Now Asda shoppers can put a new home in their trolley

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Asda is to become the first supermarket to enter the estate agency market, it was announced yesterday.

Supermarkets have diversified into many non-food areas of consumer products, including clothing and financial services.

Asda's estate agency venture will allow shoppers to browse for new homes alongside their groceries. Properties for sale will be displayed on touch-screen terminals inside stores. The company plans to undercut high street estate agencies by charging lower fees, although rates have not yet been confirmed.

Its "Homes Supermarkets" scheme will be piloted in 10 branches in the North-east from July and rolled out nationally if successful.

The chain will offer vendors free Home Information Packs which include a survey, search and land registry information. The packs will become compulsory next year. Asda said vendors could enjoy total savings of up to £2,000 compared to using high street estate agencies.

A start-up company called Homes at Supermarkets based in Hexham, Northumberland, will employ estate agents, surveyors, conveyancers and call-centre staff to manage all sales.

Customers will be allocated one named point of contact to get in touch with by e-mail or telephone. There is no walk-in centre to meet staff.

The touch-screens in Asda stores will contain a database of properties for sale and allow potential purchasers to register their interest. Customers will also be able to put their own up for sale. Homes at Supermarkets staff then get in touch by phone to arrange viewings. They will visit potential vendors to value their properties and take photos to be uploaded on to the database.

Asda's financial services director, Gev Lynott, said: "We've brought Asda value to everything from handbags to hamburgers and we're now doing this for house sales as well."