Furniture Flipping: My Backstory

A little backstory to how my furniture flipping days began…

I had worked my way up the corporate ladder for over a decade. I was an AVP with a near six figure income; all in my late 20’s. I held a position at one of the most well regarded banks in the Western and Midwest United States.

The long work hours and constant pressure were starting to wear on me, but it seemed that there was no other option than to continue to show up and give my all.

So many people told me this is what success looked like, but I secretly knew something wasn’t right as every day felt a little worse than the last one.

Everything came to a screeching halt the day we found out my husband had cancer. Cully was 29 at the time he received the diagnosis. We had recently moved into a new home and were in the process of renovating it (all ourselves, nonetheless).

Needless to say, we had a lot going on at once. His treatment required multiple surgeries, including one that lasted 8 hours with a 5 day hospital stay.

During his most invasive surgery, I remember sitting in the waiting room with my work laptop open, doing my best to focus on work, but failing miserably.

There has to be more to life than trying to keep up with deadlines while my husband is in surgery, I thought to myself. There has to be something out there that would give me purpose without threatening my happiness…and sanity.

I closed the laptop, put it away and took a deep breath. I looked around at all of the people who were waiting for someone they loved to come out from surgery or to be called back into another room.

Everyone had an expression of worry on their face that was etched deeply with exhaustion. It was hard to imagine that some of these people would be going home without their loved one; yet here we sat, still holding onto hope and praying for good news…

It was at that moment I decided work deadlines would no longer control me. I had no idea how to go about it, but it was time to take back control of my happiness.

It all started with a simple idea that crept up on me and invaded my thoughts. What if I could have my cake and eat it, too? It was an idea that had been building over the past few several months.

The idea of working less hours so I could be present in life for what is most important. Be fully present with my husband during these difficult times. Maybe even spend some quality time alone to enjoy life like never before.

How would this change everything? Would I regret not making these changes years ago when they felt so much easier to make?

A flurry of questions flooded me as I contemplated what this might mean for myself and for my husband, family, friends…

It was time to give it all up and pursue my dream of entrepreneurship.

Furniture Flipping

Why I Started Furniture Flipping

Since I was kid, I’ve had a love for interior design. I remember flipping through furniture catalogs and rearranging furniture in my parent’s house. I took every interior design based course in school and loved designing 3-D rooms on the computer…back when CD-ROMs were the cool thing.

One morning over coffee, a friend told me about flipping furniture for quick cash. I had never really considered furniture flipping before, but it seemed like the perfect fit for me!

I was able to do all the work from home and set my own hours so that I could still manage my corporate world responsibilities and be present in life with Cully while also maintaining a furniture flipping business on the side.

For a year and a half I juggled my full-time corporate job and my furniture flipping side gig.

Knowing that I would one day leave the corporate world to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship kept me going day after day.

Things were looking up. Cully received the excellent news that the cancer was in remission. Our house was (for the most part) remodeled and put back together and I could almost taste the freedom of putting in my notice at the bank.

November 16, 2016 marked the last time I logged off my corporate laptop. After 14 years, a chapter of my life came to a close and I was officially a full time entrepreneur.

Krista Howard US Bank

First Steps to Furniture Flipping

Getting into flipping furniture took little upfront cost, which made it a great side-gig to start.

I started out by buying furniture that was inexpensive, but still in good condition. Real wood furniture tends to sell better than fake wood (ie: particle board).

I would then clean it, typically paint it (and sometimes repurpose it) and resell it on Etsy or Facebook.

After several months of selling on Facebook and Etsy, I invested in a website builder and domain on Shopify so that I could have my own furniture site to sell furniture online. To this day, I still use this website. Only now, I sell my own privately manufactured furniture paint line! Check it out here.

Below are some things to consider before jumping into furniture flipping:

Space to Create

It’s important to have space for cleaning, painting and selling your furniture.

It can be done in your garage or spare bedroom if you don’t mind the mess (I didn’t!)…but I found this created more stress than joy.

You’ll want to find an area that is going to be furniture-free and furniture-ready.

Available Storage Space

A place to store your finished items is also important.

You’ll want a place where your furniture can be stored while not in use and after being cleaned/painted.

I used to store my furniture upside down on top of each other (with a blanket in-between) so that I don’t need as much overhead or floor space.

Hauling Your Furniture Finds

Be sure you have a way to transport your furniture finds. We have a small SUV and it worked perfectly to transport a couple of small dressers or dining room set.

Once we got into selling our pieces at local markets, we rented a U-Haul to transport everything. That eventually turned into purchasing a covered trailer.

But for just starting out, having a vehicle that can hold a dresser is more than plenty!

Small Navy Painted Side Table

Cost = $10. Sold = $95.

How Much Time You Have Available for Furniture Flipping

Furniture flipping can be time consuming. It’s not just about cleaning it up and painting it.

You also need to consider the drive time to find your items and/or the time it take to find it online.

I recommend chunking out time for like tasks. For example, carve out two hours where all you do is hunt for treasures.

Then, once you have a few pieces, paint them all at once. Have time where all you do is take quality pictures and measurements.

Having a system that works with your schedule will make you more productive and efficient.

Where to Buy Used Furniture for Furniture Flipping

  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Thrift Stores
  • Estate Sales
  • Garage Sales
  • Craigslist
  • Consignment Shops (typically better quality but higher price points)
  • Friends and Family (they usually gifted their pieces!)

Facebook Marketplace

The furniture flipping adventure began on Facebook marketplace.

I was living in a condo and needed a dresser for my bedroom so I searched “dressers” on FB marketplace, clicked the search button, and let it do its work. Within seconds, dozens of options popped up!

That’s when I learned how to refine my searches by price, location, etc.

One of my first FB marketplace furniture flips was purchased for $30 and sold for $275. The seller was super nice when I went to go pick it up and even helped me haul it into my car.

He was also super excited about furniture flipping because he had done the same thing before! You may find you run into many like minded people along the way.

Facebook Marketplace is still my #1 go to when searching for a specific furniture piece. Only today, I mostly buy pieces for my home or when I need a piece to teach furniture painting tutorials.

Gray painted vintage telephone table

Purchased for $30. Sold for $275.

Thrift Stores

Second best place to find used furniture is thrift stores.

I’ve found that thrift stores in larger cities (ie: Denver, where we used to live) have a wider variety to choose from than smaller cites (ie: Grand Junction, where we live now).

Watch for sales and get to know the employees. They may just let you know what day(s) they stock new furniture and/or can help you find something you’re looking for that may not be on the floor yet.

Estate Sales

Estate sales are a great place to find furniture pieces.

Be sure you know what day they start and get there early or better yet, sign up for an email list!

Some estate sales will be on the weekends only while others may have weekday-only sale days.

But if you’re into furniture flipping, this is a great place to be! Items are commonly 50% off the last day of the sale.

Garage Sales

If you don’t mind going the extra mile, garage sales are another great way to find furniture pieces.

The majority of furniture I flipped came from either Facebook Marketplace or thrift stores. But every now and again, I’d find a killer piece for a can’t pass it up price.

I typically sought out group garage (ie: several neighbors having a garage sale together) sales as they were more worth my time.

Craigslist

I know it’s not 2009, so Craigslist is not as cool as it used to be.

But I found furniture on Craigslist a few times. It seemed like people would post furniture there in the hopes that someone else was looking for it too – which is exactly what you’re doing when searching! This often meant better prices.

The downside to furniture flipping on craigslist? You have no clue who you’re meeting up with. Still, by following basic safety precautions, you can find worth while furniture pieces every now and again.

I also recommend searching the “free” section regularly. Especially if you live in a larger city. While I didn’t come across a ton on worthwhile furniture in the free section, we did find tons of wood materials that we later used to make reclaimed wood décor to sell.

Consignment

It was rare to find reasonably priced furniture pieces at a consignment shop. But every now and again, something would pop up and I’d snag it.

The pros of shopping consignment is typically the quality of furniture if higher than every other place on this list. The downside is it’s hard to find a piece that you could make a solid profit on.

On the flip side, selling your painted furniture at a consignment pieces may be an option for you. I’ve done that with a couple of larger pieces that I simply had no room for and needed them out of the house ASAP.

Some consignment shops don’t like to sell painted furniture and others are all about it. So it’s important to do your homework to see if selling at consignment shops makes sense.

Friends and Family

Once your friends and family get wind of what you’re doing, you will likely be their go to if they have furniture they want to get rid of.

The pros: this furniture was offered at no cost to me!

The cons: it often was not a style that was good for reselling and saying “no thank” you to family and friends was HARD for me. It felt like I was being ungrateful. But I always found a way to say “thanks, but no thanks” and asked them to keep me in mind if anything else came up.

upcycled singer bathroom vanity

Base gifted to us from family. Materials cost = $125. Sold for $625.

What Furniture is Good for Flipping?

Furniture that is good for furniture flipping includes:

  • Well constructed, real wood furniture.
  • Furniture in original condition or well cared for.
  • No smells from age, tobacco use, etc… although the smells can sometimes be cleaned out, I usually didn’t take the risk of buying something that had an odor.

In my personal experience, vintage style dressers (with the exception of the “waterfall” style dressers) sold very well.

Tall vintage dressers tend to sell better than long short dressers. And they are easier to store/transport!

Nightstands made from a vintage desk (after taking it apart) also sold well. We didn’t come across these often, but when we did, they did not last long.

Hands down dressers were our #1 sellers. In fact, I recommend you only start with dressers then expand out as you see fit.

Next up on our top sellers list were vintage style small side tables. Then armoires. Although we didn’t buy many armoires since most are large and difficult to store.

Dining room tables sold fairly well. But they were more difficult to store. We found that sets (ie: table + chairs) actually took longer to sell than just a table by itself.

Gray painted nightstands

Pair of upcycled nightstands from and old desk. Painted in our Furniture Paint color Denver Slate. Cost = $75. Sold = $395.

How Much Should I Pay for Furniture I’m Going to Flip?

To keep profit margins high, it’s important to watch how much you spend on your furniture piece.

Unless the piece was out of this world amazing, we usually stayed under $75. And $50 was more our comfortable price point. Every now and again, we’d go up to $100 but it was rare we spent over that on one single piece.

Keep in mind that you may also have materials cost (paint, wax, new hardware, etc…). All that can add up quick, so choose your piece wisely.

Note: the only time we usually put new hardware on a piece was if it was missing the original hardware and we had a cost effective way to do replace them.

Furniture Flipping

Purchased for $100. Sold for $525.

How Much Can I sell Flipped Furniture for?

This is where furniture flipping gets tricky. Pricing is one of the most challenging parts of furniture flipping. And there really is no black and white answer.

Here are some things to consider when pricing your furniture:

  • Price of similar work in your area (go to local boutique shops, look though listings on FB Marketplace, etc.. to get an idea)
  • What you paid for the piece
  • Cost of materials put into the piece
  • Amount of time put into the piece
  • Time it took to acquire the piece

Some will have a set hourly rate they use. For example, if they charge $40/hour and spent a total of 5 hours acquiring and working on the piece, that would be $200.

Let’s say materials and the original cost of the piece totaled $125. That means the total cost of the piece would be $325.

If this is a beautifully crafted 5 drawer tall vintage dresser, I’d say that price is about right and probably fairly average.

It’s important to note that I am not suggesting everyone charge $40/hour for their time. That is just a number I used in this scenario.

As a skilled furniture flipper (with a wait list of clients) living in Denver, CO, I charged up to $85/hour, depending on the work at hand.

On the flip side, when I just needed to move a piece that wasn’t selling (yes, it happens to us all), it equated to as little as $25/hour for my time.

Higher income areas would be priced higher and lower income areas would be priced lower. This is where you doing research will help determine what you should charge.

Also, when you are new to the game, you may charge less. The more experienced you get, the more you may charge.

White painted vintage dresser

Purchased for $85. Sold for $425.

Word of Caution for New Furniture Flippers

I see so many new furniture flippers charging far less than what their skill and time is worth. If you want this to be a real business, whether part-time or full-time, you must price your work for the market you’re in.

Don’t underprice yourself or you will burn out quickly and have little financial reward to show for it.

And yes, selling that beautifully painted coffee table in excellent condition for $65 is faaaaaar too low. You will not make any real money going this route, even if the furniture was free to you. Unfortunately, I see this all too often.

Furniture Flipping Marketing: Where to Sell Your Furniture

Now for my favorite part! Where to sell your furniture.

Below is a list of places I’ve sold pieces. Listed from most profitable to least profitable:

  • Local Vintage Markets
  • Etsy/My Website
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Booth at a Local Boutique
  • Consignment Shop

Before I dive into the specifics of each, it’s important that you make your own decisions on where to sell your pieces. What worked for me, may not work for you. And what works for you may not have worked for me.

This is where knowing your target customer and creating a specific marketing plan is key to your success.

How much time you have to dedicate to furniture flipping is also something to consider. My furniture flipping marketing approach was different when I could only give part-time hours, compared to what I could do when I was full-time.

Local Vintage Markets

Vintage Markets are #1 on my list because they were our bread and butter. We achieved several $15k+ sales months because of them.

We got into markets more once we were able to add smaller home décor items in addition to our furniture pieces. This made for a more cohesive and fun shopping expertise for customers.

That said, we met many vendor friends (aka “friendors”) that only brought furniture pieces to shows and still did very well.

Doing a vintage market right takes a lot of time and work. But seeing $5k+ sold in only two days is exhilarating and well worth the effort!

Check out this post to learn more about how we sold our products at vintage markets.

Vintage Market

A sampling of what we sold at Vintage Markets.

Etsy/My Website

Selling furniture across the US was a huge learning curve because of the shipping aspect.

Both Etsy and selling on my own branded website yielding the highest profit margins per furniture piece.

Yes, there were times that I had to custom build my own furniture shipping box (not fun and not recommended). But once I got the hang of shipping furniture, it was so worth the extra effort.

Beginner tip: look into using a service like uShip for furniture. I wish I would have done that from the beginning. It would have saved me a ton of time and headache!

Facebook Marketplace

For quick hitters, Facebook Marketplace was my go to. Not everything sold going this route, but they were always the easiest transactions.

There was usually some price negotiation, so I priced my items assuming that would happen. I recommend everything you price have some room for wiggle.

Booth at Local Boutiques

Selling at local boutiques did not yield very good results for us. I tried two different locations and neither did that well.

In the end, I made maybe made 2-2.5 times the total amount of my booth rent for the time I was there. Not a total loss. But for something like that to be worth keeping, I needed to be making a minimum of 4 times the rent fee.

Again, this is not to say that you should not rent a booth from a local boutique. Just be sure to do your homework and know what you are getting into before hand.

The best advice I can give is start with the smallest booth possible and grow into a bigger booth as your sales allow.

Most boutiques have a minimum contract time. Nothing is worse than being stuck with a heavy rent bill when you’re barely making rent in sales…and you’re stuck in it for at least the minimum time commitment.

Consignment Shop

Last on the list is selling at a consignment shop.

I only had experience with this a couple of times and I would not recommend it as a first go-to.

As mentioned earlier, one of the times I used a consignment shop was for a dining set that I simply had no room to store. Not the wisest decision I’ve ever made, but it got it sold.

Typically consignment shop prices are higher…but the store keeps anywhere from 40% – 60% of the sales price. So this may end up being your lowest profit margin. It was mine for the couple of pieces I consigned!

Tips to Start Furniture Flipping:

Build Your Brand

The number one most critical item when starting any business, including a furniture flipping business, is to build your brand.

The looks, color, style of your brand are important. A site like Canva has some great branding templates that can get you started.

But the most important thing within your brand are your values. How do you want people to feel when they see your work? What will make them come back or refer a friend? Why should they buy from you?

Creating a solid brand that people resonate with does not happen overnight, but do a little work toward it frequently and you will get there. And, know that it can always change, especially as you grow and evolve.

Painted Furniture

Gifted dresser. Sold for $300.

Consider Whether you Want to do Furniture Flipping on the Side or as Your Primary Gig

Deciding you want this to be your full-time gig will look a lot different than if you simply want an extra source of every now and again income.

It is certainly OK to start part-time and move into full time (that’s what I did!) but it’s good to have a clear vision when you start. This will ensure you create a business plan that suits your goals.

Buy Low, Sell High

If you are like most furniture flippers, you may get furniture fever. No matter how much you have, you’re always seeking more!

I mean, what would happen if you missed the 50% off furniture sale at Goodwill, right?!!

But in all seriousness, don’t fall so in love with buying pieces that you end up overspending on them.

Your goal is always to buy as low as possible and sell for as much as you can get.

Limit How Much You Spend on Supplies

A close cousin of furniture fever is supplies fever. You think you need to have every single paint color, paint brush, stripping agent, jigsaw, and the list goes on and on.

While I love me some furniture painting supplies (clearly — and it’s why I started my own line!), you really don’t need ALL the supplies when starting out.

Start with a few basic colors like a couple of shades of white and maybe a color or two. Like a black and a gray. Grab 1-2 sizes of synthetic bristle paint brushes and take care of them. They will last for years to come when treated right.

Note: the most popular paint color of furniture we sold? White. Yup, that’s it. Next up was gray, then black.

Know Your Worth

I mentioned it before and I’ll say it again. Don’t undercut yourself. Along those lines, don’t let someone make you think your piece is not worth what it is.

There are people out there that will try to haggle you down to the tune of 60%-75% off. These same people will often turn around and flip your piece for profit. Not cool, but it happens.

Set your prices with some room for negotiation and stay true to you know it’s worth. Reference the “How Much Can I sell Flipped Furniture for?” section above for more details here.

The Quality of Your Pictures will Make or Break a Sale

When selling online, picture are all you have. If you don’t have clear, crisp, beautiful pictures on Etsy, the competition will knock you out.

Pictures are also hugely important when selling on Facebook Marketplace and your own branded website.

With furniture, you want a straight on shot with space around the piece. Prop it in front of a clean white wall (or something similar) or buy a nice backdrop. Do a little staging with a plant and some books or other relevant items that give the piece some personality.

It doesn’t need to be perfect. But good photography will not only make or break a sale, it will also help you get top dollar.

white painted dresser

Purchased for $50. Sold for $400.

Invest in Your Online Presence in Additional to Local Presence

I built my store on Shopify (which I still use today for my product line!) and it was the best thing I could have done for my furniture flipping business.

Having full control of my customers experience from start to finish was very important to me as it’s how I built my loyal clientele.

In addition to my online presence, I built a local presence by selling at vintage markets.

When Selling Online, Offer Shipping (even better if it’s free shipping)

There’s no doubt about it — shipping furniture is EXPENSIVE. We’re talking to the tune of $400-$600 for a basic dresser.

You may have read “offer shipping for free” and about fell out of your chair. But I don’t mean you pay for it.

All you need to do is work it into your price. If I had a dresser that would normally have a price tag of $350, the price on Etsy would be somewhere around $850-$950 so the cost of shipping would be covered. Then, the listing would be marked as “Free Shipping”.

You may be thinking no one would pay that for a painted dresser. That’s what I thought…and I was proven wrong…on multiple occasions.

Take on Custom Orders

I’d say about 30% of sales came from custom orders. In other words, a customer had a piece they wanted me to paint or upcycle.

This number would have been higher if most of my time was not spent on prepping products for vintage markets.

Pricing custom orders is different than finding a piece, painting is as you wish and selling it.

It may end up being priced higher than a piece you flip, or it may be lower. It typically depends on what finishes your clients wants.

If you decide to add custom orders to your sales strategy, I recommend setting some guidelines. For example, you’ll want to make sure your process is clear to every customer.

Your process will include things like timeline, agreed upon finishes, the price estimate and an upfront deposit.

Having these things drawn up ahead of time helps protects you and puts the client as ease.

Upcycled Vanity

Custom Order Upcycled Bathroom Vanity.

Is Furniture Flipping Profitable?

If you read this entire post, I bet you know my answer. Yes, furniture flipping is profitable and many make part or full time income furniture flipping.

That said, it is still a business, and any good business owner needs a solid plan to make a business sustainable and successful.

Furniture Flipping Conclusion

I hope this post has been helpful for you. If furniture flipping interests you, I recommend reading through these tips before jumping in and getting started!

  • Make sure to focus on your furniture flipping strategy. It is the most important thing to be successful furniture flipping.
  • Build your brand. Define your brands values.
  • Put time/money into creating an online presence in addition to a local presence.
  • Know your worth and price accordingly.
  • Try to avoid getting supplies or furniture fever. Trust the process and only buy what you need. You can always build as sales allow.
  • Learn to take beautiful pictures of your finished pieces. This is key for top dollar online sales. And no, you don’t need a fancy camera for this. I used my iPhone camera.
  • Don’t limit your furniture flipping business to just furniture. Do that in the beginning and then diversify in other areas of the home (decorating, handmade items) for continued success.
Upcycled Bathroom Vanity

Upcycled Bathroom Vanity. Materials cost = $175. Sold for $850.

What is the main contributor to my continued success today?

Besides a well thought out strategy, diversifying and capitalizing on my skillset.

I initially started a furniture flipping business because of my love for interior design. Over time, however, furniture became more than just a side hustle. It transformed from furniture flipping to custom built furniture, created upcycled bathroom vanities and handmade home décor.

Today, my business success comes from our Chalky Finish Furniture Paint line and this blog. That’s right, even this blog is a way that I diversify revenue and grow my skillset as a creative business owner.

Cully and I are happy, healthy and loving living on the Western Slope of Colorado. Most of our family lives here too and we are so grateful to be close to them.

I’m still in awe that I do what I love everyday, on my own terms. I’m so grateful for my amazing customers, subscribers and followers for providing me a creative outlet and the freedom to live a life that most people only dream about.

How to Install Insulation

Here’s is to your furniture flipping success!

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Until next time,

Krista

Have a question or want to leave a tip? Drop it in the comments section below!