Debs Latham - the award-winning property auctioneer
- Credit: not Archant
Award-winning auctioneer Debs Latham from Hartford, reveals the secrets of her success and her determination to achieve even more
It’s never too late to try something new and be successful in it, says Debs Latham, who, at the age of 48, has just been awarded the prestigious NAVA Novice Auctioneer of the Year and who is now Head of Residential Auctions (North West) at SDL Auctions.
In order to win the prize, one of the lots that Debs had to auction was a stuffed buzzard.
‘Well, it’s certainly not your everyday lot,’ laughs Debs, from Hartford, near Northwich, who is more used to auctioning property but who used the brief window she was given, before ascending the podium, to find out what she could about the esoteric subject of stuffed buzzards: surprisingly, there was quite a bit out there.
‘Apparently, keeping a buzzard was a status symbol. It was an expensive purchase and so when it died, there was a craze for stuffing them,’ laughs Debs who managed to get the auction bids, if not the buzzard, flying high; especially gratifying as all money raised went to Pilgrims’ Hospices.
Other lots included a Red Letter Day experience, which she sold for many times its face value and which all helped her to win the title, a rose bowl and a prized gavel.
‘The rose bowl has to be handed back at the end of the year but the gavel is mine to keep and like every other auctioneer on the planet, that gavel is only to be touched by me! We’re all a bit precious about our gavel and obviously mine is pretty special as I won it,’ smiles Debs, who was the oldest candidate in the competition...not that she allowed that to put her off.
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‘Why should it? It was nerve wracking but it was also exhilarating and gave me a chance to show just what I could do. Besides, I’m a single mum to two girls and I’m raising them to understand that if you want something then at least have a go at it. I’d watched programmes such as ‘Homes Under the Hammer’, a bit of fun but I became intrigued. Becoming an auctioneer could have remained a pipe dream. I could have told myself that I was too old, that I was a single mum but I was determined so, armed with a pair of comfy shoes - the auctioneer’s friend- and a dream, I took steps to achieve it,’ says Debs.
Debs, who has an English Literature degree, began working life as an air traffic controller - a good grounding she points out as, once you’ve been responsible for hundreds of lives, nothing can faze you. But Debs also had a couple of other secret weapons in her armoury. One was her voice - important for an auctioneer. She is a trained soprano and knows how to project without being shrill or blaring - and the other was her absolute determination, which had already brought her considerable success.
‘When my eldest child was a toddler she contracted meningitis. At the time, there wasn’t wide access to the internet and who can keep a cool head when faced with a very poorly infant so I established, “Little Angels First Aid for Babies and Children CD”, which parents could listen to at any time, assimilating information that would come in useful if the need arose. It was hugely successful, I had tonnes of letters from parents and when I eventually sold it, I felt that I’d achieved something really worthwhile.’
Debs -never idle- then bought a boat and took her family, including her parents, to the Isle of Wight, where she began an award winning holiday rental agency before returning to Cheshire - parents too - and becoming a star in the world of auctioneering.
‘I absolutely love it. Property auctions are on the rise in Cheshire and I love meeting people, looking at their homes, guiding them through the process and finally conducting the auction. I don’t think I’ll have another career change but that said, I do want to write a book that explores self-belief. I have hundreds of self-help books at home. They’ve really helped me: for example, I practise self-hypnosis and positive visualisation. I think my book might be aimed at women because we can lose confidence, especially if we take time out to have children or feel we’re getting a bit older, but there is no need for it. We have so much to give,’ says Debs.
It might be reasonable to suppose that Debs, with her high profile career and young daughters, has little time to relax, but that’s not the case.
‘I’m planning to swim the equivalent of the channel for charity - I’ve already swum the Solent - and I love to cook and entertain. Maybe as a consequence of that love of food, I spend a lot of time at the gym and I love crafts. I make a lot of my own clothes and I also like to paint.
‘I keep my brain active too. In my house, we try not to spend too much time watching TV, preferring board games and games like charades. I’m addicted to sudoku too, often staying up late to do them - puzzles are good for the brain.’
There’s no puzzle about why Debs has achieved so much already and why it won’t be long before that book about self-help is on the shelves.