Metro-area home sales rose in July, though the uptick is likely attributable to flatter sales a year ago after a popular first-time homebuyer tax credit expired.

Realtors sold 616 homes in July, up 17 percent compared with the 526 in July 2010. Total value of homes sold is up 16 percent to $119.9 million, according to figures compiled by the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors’ Multiple Listings Service.

Home sales continue to be sluggish, despite low interest rates, as economic uncertainty persists, agents have said. The 616 homes sold in July, for example, is less than the 665 sold in July 2009 and, except for last year, is the lowest for that particular month since 2000.

For 2011, home sales are down 9.0 percent — 3,742 homes sold compared with 4,112 — and volume is down 9.5 percent to $720.4 million.

Still, local agents say the past couple months have been more active, though they’re not exactly sure what’s driving it.

“Ours is up, so it’s kind of hard to say,” Paul Burns said of Burns & Co. Inc.’s year-to-date sales. “Ours is up by about 11 (percent) and overall it’s down about 10 (percent).”

“I’m still scratching my head,” he added. “I don’t have the answers.”

Sandy Daly, broker and manager at C.J. Brown Realty’s Sherwood Forest office, said June and July have been particularly strong, noting mortgage rates are under 4 percent with no points or origination fees.

Still, she conceded bad economic news is on the minds of buyers, and unemployment and higher standards for credit will always impact the housing market.

Nicole Edlund, who does sales and leasing for C.J. Brown’s Sherwood Forest office, said while the economy is casting a shadow on the market, “when it comes down to it, if you have a steady job and you have the credit, you can buy. Interest rates are fantastic.”

Edlund said with more homes on the market, buyers can afford to take their time and weigh their options.

“Everyone was so used to selling extremely quickly,” she said. “We kind of have to be a little more realistic, price it right, get it ready to show … It may take 60 to 90 days, but it’s just about being patient.”

Burns said buyers are demanding homes that are in good condition and up-to-date.

“People know what to look for and if it’s not there, boom, they’ll pass it up in a second,” he said. “They have no patience for something that’s not updated.”

“They don’t want the hassle,” he continued. “They don’t want the uncertainty, the risk. They’ll typically pay top dollar for something’s that all done.”

Taking a closer look at the numbers for July:

• In East Baton Rouge Parish, Realtors sold 344 homes, up 10 percent from 313. Dollar volume rose 7 percent to $69.3 million.

For the year, East Baton Rouge is down 8 percent to 2,056 homes sold and down 8 percent to $422.0 million in dollar volume.

• In Ascension, Realtors sold 120 homes, up 56 percent from 77, while dollar volume rose 54 percent to $25.4 million.

For the year, Ascension is down 14 percent to 712 homes sold and down 14 percent to $142.2 million in dollar volume.

• In Livingston, Realtors sold 104 homes, up 20 percent from 87, and dollar volume rose 17 percent to $15.8 million.

For the year, Livingston is down 13 percent to 655 homes sold and down 17 percent to $100.5 million in dollar volume.

• The “other” parishes category, which consists of West Baton Rouge, Iberville, East and West Feliciana and Pointe Coupee, was basically flat — 48 homes sold compared to 49 — and volume was down 10 percent to $9.5 million.

For the year, the “other” category is up 6 percent to 319 in homes sold and up 6 percent to $55.7 million in dollar volume.

Ted Griggs contributed

to this report.