you need to make an informed decision.
Coldwell Banker Triad
Hope this helps.
Kevin & Gail
I am a Realtor in Charlotte and have also lived in Winston-Salem and Raleigh-Durham (Cary is a great suburb). While I am not familiar with Clayton, the Raleigh area has some great public and private schools that are nationally ranked and has a strong job market. Please check out the website below for additional school info. Best of luck with your move!