n 2003 a report commissioned for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister [ODPM, 2003]found that 71% of people in England lived in owner-occupied accommodation representing some 14.1 million properties. Of these, the Bank of England reports [Bank of England, 2003] that 7% of the housing stock on average will change ownership during any one year representing approximately one million transactions. Estate agents will currently manage 95% [Rightmove, 2004] of these transactions and with the current average house price standing at approximately Â£193,000 and typical estate agent commission of 2%, that represents a significant income stream to the estate agent trade. The remaining 5% of transactions not accounted for appear to be predominantly property sold through auction or direct transfer from one family member to another and are therefore outside the scope of this dissertation.
At the present time the vast majority of these transactions are transacted with the assistance of estate agents who will charge a commission on the selling price of the house of typically somewhere between 1.5% and 4%. Many house sellers strongly resent the level of charges from estate agents and consider them to represent poor value [Rigby, 2004]. This coupled with the low level of trust that the public has in estate agents may lead to consumers adopting a direct sales approach and removing estate agents from their intermediary role entirely.
The traditional estate agent effectively acts as an information broker for much of the house sale process, linking buyer and seller in that process and yet performs no legally required work in the transaction. Although the make-up of the estate agency business has changed markedly in the