As the housing market continues to boom, one of the major beneficiaries are online estate agents.

Figures released today by analysts at Nielsen NetRatings show online estate agents have received a major surge in visitors to their sites, despite the current poor economic climate.

Between April and June this year nearly two million people logged on to the internet to search for a new home. Around half a million of these hits were from people surfing at work.

"Searching for a house can be time consuming, with shoppers needing to block out days and weeks to travel around new areas and houses," said Tom Ewing analyst at Nielsen. "Looking for a home online allows shoppers to visit scores of properties virtually in a fraction of the time."

The most popular site was rightmove.co.uk with over 850,000 hits, followed by assertahome.com with 550,000 and primelocation.com with around 480,000.

"Most of the people who come to us have seen the property they like on our website. The web has made selling houses more efficient for our clients and us. They can tour houses virtually, wasting less time viewing unsuitable properties," said a spokesman for Foxtons estate agents.

Online house hunters viewed an average of 86 pages per hit. The most 'sticky' site was Assertahome with visitors spending an average of 33 minutes on the site per session.

"Given that these sites have a growing audience, high loyalty and a high frequency of visits, they are an ideal choice for advertisers looking to sell to the lucrative home buyers market," added Nielsen's Ewing.