Homes are still where the heart is for estate agent Roger

England had a World Cup-winning football team when Roger Follwell took his first steps towards a career in the property business.
Forty six years later and he is still enjoying his work and took time out to share his thoughts on the industry that has been his bread and butter and is now firmly a family affair for the 65-year-old.
Penkhull-born Roger started out by completing a five-year correspondence course with Louis Taylor in 1966.
In 1971, as a Chartered Surveyor, he began work as an associate partner with estate agency Henry Steele & Sons in the Mother Town.
He remained with the firm until it was bought out by Nationwide and, after working for the building society for a couple of years, went on to set up the company bearing his name in 1991.
Roger didn’t have to go solo. Indeed, he was offered a job with Nationwide in Nantwich but decided to stay in his native North Staffordshire – a patch he knew very well. It was a brave decision.
Roger said: “People think it’s tough now but they have short memories. It was very slow going for me at first back in the early Nineties, for example, because interest rates were at 14 or 15 per cent. Yes, it’s a difficult market now but I don’t think it is as bad as it was in 2008 when the tap was simply turned off and people just couldn’t get mortgages. We’re still selling properties and, if people are prepared to accept a low offer for their property then they can often put themselves into a good position to negotiate a decent price for the home they want.”
Of course, things are very different now than they were in the Seventies and Eighties when Roger was first making a name for himself in the business.
He said: “Back then I remember building societies would visit major employers such as Royal Doulton and Michelin and outline mortgage offers to first-time buyers.
“We would sell lots of properties in the Middleport area, for example, but many of those streets have now been demolished. A lot of the properties had become rented and sadly deteriorated over the years through lack of care.
“In the early Eighties you could pick up a mid-terrace property in Burslem for £3,500. Towards the end of the decade they were selling for between £5,000 and £7,000 – with similar properties in areas like the Westlands in Newcastle were selling for between £10,000 and £15,000. Then, of course, there was the huge explosion in property prices and that’s when building societies began buying up estate agencies left, right and centre.”
The internet had made a huge difference to Roger’s industry but he believes there are some things technology will never replace.
He said: “It’s great to be able to have all that information about properties and postcodes at your fingertips but, when it comes down to it, people want to sit down and talk things through because buying a home is a big deal.
“That’s where 40 years of experience and local knowledge comes in handy.”
Roger now employs a dozen staff at Follwell’s three offices in Stone, Market Drayton, and the Ironmarket in Newcastle and has enjoyed watching his sons Tom and John settle into the family business.
I asked him what would be the one piece of advice he would give to first-time buyers these days.
Roger said: “I would advise them to look for a modest, mid-terrace property in an area that still has good community spirit. You can still find those neighbourhoods – even though certain areas have been over-developed. I think North Staffordshire is a great place. I’m certainly very proud of it. I think that sometimes it takes a knocking but that’s mostly from outsiders. As I sit here in our offices overlooking the Queen’s Gardens I can’t help but feel lucky to be here.”

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