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BY KYLE PEVETO
BATON ROUGE, La.--After three decades holding estate sales, Noelle Lanier says she is sure she believes in ghosts.
She's never seen one, but there is a presence she feels.
"People who live in houses for 50 to 60 years and lovingly put their hands on everything, if you don't think there's a huge aura in the house " she said, then paused and looked across the living room of her latest estate sale project.
"If you walk in, you feel these people. I'm not saying doo-doo-doo-doo," she said, mimicking the "Twilight Zone" theme song. "It's not that. I can feel them. It's just that they're here."
Lanier, 65, stands 4 feet, 9 inches and speaks in rapid bursts with a smooth drawl. She had spent a month preparing the midcentury home in Baton Rouge.
Unoccupied for 12 years after the owner's death, the house appeared lived-in and comfortable--yet everything was for sale. Each room had been arranged so shoppers could visualize what the chairs, lamps or silver would look like in their homes.
"We try to make it as if [customers] were walking in and people just stepped out."
Everything in the house--thousands of items--had been researched. Pieces of jewelry had short descriptions posted beside them that detailed the designer's history. Women's hats had been displayed with a typed quote: "Three things a woman can make out of nothing:
Lanier researches the value of everything, said sister-in-law and employee Rene Nevils.
Estate sale agents take on a house full of items that need to be sold after bankruptcy, divorce or death. The agents will prepare items and sell them, taking a percentage of the money earned.
POPULARITY IS BOOMING
Estate sales have gone on for decades, but seem to have become more popular in the past decade, said Dan McQuade, founder and owner of EstateSales.net, a directory of sales across the country. The Internet, he said, makes them more accessible to shoppers who sign up for email lists from estate sale companies or search online for sales where they can see items before sales begin.
"It used to just be people like myself who were buying for their own collections or to resell," McQuade said by phone from Jackson, Mo. "But now it's people who are buying to save money."
METHOD TO THE MADNESS