Meet the Team


Founding Director

Having been brought up in Devon’s Exe Valley, John entered the profession in 1968 as an articled pupil with a large firm of auctioneers and valuers in Bristol where he progressed to establish a new office in Bath for the company before returning to Devon with his family in 1974. After furthering his career for 4 years with a local independent firm in Torquay, John started his own partnership in 1978 and is still very much at the forefront of the business today. He is a Fellow of both the National Association of Estate Agents and National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers. 01803 328899


Managing Director

Neil joined the firm in 1998 as an apprentice following work experience and his professional attitude and hard work soon elevated him through the ranks to become a Partner in September 2011. Throughout his time with the company he has gained his Certificate of Practice in Residential Estate Agency and NVQ Levels II and III whilst also achieving the highly regarded Fellowship of the National Association of Estate Agents when he was 25, the youngest eligible age. Neil has also passed the Technical Award in Residential Lettings and Property Management and is a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). A proud Torquay boy born and bred, Neil has extensive knowledge of the areas we cover and a true passion for the profession. 01803 328899

Paul Leaver MNAEA


Paul joined the firm at the start of 2015 and brings a wealth of experience, having been a household name in the local property market since starting his career at GA Property Services in 1992. He moved to Waycotts in 1995 where he progressed through the ranks to become an Associate Director, before joining Torbay Council in 2010 to work in a variety of roles involving housing and community safety. Throughout his career so far, Paul has achieved his NVQ Level III in Residential Property and Level 3 award in Domestic Energy Assessment through the National Association of Estate Agents of which he is a member. A Torquay boy born and bred with his roots firmly in the bay, Paul is a true professional with encyclopedic knowledge of both people and places. 01803 328899

Eve Lake


Eve formed the company with her husband John and, as a team, gradually built up the business, which moved to larger premises at Lloyds Corner, Fore Street, St Marychurch in 1999. Growth continued and the company moved again into its current offices at the Old Town Hall in 2006. Eve plays an important role in the general smooth running of the firm, mainly dealing with the administrative side of the business. She is a vital cog in the John Lake wheel, enforcing the family ethos and traditional values that our clients have come to love about our company. 01803 328899

Gemma Bartlett


Gemma is Neil’s better half and she keeps a trained eye on the accounts side of the businesses. Gemma worked at HMRC as a Revenue Officer for 7 years where she studied privately to gain her AAT Levels 3 and 4 qualifications. Gemma then joined the Lloyds Banking Group, moving to a highly regarded independent accountancy practice in Torbay before taking time off to have two beautiful children. Since 2011, Gemma has been working behind the scenes at John Lake yet she will be playing an integral part of the firm’s future.

Dale Johnson MNAEA


Dale joined us in March 2012, following a move from Wiltshire where he had gained valuable experience working for a national firm in their Salisbury office since 2007. He is an enthusiastic agent, keen to extend his knowledge and since joining us he has achieved the National Federation of Property Professionals (NFOPP) Technical Award in Residential Sales and is currently studying for the highly regarded Certificate in Sale of Residential Property. Gaining the Technical Award enabled Dale to secure membership of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), which reinforces his professionalism and commitment to our industry. 01803 328899

Steven Russell MARLA

Lettings Valuer/Negotiator

Steven joined our busy lettings department in March 2014, bringing extensive knowledge of accounts, payroll, bookkeeping and IT. Moving from a 40 office-strong telecommunications firm, his duties primarily included financial control, social media and overseeing office refurbishment works that all complement the letting role perfectly. Steven is a Member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and has passed his Certificate of Practice in Residential Lettings and Property Management, which reinforces his commitment to standards within our industry.

Carolyn Axtell


Carolyn joined the firm in 2001 and is the linchpin of the company, solely office-based with a relentless task of making sure the rest of the team are working efficiently. Usually the first port of call when contacting our office, Carolyn deals with all the office administration from booking appointments to creating brochures and marketing material – without these instrumental components none of the team could conduct their jobs professionally.

Carolyn Starkings

Lettings Administrator

With the opening of new letting premises in September 2016, Carolyn joined the department to bolster our expanding team. Carolyn is a ‘Torquay Maid’, benefiting from extensive administrational skills previously working with Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, Torbay Care Trust and South Devon Healthcare locally, but also as a Property Manager in Florida, USA. The weather isn’t as good here, but she brings her wealth of experience and knowledge to ‘not always so sunny’ Torquay. Carolyn coordinates the running of the office, landlord contact on tenancies and resolution of any maintenance issues, organising viewings, responding to all lettings enquiries and generally keeping us on our toes.

Helen Holgate BA (Hons)

Sales & Letting Negotiator

Locally born Helen has been involved with property the whole of her career, which commenced in the late 1970s at an estate agents in Newton Abbot and continued working for agents within the Bay until the 1990s. Helen then concentrated on the provision of affordable housing for both sale and rent, working for Westcountry Housing where she gained a BA (Hons) degree in Housing and Development, becoming a Member of the Chartered Institute for Housing. Helen moved back into the private lettings market in 2012 and joined our team in March 2013, becoming manager until wishing to step back in March 2018. She now brings her wide range of experience to support both sales and lettings, enhancing the professional service already expected from John Lake.

Carlie Lynch MNAEA

Sales Negotiator

Torquay born and bred, Carlie has always had a love for property, undertaking several renovation projects before joining our sales team in November 2012. Carlie passed the National Federation Of Property Professionals Level 3 in ‘The Sale of Residential Property’ in February 2016, which made her eligible to become a Member of the National Association of Estate Agents (MNAEA). Previous to joining us, Carlie worked for a local travel agency, First Choice, for 11 years and built a great rapport with her customers, assisting to build one of the most successful foreign exchange bureaus in the South West before leaving to start her family. Carlie’s warm personality and passion for the job, coupled with her considerable knowledge about both property and the local area, make her a clients’ favourite.

Jan Meyer


Jan joined the firm in August 2012 to support both the sales and lettings departments with administrative duties. She brought vast experience, having worked for the Herald Express newspaper for over 35 years. A local girl with her roots firmly in Torquay, Jan is an avid cricket fan and Secretary of the Barton Cricket Club. Her incredible baking skills were also a key factor in John and Neil’s decision of employment!

Melanie Ambler


Melanie joined us in November 2016, bringing her 17-year bookkeeping experience to John Lake Lettings. She has an exceptional ‘eye for detail’ and is committed to keeping accurate accounting records. Melanie has had an exciting and varied professional life and her career includes being bookkeeper to a prestigious hotel in the Bay and also a croupier, both in Torquay and abroad on cruise ships. She has now given up her life on the ocean waves and settled back in Torquay to continue her passion for numbers and equations.

John Austin

Consultant & Property Inspections

John is of the Newton Abbot Austin Department Store dynasty, which has been in his family since 1924. He was a renowned local business man, who started work in Oxford Street, London as a fashion buyer for Bourne and Hollingsworth before returning to Devon to become involved in the family business. He was in the local retail trade for 50 years before retiring. Having owned and block managed properties over several years, John affords unrivalled technical and practical knowledge of both the maintenance and day-to-day running of buildings. John is a member of the Torquay Chamber of Trade, BIRA and is well qualified in general life skills.