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Mike Neville, July 2008
Mike Neville Estate Agents

The first office at No.14 Church Street
My first office at No.14 Church Street

In July 1959, at the age of 15, on leaving Rushden Secondary Modern Boys’ School, I joined ‘John L Wilson & Co’ Estate Agents as a Junior Draughtsman, at a wage of £3 per week.

At that time Rushden had two Estate Agents: John L Wilson & Co (opposite the NatWest Bank) and R W Birtles & Co in Queen Street (next to Cyril Bloor’s Off-Licence).  In the late 1950s there were approximately 20 second-hand houses for sale within Rushden and Higham Ferrers combined at any given time, plus one new estate being built at the top end of Hall Avenue (now Manor Road) by Alfred Underwood Ltd.  Only a handful of new homes would be built during this period.  These well-built semis were for sale in 1959 at a little over £1,500.

Estate Agents’ office hours were Monday–Friday from 9am to 12.30pm then closed for lunch, and afternoons 2pm to 5.30pm.  Saturday mornings 9am to 12 noon.  Never opening on Saturday afternoons or Sundays.  Evening appointments also did not exist!  It could take up to a week following instructions to value and then start marketing to sell, for details to be typed on a stencil at Rushden; sent to Wellingborough for printing; returned to Rushden when a member of staff had the time to collect from the printing department and then sent out in the post to potential buyers; maybe even the next week before a set of details were available, and the house has only just been put on the market to try and find a buyer.  Advertising would follow on with ‘lineage ads’ in the Evening Telegraph (photographs were never thought of at that time).

During the late 1960s and 1970s moving and buying a house became more fashionable and affordable, with the number of Estate Agents in the town increasing at one point in the 1970s to thirteen, with one opening in Higham Ferrers also.  From twenty houses for sale in the late 1950s there were now hundreds of second-hand houses plus new estates being developed in the two adjoining towns.

My first involvement with the selling side of property was to accompany potential buyers on viewings, and if interested they were sent back to the office to discuss with the sales staff, (not myself at that time).  Often I would meet buyers at a house on my cycle or, after passing my motor-bike test at the age of 16, I would arrive on my BSA C11 (leather jacket, crash helmet, goggles and all) to show people around the house for sale.

On one occasion (against my employer’s instructions), having shown a couple around a new house on the Home Farm Estate (off Hall Avenue) and having obtained a close offer to the asking price, I rang the builders direct to submit the offer for their consideration.  I was reprimanded by my ‘boss’ for going direct to the builder and not putting the offer through my superior, but later in the day, when the builder accepted the offer, I was congratulated and got a 10/- (ten shillings) a week wage rise.  I had become a Sales Negotiator!

Over the following years I progressed through from Junior Sales Negotiator, Senior Sales Negotiator, Sales Manager, Office Manager, finally Regional Partner being responsible for three offices before leaving the company in 1984 to start my own business.

I preferred the personal ‘one to one’ service from a small business in selling houses, and left ‘Wilsons’ (formerly John L Wilson & Co), which had now become a multi office practice, to start my own Estate Agency in Church Street, Rushden, once planning permission for change of use from retail to office was approved by ENDC late in 1984.

Mike Neville Estate Agents was born!

Mike Neville Estate Agents opened in December 1984 at No.14 Church Street, Rushden, (a corner shop on Church Street with Alfred Street) and within the first month of business had built up a register of forty second-hand houses for sale in addition to a new estate development off the Wellingborough Road.

The number of staff was increased during 1985 by employing four more girls to add to the team.  The housing market continued to by buoyant and working 7 days a week became the ‘norm’ with details of houses now being sent out in the post the same day as instructions were received, and photographs were added.  I had a Polaroid camera!

The business extended into No.12a Church Street
In the 1990s the business extended into No.12a Church Street

Sellers and buyers were quite demanding and I recall many 12‑hour days working in the office, business telephone calls to home at 7.30 in the morning and even as late as 11.30 in the evening.  In the early 1990s I extended the business into the adjoining ‘shop’, 12a Church Street, opening up the two units as one.  At first Planning Permission was refused by the local Planning Department as they felt Rushden was losing yet another retail unit (hairdressers at the time) to an office.  This, despite my existing premises now being too small to accommodate the staff and business demands of my expanding Estate Agency in No.14 Church Street, adjoining No.12a.

Much of the business came from local recommendation as my parents and family had lived in Rushden and were well known through many of the local organisations in the town.  On many occasions during my working life I encountered the situation of selling for, or selling to, the next generation family of earlier clients for whom I had acted back in the 1960s or 1970s.

In 2001, at the age of 57, I sold my business to a respected Bedford Estate Agency, continuing to work alongside the new owners for one year before ‘bowing out’ in February 2002.

'Neville House'
'Neville House' was formerly 'The Pamper Room'
'Mike Neville Estate Agents’ as a name was retained and on completion of the lease in Church Street the business moved in 2004 to the corner of Wellingborough Road and St Mary’s Avenue, and I was honoured when the new owners of my business chose to name their new premises ‘Neville House’. In 2000 I started doing a talk ‘Trust Me – I’m an Estate Agent’ to local groups. That talk continues today with ongoing bookings throughout this year and into 2009 now entitled 'Trust Me – I WAS an Estate Agent.

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