New behavioural business practices: agent interactions in the housing market

Principal Investigator:

Richard Dunning


Craig Watkins, Gareth Young (University of Sheffield), Deborah Levy (University of Auckland)


July 2014 - April 2015

The aim of the project is to understand the contemporary role of estate agents and other information sources in shaping owner occuppiers’ search and bidding behaviour in the UK and New Zealand.

Agents have been crucial in shaping owner-occupier housing search and bidding strategies (Levy et al, 2008). But, this is changing. Recent research by Dunning and Watkins (2012) shows that UK house purchasers have only very limited exposure to agents and their decisions are now influenced by Internet listing services and a range of formal and informal contacts, altering the institutional framework of housing decisions.

This project will reveal estate agents’ understanding of contemporary institutional arrangements and their role in shaping housing search behavior. It will compare information provision, housing search and decision-making processes in the UK and New Zealand in an ‘online’ era. These countries have similar levels of consumer demand for owner occupancy, proclivity towards Internet listing services and estate agency roles, but dissimilar selling mechanisms. This juxtaposition enables a crossnational reflexive approach to analysing the relationship between agent and housing searcher.

A desk-based study will review the institutional arrangements, including Internet listing services (and their individual components e.g. search criteria) and their relationship to other information sources (e.g. national or local estate agency practices). Second, interviews with estate agents and website providers will explore their role in the search process and highlight opportunities and threats to estate agency businesses.


Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors