Updated: Jan 5
I have developed a passion for flipping furniture over the years. I love thrifting and searching for the piece, then the excitement of actually finding it for a good price (or even free). I enjoy deciding how I'll refinish it, the process transforming it into something beautiful, and finding it a new home (for profit)!
I realize if you're just starting out, there can be a lot to figure out about how to run this side hustle successfully. Today, I want to share with you how I approach it and what has helped me to be successful.
When I first started this side hustle, I didn't really have any criteria for how much I would spend and how much I wanted to profit from each piece or even how many pieces I could manage at one time. Since setting boundaries for myself (with Keith's encouragement; seriously, he had to reign me in after I filled up our house with furniture), I've experienced much more ease in decision making. The following are some questions I ask myself before considering purchasing a piece of furniture to flip.
What is your spending limit per piece?
Currently, I don't spend more than $50 on a piece of furniture OR if I spend more than $50, I have to be absolutely confident I can double my money. For instance, I can pay $60 if I know without a doubt I can flip it for $120 (but these are rare exceptions to my rule). Oftentimes, it doesn't make sense to even pay $50 for smaller pieces.
What are your profit goals per piece?
What is the absolute lowest amount of profit per piece you're willing to accept? This functions the same as setting a limit for how much to purchase it for, you obviously want to make more than your minimum per piece. Setting this guideline just helps you decide how much to list it for and how low you're willing to go when buyers are negotiating price.
Here are a few of my mental guidelines for how much I'm willing to pay/profit per item :
Dresser / Chest of Drawers - $50 max spend / $50 min profit (Listing Price > $100)
Sofa Table / TV Stand - $50 max spend / $40-50 min profit (Listing Price > $90)
End Table / Side Table / Accent Table - $25-30 max spend / $25-30 min profit (Listing Price > $50-60)
Nightstand - $30 max spend / $30 min profit (Listing Price > $60)
Book Shelf - $40-50 max spend / $40-50 min profit (Listing Price > $80)
Plant Stand / Accent Pieces - $20 max spend / $20 min profit (Listing Price > $40)
Obviously, the goal is to pay much less than your max and make much more than your min (which happens more often than you think), but it is good to set these goals ahead of time before getting carried away. I definitely break my rules from time to time for a really unique or special piece, but sticking to them 98% of the time keeps my profit margin pretty consistent. I like to at least double my money on each piece. So far, I've only had one 'bad buy' so I'll consider my guidelines pretty sound.
Here are some real life examples of some flips I've done recently to show you the range of numbers possible:
Unique Large Chest of Drawers: Paid $0, Sold for $340 = $340 Profit
Sofa Table: Paid $33, Sold for $110 = $77 Profit
Side Table: Paid $15, Sold for $55 = $40 Profit
Chest of Drawers & Nightstand: Paid $50, Sold for 150 = $100 Profit
TV Stand/ Console Table: Paid $65, Sold for $175 = $110 Profit
Book Shelf: Paid $25, Sold for $110 = $85 Profit
*Please note the amounts you're comfortable with may vary based on where you live. Also, if you don't have any initial funds to invest in supplies, try stalking the 'free' section of Facebook Marketplace until you can flip a few free items to create enough cash flow to buy supplies and better pieces.*
Keep a Ledger!
I treat my side hustles as businesses and it shows in the numbers. Figure out the easiest way for you to keep up with your income and expenses. I keep an excel spreadsheet of each purchase and sale so I know what I'm doing is successful and if it isn't, I can figure out how to adjust. You may have noticed in my thresholds above, I don't count basic supplies like paint, wax, tape, and sandpaper per piece because it's too much to keep up with (I like things simple)! I just list those expenses as a whole in my ledger so my overall total still reflects what I'm netting. I will count replacing knobs or pulls into individual pieces because those are typically unique to one piece. Your ledger doesn't have to be complicated!
How many pieces can you work on and store at a time?
At one point, Keith nicely told me I could not bring in anything else into our home until what I had was sold and moved out. I have a tendency to get carried away with excitement... This threshold has landed at around 5 pieces at a time (possibly less if some are large). Since I run this side hustle out of our basement, we have to consider how much can reasonably fit down there at a time. This also helps me not get overwhelmed with too many projects to choose from. You also need to ask yourself if you are going to consistently continue to do this before you stock up on inventory and get bored or too busy to flip your items. I'd recommend starting small and working up. I began flipping just one piece at a time and after I found that fun and successful, I started keeping more 'inventory' on hand.
What to Look For and Where to Find It
What kind of pieces will you flip?
After you've landed on some good guideline numbers, it's time to decide what kind of pieces you're looking for. The following are a few things I consider when purchasing a piece. For instance, we have a narrow stairwell leading to my work space in the basement which limits the size of the pieces I can easily flip.
Will it easily fit in your car?
Will you have someone to help you carry it?
Does it fit in your work space at home?
Look for Quality (Diamonds in the Rough)
Even if an item is free, you want to be sure it is worth your time and a quality item that you can sell to someone without guilt. Although I love a good 'trash to treasure,' sometimes trash can't be transformed easily or with enough room for a profit. The following are some questions I may ask before making a purchase. The answers may not necessarily be deal-breakers, I just want to know what I'm getting myself into on the front end. For instance, if the cabinets don't shut properly, that doesn't mean I won't purchase it but I do consider if Keith is willing to help me repair it and if I want to purchase the replacement parts. I tend to look for solid wood pieces with pretty details and hardware I don't have to replace.
Is it solid wood?
Is it sturdy with minimal damage?
Do the cabinets and drawers function properly?
Will you have to replace anything (for example, drawer pulls)?
How likely is it to sell?
Will it need to be sanded?
Is it going to be too hard to paint (i.e., too many spindles)?
How far do I have to drive to pick it up?
Where to Find & Safety
So where do you actually find items and how do you purchase them? The following are the best places I've found for getting excellent deals.
Let Go App
Yard Sales / Garage Sales (Estate Sales are usually overpriced)
Side of the Road
Dump (I have not personally tried this one yet, but if you have one nearby?)
My hands-down favorite place to find pieces is Facebook Marketplace because of the accessibility and ease of use. I can easily scroll for deals while I'm waiting in line somewhere or on a lunch break. Let Go is also another favorite, but it is not as easy to use as Facebook Marketplace. Yard Sales and Garage Sales typically have the lowest priced items so if you have time and your location offers multiple sales, it is so much fun. I love yard saling with my parents and that's how I got into thrifting in the first place. I've also picked up pieces from thrift stores and the side of the road (safely)!
Paying and Picking Up
My rule of thumb is to always make a respectful offer at a lower price unless they already have a rock bottom price listed and you want to be considered first. Let's say a listing is posted or has a sticker for $50. If I'm on an app or a yard sale, I'll say something like "would you accept $30 for the ____?" The worst thing they can say is no; the best thing they can say is yes. Most of the time, I find they will counteroffer which is okay too. Below are a few examples of how I interact with sellers.
I was recently at a yard sale. Upon arriving, I smile and say good morning to the sellers before beginning to browse. They had an adorable side table that had a sticker for $20. I walked up to the seller and politely asked if she would take $10 for the table. She said yes and offered to show me some more tables she hadn't brought outside yet. (DO NOT ENTER SOMEONE'S HOME ALONE; I try not to enter homes at all.)
I recently found matching nightstands on Facebook Marketplace posted for $75 and I really wanted them. I messaged, "Would you accept $50; I can Venmo payment." This says, hey I'm actually serious and ensures you're more likely to get the item than clicking the standard "is this still available?" button. The seller said they would accept $60, so I said yes. I then usually ask for the pickup address so I can stalk the seller's page and the location to see if it feels sketchy. If at all possible, I take Keith for safety and muscle for loading. I also offer to do porch pickups so I don't actually have to see/talk to anyone.
You safety is most important no matter what so make sure you only engage in transactions you are comfortable with. Often you can ask a seller if they're willing to drop off in your driveway if they are close by and leave money in a specified place or Venmo them. They usually say no, but I have been lucky with this a few times. Most sellers understand if you ask to meet in a public place, but know that makes you more of a hassle customer than someone willing to pickup from their home. 95% of my purchases on apps come directly from someone's driveway/garage in nice areas of town.
So you've finally purchased a piece!!! What to do with it? Sometimes, you can flip items without doing anything to them except maybe cleaning. I happen to truly enjoy transforming pieces, so I usually get items with the mindset that I will be painting them. I recently started a YouTube Channel focused on how I flip items so consider subscribing to see how I refinish my pieces step-by-step. If the goal is a quick flip, my go-to is chalk painting because it requires minimal steps and the result is a beautiful transformation. I truly enjoy the process however so I'm not crazy concerned if I decide to take more time on a piece for fun.
How to Sell
Now you're ready to sell your piece! Here are the specific steps I tend to follow when selling my pieces on Facebook Marketplace and 'Local For Sale' Facebook Pages.
Take Outstanding Photos - You want someone scrolling to stop on your eye-catching photo and truly be able to envision the item in their home. I take this opportunity to stage my item with decor around my home and take photos from multiple angles. Sometimes, I will edit the photo in Adobe Lightroom to give it the best lighting. Please note, you do not want to apply a filter that makes the item you're selling appear dishonest. It needs to reflect what it actually looks like in real life. Here are some photos in the listing of a side table I sold recently.
Detailed Description - You want to include enough details on the item description such as dimensions and any damage they need to know about. Be sure to include the color(s) and any other details you'd like to feature. I find listing the title with multiple versions of what someone would search for helps as well. I also use the tags option to list any keywords that would be used to search for a piece. Here is an example of the description for the listing pictured above.
Price & Negotiation - List your item at a higher price than your minimum for it. Most of the time, buyers will offer less (just like I told you to do earlier). Using this same example, I purchased this side table for $15 so ideally based on my guidelines I would be comfortable making at least $30 profit on it. So the min price would be $45. I listed it for $65 and I accepted an offer for $55. Always be respectful.
Don't Hold Items without Payment - The most common messages you'll receive will be the standard "Is this available?", which is annoying to me. I respond to all of these with, "Yes! When are you able to pick up? I have several interested." If they say they can pickup any day that's not today, I respond "Are you able to Venmo me so I can hold it for you?" If they send you money, done! If they don't, agree to whatever date they said but if someone offers to buy it sooner, sell it. As much as you want to believe they will come with cash when they say they will, I've found they often back out.
Pickup - If you're willing to deliver an item locally, charge a small delivery fee ($10-20). Most people do not want to pay for delivery so they will come pick it up. I offer to leave the item in my driveway if they've already paid so I don't have to interact with anyone. I've also had buyers request to meet in a public place so sometimes I'm willing to drive to a close-by Starbucks. Like I said earlier, your safety is top priority so make sure you're comfortable with the exchange setting.
Fear of Theft - I've been buying and selling all sorts of things for about 5 years via porch pickup and often leaving cash somewhere hidden. *Knock on Wood* I've never had anyone steal from me. I usually don't leave more money out than I'm willing to lose worst case, but most people are honest about it.
I hope you have found this brain dump about my furniture flipping side hustle informative and helpful in your own business or if you're considering starting this as a full time job or side hustle yourself!
I hope you have enjoyed creating with me!
Flip your first piece? Leave a comment and let me know! Or tag me on Instagram @heathercorinneflips