By now you’ve heard: Sarasota real estate is on the rebound. Sales keep climbing and prices are edging up, while properties’ time on the market continues to drop.

According to the Sarasota Association of Realtors (SAR), sales reached a seven-year high in March 2012, with more than 800 properties changing hands. Pending sales, which represent properties that went under contract, achieved their highest level in a year — an indication that the market surge will continue. SAR president Laura Benson called the numbers “amazing.”

But which areas, and what kinds of properties, are hottest? According to local real estate experts, three locales are current stand-outs: Lakewood Ranch, Siesta Key and Gulf Gate. Other areas are selling well — “Really, there’s no place that isn’t hot,” said Benson — but these are three favorites in their respective markets.

Ranch houses

On a recent Sunday, Cindy and Jason Zabawa spent the afternoon at Central Park in Lakewood Ranch, imagining the 3,200-square-foot home that will soon be theirs. They already had a good idea: It would look much like the “Dolcetto” model in which they sat with their sales agent, Rob Hall of Cardel Homes. (More …)