Ah, the flea market flip. Not to be confused with the garage sale gainer or the swap meet slide, yet comparable to the classic bazaar bingo. No, it's not a dance, and yes, those terms are made up (though they do sound like rather entertaining endeavors) — the flea market flip refers to what many side-hustle-preneurs are doing to earn some cash on the side for an honest day's work.
Flea markets are known for their unique treasures, and opportunity often awaits those willing to do a little refurbishing and cleaning up of older or simply pre-owned pieces to make them more desirable. Amidst the so-so Swedish flat-pack ensemble and wild expense required to purchase solid wood furniture, restoring an old mid-century modern sideboard or a classic contemporary piece, for example, can often attract numerous buyers looking for — given the alternatives — a steal of a deal.
How Do You Flip a Financially Feasible Flea Market Find?
First off, it's important to note that a flea market flip is a viable option for a lot more than just old furniture. Sifting through flea markets, second-hand clothing stores and antique stores may yield good results for a variety of unique items that you can touch up and resell (or simply just resell for a higher price). You'll want to start by doing some research to see which sort of items are in demand.
Once you've found a good item to start with, you may wish to clean it up, wash it, sand it down and repaint (in the case of furniture); repair or replace any hardware, buttons, clasps, or what have you; and prepare it for sale. But you may not even have to do that — many items can be found cheap and simply be resold at a higher price.
Picture an old, dusty camera sitting in some antique store. Does it work? Awesome. Snag a few good shots of it and list it online for those interested in collecting old cameras.
What Items Are the Easiest to Flip?
You can perform a flea market flip on just about anything, but there are some items that are perhaps the easiest to flip for a hefty profit. Clothing, cameras, appliances, books, jewelry and, of course, furniture are only a few of the most popular items, but the flea market flip can work for just about anything that is relevant and in demand by a niche audience.
FYI, by selling online, you'll be participating in what is called "niche ecommerce," which opens up a bunch of additional doors if you'd like to indulge in some other promising ecommerce business ideas alongside your flea market feats.
So…how do you ensure that you can make the most profit on your flea market flip?
3 Steps to Making Bank on a Flea Market Flip
1. Do Your Flipping Research
Really, though. A man called Ed Meyer developed what is called the 40/40/20 rule for good reason. As the formula goes, 40 percent of making a sale has to do with what you're selling. Another 40 percent is who you are offering it to, and the final 20 percent is your marketing medium.
You might think rare = desirable, but that isn't always the case. You can make good money on a flea market flip when the items are simply handy or useful despite availability. Maybe your item is in better condition, or it's something that buyers will need to purchase repeatedly. In short, underestimation could lead to a lack of compensation, so keep your eyes open and refer back to #1.
3. Buy Low, Sell High
This might be obvious, but it's important. The last thing you want to do is lose money on a sale, so buying low helps you maximize your potential profit margin. If you're restoring old furniture, make sure you include your time and expenses, as you'll want to calculate whether it will be a good investment.
If you can pick up an old dresser for $50 and you see that restored antique dressers are selling on Facebook Marketplace for $400+, you've got some play there to make sure you maximize your profit. Either way — your time is worth something, so keep that in mind if you decide to dabble in the $5 to $50 item range, as you'll want to pay yourself a decent rate to put in the work.
How Much Profit Can You Make on a Flea Market Flip?
If you've read this far, this is probably the big question you're asking. Is it worth your time? Can you actually make money doing this? Well, the answer is a resounding YES, and we've got an excellent example to go with it. Rob and Melissa Stephenson have done the flea market flip for many years and have made a considerable profit — enough to live on, in fact. In 2015 they made $42,000 working as part-time flippers, and then in 2016, they generated $133,000 in income by flipping countless thrift store and flea market items.
Based on that case alone, it's safe to say that just about anyone could earn between $50-$500 per week or more by engaging in the flea market flip…so are you up for the challenge?
Found Your Own Flea Market Flip Firm with Incfile
If flipping flea market or thrift store items is appealing to you (just think of all the cool stuff you could find!), then you may wish to turn it into a full-time business. After all, it's the twenty twenties, and there are an infinite number of ways to earn a living these days. By forming a legal business entity, you can minimize your liability and take advantage of potential tax savings as well. Check out our Start a Business Guide to learn more about forming your own flea market flipping business and discover how Incfile can help you get started and keep you on track for success.
Chad is a freelance writer and former project manager focused on presenting information on SaaS, technology and business formation.