Surveying for fresh business opportunity
Karen Dent meets chartered surveyor and auctioneer David Coulson – a Sunderland fan with a magpie mind.
DAVID Coulson must be a pretty good auctioneer: he reckons he raised £1m when he auctioned Weakest Link presenter Anne Robinson’s soul to the devil on the BBC quiz show.
The senior partner at Broadley & Coulson rural property agency in Crook, Coulson auditioned for the TV show with a group of friends from Weardale.
“They asked me what I did for a career and I daren’t mention I was an estate agent because Anne Robinson tears them to pieces, so I said I was a chartered surveyor and an auctioneer. They asked me to sell a bowl of flowers, so I sold it to fictional audience and they said what would you do when you were on the show?
“I said the way Anne Robinson treats people, she’ll end up in hell so I would probably auction her soul to the devil. And then a week later they were on the telephone asking if I’d go down to the studios.”
That was three years ago and Coulson – who came third in the show – got his opportunity to show off his “auctioneer’s patter” to the acerbic presenter.
“When I finished, she just looked at me and said: ‘I sold my soul many years ago for a lot more money than that!’”
The son of a Weardale farmer and shepherd, Coulson’s father diverted him from following in his footsteps because he said there was no money in it.
Now he works with North East farmers, advising them on everything from European subsidies to diversification schemes, as well as working as a chartered surveyor, property valuer and occasional auctioneer.
“When you’re born on a farm, it does give you a good grounding and clients know you’ve got a better understanding of how the job works because you’ve been there and done it,” he says.
“I think farming is similar to my job where you do a lot of different things – farmers are mechanics and engineers, they care for animals, drive machinery and tractors.”
Despite problems in the wider economy, farming is currently holding its own. Although land prices have slipped, it is still in demand and livestock prices are high.
“Generally, when there’s an economic downturn, farming thrives – it goes the opposite way,” Coulson says.
“Some of it is because of the currency – with the pound down against the euro, it means it’s cheaper to export so people buy our produce.”
A keen traveller who has spent the last few years learning Spanish, Italian and brushing up on his French, Coulson says he always keeps his eyes open for ideas.
Annual fishing trips to County Mayo in Ireland have furnished him with ideas he’s shared with farming clients who are keen to diversify.
He says: “The bed and breakfast we stop at, the man’s actually a fisherman who suddenly decided he would do bed and breakfast. They had some self catering and some buildings outside, and they had a room where you could hang the oilskins and a tap and sink unit where you could clean your fish and they’d put them in the freezer for you.
“That was one idea I thought about when I was looking at canoeing access on the River Wear. I was saying to farmers, these canoeists come from places like Holland on the ferries, they need somewhere to store their canoes – they need somewhere to put their waterproofs. You could easily clean out an old building without spending any money and put a few coat hangers up.
“Instead of just doing bed and breakfast for them, advertise that they can leave canoes there, they can leave bikes there, they can hang their waterproofs up and dry them. It attracts people.