I like experimenting with new things. The other day I went to my first garage sale, flipped some items and made $80. It was fun.
— Simon Cave (@simooncave) May 29, 2016
I know that a lot of you guys want to learn to make some quick easy money and I think that flipping items is definitely something you should consider doing. You can literally make thousands of dollar every week doing so.
But the question is, how do you actually flip items to make money?
To answer this question I decided to invite someone who’s an expert in flea market flipping and ask him a few questions to figure out how he makes money that way…
Could you introduce yourself?
Hi! My name is Robert Stephenson, I reside in Orlando Florida, where I was born and raised.
Last year you made $42,000 working 5 – 10 hours a week, how did you do that?
A simple definition would be that I buy items from flea markets, thrift stores, auctions, and yard sales for low prices, and I sell them online using eBay, craigslist, Facebook, Offer Up and other selling sites for a profit.
I typically go to the flea market on the weekends and visit another thrift store or auction during the week to find items. Then I post them on one of the mentioned platforms (or a couple at a time), and sell them. Some items sell quickly (within hours), and some have taken months to even years. ( I have a pretty fun looking garage).
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When going to flea markets, what kind of items do you look for and why?
This is a tough question because there is not one “type” of item I look for. My wife looks mostly for quality brand baby items or exercise equipment (she is a personal trainer), but I look for anything that possibly looks expensive or weird. Then I research it and find out if it’s expensive or not.
One of my most interesting finds was a prosthetic leg. I saw it at the flea market for $35. I couldn’t find the brand online right away, but I took a chance on it because it looked like it could be an expensive brand. I posted it on eBay and within 12 hours it sold for $1,000. Those are the times that I kick myself because I know if it sells that fast I could have sold it for more money! But I was happy with the profit anyway.
Another interesting lot of items I purchased was 60 sleep number mattresses from a hotel. These mattresses are different from traditional mattresses because they come completely apart and I can throw the parts in a commercial washing machine at the laundry mat. I ended up renting a storage unit to house them, but they have made me over $25,000 in profit in the past two years. Most of our family members are now sleeping on sleep number mattresses. Ha.
As far as a profit margin, I look to at least double my money, but usually end up making way more than that. I don’t like to mess with items with less than a $100 profit, but I will occasionally buy some smaller items for less of a markup.
What questions do you typically ask the vendors? What research do you make online?
I usually ask them what they know about the item (and if it works if it is some type of machine). Many times they don’t know much about it because they bought it from an auction or thrift store themselves. I have returned items on several occasions that don’t work like the vendor told me they did. I have a pretty good relationship with some of the vendors of my local flea market.
I wish there was some complex answer to the research question, but it’s really eBay or google. I search eBay and google for the item while at the flea market or store and see if it is worth my time to buy.
How do you negotiate?
Not overpaying for items is a big part of making money at this. If you end up paying too much then you can really cut into your profits. I do negotiate with people, but I am polite about it and if we aren’t somewhere in the same ballpark I just let the item go. You can’t get attached to the item or you will end up overspending to get it.
Sometimes I negotiate with people online (If I am buying from offer up, craigslist, or Facebook) before I ever get there in person. Then I can get a feel for them before I even get there. Over time I have learned to read people pretty well, and when they will drop a price and when they won’t. At the flea market, I know which vendors will sell low and which ones barely budge on their prices.
How long would it take to make $1,000/month with flea market flipping? And how much money would you need to do so?
This is a great question! While I can’t guarantee a time frame to make $1,000, because everyone has different effort levels and skills they put into it, it IS possible in a fairly short amount of time. Just this month I was able to make $1,200 in one day from selling 2 items. They were a pitching machine and a cadillac sub frame, I had $40 total into them both. And just the other day I sold part of a boat gauge cluster for $900, and my investment was $20. There are also ways to invest nothing except for a little time and be able to make a profit. It just takes a little extra searching time. We are actually in the process of publishing an e-book to teach people how to do it.
Where do you sell the items you bought?
I primarily use eBay, but also craigslist, offer up, & Facebook.
Any tips when listing your items?
Some people get very detailed in their description of an item. I typically write 5-6 sentences on each item. I make sure I accurately describe if anything is damaged or missing.
I never try to make an item sound better than it really is. Pictures tend to make items look better than they really are, and you never want your buyers to be disappointed when they receive the item. I always include in my listings: “Item might have minor wear such as scratches and scuffs.” As far as the auction to buy it now option, I used to only do auctions, but have recently turned to more buy it now listings, and just list it for the price I want to sell it for.
Do you ship your items? If so what’s the exact process of shipping?
Yes, I have shipped items all over the U.S. and to other countries.
I never use to ship internationally until recently when eBay created a hub where they ship all your items from. You ship it to them and they take care of the rest. There isn’t an exact science to shipping the items I buy. Everything I sell is so different that I have to approach shipping differently. Some items I can just place in a box and send off, and others need packaging bubbles and peanuts. Some of my large, heavier items I throw on a pallet and build a crate around it. All the labels are printed through eBay and they give me a discount to do so. I purchase insurance on all the items I ship. Fed Ex and UPS have broken my items, and since I had insurance it didn’t affect my bank account. Shipping through eBay can intimidate some people, but it really isn’t too hard once you do it a few times.
On average how long does it take you to sell your items?
Sometimes it can be days and sometimes it can be years. (I try not to let the latter happen, but occasionally it does.) The goal is always a short flip time, but a few items I get need some TLC before I can sell them, and others are just very unique that they take the right person to see the listing. I don’t mind sitting on items a bit and waiting for the right person to see it. I usually make more profit because I am willing to wait.
What if your items don’t sell, what do you do?
Typically If something doesn’t sell in 30 days I re-evaluate and see if I’m way off on my price. If its a larger item I will usually starting discounting it so I don’t have to store it.
Anything you’d like to add?
I would like to add that along with making an income with this side hustle, we also SAVE a ton of money by buying things second hand.
Our house is full of items that were purchased from the flea market, second hand stores or auctions. That does not mean our house is full of junk by any means. Our kitchen has all stainless steal appliances in it and we paid next to nothing for them. We have a Fisher & Paykel dishwasher that I purchased from the flea market for $75 (retail $1,300), we have a stainless GE refrigerator that I got from Lowes scratch and dent section for $250 (retail $1,500), and I found our stainless kitchen aide oven (retail $1,950) for free out sitting by the road waiting for trash day. I had to fix the burner switches on it, but you can’t beat free!
Christmas is also a time we save a lot of money. We buy gifts for our girls from the flea market and hardly spend anything. We can find toys that are still in their boxes for a quarter of the price as they are in the store.
I would also like to say that I really LOVE doing this to make and save money. On days that I go to the flea market I wake up earlier with a little pep in my step because I truly enjoy the hunt for fun items and the mystery of what treasures I will find that day.