The scale of our property obsession has been quantified: Auckland's biggest real estate agency has revealed how just under a third of Aucklanders searched constantly for places on the market, even if they were not actively buying.

Stephen Barfoot, Barfoot & Thompson chief technology officer, said a sample of 955 Auckland home owners were questioned and the results showed 31 per cent searching constantly, whether they were in the market to buy or not.

Only a small slice of the property browsers are poised to buy: less than a quarter of people surveyed confined their searches to when they were buying, according to the research conducted by TRA.

"I think people search for all sorts of reasons. People look for ideas for their own places. They might be re-doing their kitchen," Barfoot explained.


However, he doesn't see it as prurience or being nosey-parkers.

"Property is an aspirational thing. They might be tenants or people who aspire to live in a bigger home or a better suburb. I personally enjoy it and I understand why other people enjoy it," confessed Barfoot, grandson of one of the original founders of the agency chain Val Barfoot.

The survey revealed 48 per cent of the sample "sometimes" searched property listings, despite not actually being in the market for a new home.

In September, there were more than 600,000 sessions or web visits to the Barfoot site, Barfoot said.

"That is made up of about 300,000 individual users. That is pretty average," he said.

"We're seeing an enormous increase in people viewing property on a mobile device. We've put a lot of effort into making apps for people and making them really good. We've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this," Barfoot said.

"Videos have become extremely popular and hundreds are available to view with properties on the web site at any one time."

The agency's web site is experiencing huge growth numbers: year-on-year, web site visits rose 37 per cent. Nearly a third of all visits were on mobile devices. is one of New Zealand's largest property web sites, established in 2005 and promoting itself as "the official website of the New Zealand real estate industry. The site presents more than 97 per cent of all residential, commercial and farm rural properties currently marketed by real estate professionals," that web site says.

Trade Me Property also has a large slice of the market.

Do you look at advertising for properties for sale...?

• Only when you're in the market to buy: 21 per cent

• Sometimes when you're not actually in the market: 48 per cent

• All of the time, irrespective of whether you're in the market to buy: 31 per cent

[Source: survey of 955 Auckland home owners by TRA]