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

The study incorporates interviews with estate agents and website providers businesses in order to provide insights into agentsÕ understanding of contemporary institutional arrangements and their role in shaping housing search behaviour. It compares information provision, housing search and decision-making processes in the UK and New Zealand in an ÔonlineÕ 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 cross national reflexive approach to analysing the relationship between agent and housing searcher.

The study highlights the opportunities and threats that exist to the estate agency industry within the evolving institutional environment.