If you’re looking for ways to generate some extra cash and you’ve got a few DIY skills under your belt, flipping furniture is a great way to earn money. I’ll show you the best secrets for furniture flipping for profit, including how to get started, the way to get top dollar for your flips, how to market them, and when you should steer clear of a flip.
It seems now more than ever that it’s important to find ways to make some extra cash. If you want to know how to flip furniture for profit, keep reading. There’s money to be made and I’ve updated all the info for 2021!
Flipping furniture is something I started doing years ago when we moved into a new house that had more space than our previous house. However, along with more space came a bigger mortgage which meant there wasn’t a lot of leftover money to buy furniture.
In addition, so much of the new furniture that’s in my price range tends to be disposable, poorly made furniture. So my solution was to find quality made furniture I could flip or upcycle for hundreds of dollars less than buying new, cheaply made pieces.
So I started learning how to paint, refinish, and do minor repairs on furniture. It became a hobby. Eventually, I had enough pieces of furniture in my own house, but I still enjoyed the hobby. So I would end up buying pieces and flipping furniture for profit.
So here is everything I learned about flipping furniture!
The Best Secrets to Flipping Furniture For Profit
Supplies Cost Money
2021 – Update – If you have to purchase any kind of lumber for your projects, be prepared. The cost of lumber has skyrocketed since early 2020. Most often if you do need a few pieces, it won’t be too bad. But it may not be the best time to rebuild a whole piece due to the impact on your profits.
Furniture flipping supplies cost money. You don’t want to buy the cheapest products available and have your hours of work end up looking like garbage. No one wants to give you top dollar for something that looks like crap.
But you also don’t want to go out and spend $400 on supplies to flip one dresser, make $100 and decide you’re no longer interested in flipping furniture. So you need to choose wisely when throwing out your dollars when you start.
Example – You definitely don’t have to buy the most expensive paint on the market, but you don’t want cheap paint either. Paint and paintbrushes are two of the biggest items that you get what you pay for.
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If I were starting out brand new as a furniture flipper, these are the items that I would absolutely spend my money on.
- Quality Paintbrushes – I’ve used Purdy and Wooster many times before. They are both mid-priced quality brushes that last for years. My husband prefers Purdy, I prefer Wooster – either will work just fine for giving you a great finish. Start off with a few sizes – I would invest in a combo pack like this brush set or this one to get going. If you buy the cheapest brushes out there, you’ll spend more time picking out tiny brush hairs from all your projects.
- Paint Pail and Liners – this pail and liners have been my lifesavers when painting furniture. You don’t have to drag the can around and risk tipping over all your paint or breaking your back holding it. You can add a little paint at a time and the handle makes it super easy to hold. It has a magnetic strip that keeps your brush out of the paint. Try it once and you’ll never paint without them again.
- FLOOD Floetrol – This product is an additive that you can pour into your paint and mix to improve leveling and minimize brush strokes. If you want a flawless finish that looks professional, this will help you achieve the look you’re going after. Particularly when you’re first starting out – this can be a lifesaver in giving your piece a smooth look.
- Sanding Sponges – If you want a good finish, you need to make sure your paint adheres properly. To do that, you need to get off any existing top coat and smooth out any paint bubbles or chips. Sanding Sponges in a variety of grades (coarse, medium, fine) work wonders.
- Nitrile Gloves – You need to protect your hands when dealing with chemicals like stain, paint, stripper, and other supplies. You’ll go through some gloves! Nitrile are my faves – they don’t make your hands sweat profusely like latex and they’re easy to peel off when you’re done.
- Quality Paint – You don’t have to buy the top of the line or the most expensive paint on the market. But don’t buy the cheapest. You’ll notice a big difference in quality between brands and types of paint. And you don’t have to order a fancy brand or anything like that. You can find quality paint at any home and garden center. Experiment a bit and see what you like. You can check out some of my opinions on paint in my furniture painting guide. There is a lot of trial and error and personal preference involved, but just don’t buy the cheapest thing out there if you’re going to attempt flipping furniture for profit.
- Basic Tools – Screwdrivers, pliers, hammer – You don’t need anything fancy. Just basic tools to get you started when you need to remove hinges, knobs, and other parts to your furniture. Grab a starter set like the one I have (most amazing Christmas gift ever!) or get a few individual pieces to get you started.
- Cleaner – Most second-hand items will need a thorough cleaning before you start. No one wants to buy a beautiful piece that reeks of smoke or musty odors when you open the doors. I use Zep 505 and have for years, but you can find any industrial-strength cleaner that will usually do the trick. Don’t try to paint over years of grime and oils. It won’t turn out pretty. Take the time for cleaning – it’s worth it. Check out the top ways to get smells out of furniture if necessary. I’ve smelled some gross stuff in my furniture flipping days!
- Optional – Electric Sander – An electric sander will make your life so much easier when flipping furniture like dressers or tables. A large flat surface can be time-consuming and elbow breaking to sand by hand. It’s not that it can’t be done, but if you plan to do many projects, it can save tons of time. Don’t think you have to spend the money on this one right away though. Get some cash from your first sale and then consider investing in one like this or this.
Bottom Line for Starting to Flip Furniture: If you own absolutely nothing – as in, you don’t own a screwdriver or hammer – You might be looking at at least $100 before you even start your project. Chances are you have some of these items already, but just be prepared that supplies can add up quickly.
Where Can You Find Good Projects that Will Make a Profit?
You’ve got your supplies, now you need some furniture to start flipping! So where do you find them and how much should you expect to pay?
You can’t spend top dollar on something that needs 5 days worth of work and not be able to sell it and make a profit. That’s the whole point of this gig. To make some money flipping furniture. Be selective about what you buy.
It also depends on where you live. Some areas may be easier than others. I happen to live in a college town which is sometimes a gold mine for finding deals, particularly in May and August when students are moving in and out.
Good Places to Search for Furniture Flipping Projects
- Online Yardsales on Facebook – this is the most successful place I’ve found, but you have to be quick to get the good deals. And always be careful – don’t go anywhere alone and if possible, meet in a public place. Be safe! These seem to have taken the place of Craigslist, but that may still be a viable option in your area.
- Goodwill or other thrift stores – Don’t think you can’t find a good deal just because a store needs to make a profit too. They don’t want to keep that inventory. Monday mornings are often one of the best times to go because they get so many donations over the weekend.
- Friends and Family – If you’re just starting out, reach out to your friends and family. You’ll be surprised at the number of people that have “junk” they can’t wait to unload and often for free! If you have a neighborhood Facebook group – post a request asking. It never hurts to ask! Or do you have a relative with a basement full of stuff they don’t want? Ask if you can take some of it off of their hands.
- Yard Sales – this one is kind of obvious, but cruise around yard sales, especially when they’re winding down for the day. You can score some amazing deals because if it hasn’t sold already, chances are the owner absolutely doesn’t want to lug it back inside or haul it off somewhere.
- Estate Sales – Don’t think just because you see the word “estate” that you can’t find amazing deals. I’ve been to so many estate sales and walked away with fantastic projects. I found two end tables for my bedroom that were hideous to start with but only $25 each! Two coats of paint and they’re incredible. My favorite resource is estatesales.net to find sales local to my area.
Updated for 2021 – I no longer include Craigslist because it seems to have died off in my area. This may not be the case everywhere, but people just don’t utilize it for selling like they used to.
What Types Of Furniture Should You Buy for Flipping?
In general, the faster you can get the project done, the faster you can start making money. A small end table will go days faster than a full-size dresser or buffet. But it also won’t bring in as much profit. Here are some ideas for quick selling items in my experience:
- End tables
- Storage Chests (like old toy boxes or trunks)
Useful items tend to sell faster. And things that it only takes one or two people to load up into a truck or trailer. Heavier and bulkier items like china cabinets and dining table/chair sets might take a little longer. Many people don’t use traditional china cabinets anymore and often don’t have room for them. I’ve found those are a bit harder to sell, but again, it depends on your population.
Plus, these bigger items are likely to cost you more money upfront. So you have to make sure you can make a profit. A dining table and chairs will also take a lot longer because it’s harder to paint those. You have to take into account the time you spend.
And don’t pass on something just because it’s dirty or it smells. I can assure you – it can be cleaned. It may take a ton of elbow grease and some crafty solutions, but even years of cigarette smoke can be eliminated (as I found in this buffet I scored for $50!)
Also – it’s super important to pay attention to the time of year, particularly if you live in a college town like me. Move-in and move-out dates (dorms, apartments, etc) are exceptional times to look for deals. Often students are unable or unwilling to move heavy items and would rather sell than move them.
How Much Should You Spend?
Now that you know where to look and what to buy, what can you expect to pay and still make a profit? There are no hard and fast rules. A lot of it depends on where you live. I live in a decently populated area right next door to a major university so there’s a lot of moving and selling.
When you find something you like, factor in the cost of your supplies and your time first. For example – If you find a dresser in great shape – the drawers slide good, there are no broken pieces, and it’s solid, even if you pay $150 for it, you are still likely to make a profit. I’ve sold dressers for anywhere between $175 and $325 before.
You might also need to factor in the cost of new hardware unless you are keeping the old ones. Ideas for new hardware here – I’ve found some great deals on Amazon!
If you can find an end table for $20 – grab it! Paint it a great color and turn around and sell it for $50-60 possibly. Think about when you’ve shopped for furniture. There are not many good quality end tables for $50 in a store. If you can turn someone’s yard sale cast off into a treasure and make $30, it’s worth it. I know $30 profit isn’t huge, but over time it adds up.
Bottom line – don’t spend so much that you’ll make zero profit.
Check out the going rates for other furniture flips in your area. If you see that the majority of dressers are only selling for around $200, you don’t want to spend $200 on one that needs a ton of work. Because you won’t make any money.
Or if you see that dining tables are selling like hotcakes, maybe that’s good item to sell in your area. A typical dining set will cost you at least $1000 in a furniture store. If you can snag a good one for cheap, put in many hours of work, and sell for $500+, you’ll make a profit.
These were my rules of thumb when I was into flipping furniture regularly:
Updated for 2021
- Dressers – $150 or less if possible
- End Tables – $30 or less
- Buffets – $250 or less (buffets are a huge ticket item these days – the storage potential is amazing and they fit into the crazy popular farmhouse style if that’s the market you’re selling to. I’ve seen refinished buffets listed and sold for over $500. That would be quite a profit even if you spent $150.
- Storage Items – $25 or less if possible
What Furniture Should You Avoid?
There isn’t one single item that I’d say you should never buy. But from my experience and the area I live in, bed frames don’t sell well. Of course, people buy bed frames, but they don’t seem to sell as well for profit.
Dining tables are an item that I didn’t like to do because of the time involved, but again, check your area. If those are hot ticket items, grab one. Bookshelves are another item that doesn’t seem to sell well here which is odd to me.
In general, avoid these items for furniture flipping:
- Broken items that you don’t know how to fix. If you find an amazing dresser, but three drawers are broken, skip it unless you can repair it or repurpose it without drawers.
- Furniture with drawers that don’t slide – this is the top question I get when selling furniture with drawers – “do the drawers slide well?”. People don’t want sticky drawers!
- A piece that’s been painted over too many times, unless you want to strip the paint and start over. It’s definitely doable, but it’ll take time. If you try to paint over a crappy paint job, it’ll be noticeable.
- Cheaply made furniture – if you’re flipping furniture, part of the desire people have for buying it is that it’s generally older and good quality. Another popular question I get from buyers is “is it solid wood?”. They want to know if they’re buying something that will last for years.
- Wobbly or unsteady pieces – if you can’t set something on it without it shifting or wobbling, skip it unless you can fix it. Sometimes it’s an easy fix, but if it seems like it’s one step away from falling apart, walk on by.
Flipping Furniture Takes Patience
Unless you find something that is dirt cheap and ready to sell, it takes patience to get your finished product. You’ll need to give yourself a few days to actually prep and paint.
You can probably get a small end table done in a day or two, but a large dresser is going to take much longer. Give yourself enough time and don’t rush.
- Prep and Clean
- Sanding (if necessary)
- Primer (if necessary)
- Paint – allow proper drying time and possibly a second coat
- Sealer or Topcoat
- Curing time
You want your project to look good and the finish needs to cure – you don’t want to sell something to someone and have it peel or chip immediately. Dissatisfied customers talk, especially in these digital times.
How To Market Your Furniture Flip
Alright – you found your perfect piece, you’ve painted it beautifully or stained it to perfection. Now you need to unload it and make some cash!
Of course, the obvious places to sell are online. If this is something you are going to do as a part-time side hustle, consider making yourself a Facebook page. Come up with a name and you’ll have a dedicated place to sell your items. Add your listings to Facebook yard sale sites, list it on your own Facebook page, or neighborhood site.
Or if you are doing this on a regular basis, you can consider renting booth space in a vintage store or thrift store. This will definitely eat into your profits, but you also don’t have to worry about constantly messaging people and arranging pickups. You’ll likely pay around $100 monthly for the booth space (depending on the place), plus they will take a percentage of the sale. But this can be a lucrative gig if you have time to devote and lots of inventory.
Helpful Selling Tips for Furniture
- List all the dimensions – people will ask. Put it in the description.
- State clearly if you are firm on the price or willing to negotiate.
- Don’t give out your address on your post, but list the town the item must be picked up in, or if you are willing to deliver, list your delivery fee.
- Stage your item! This is possibly one of the biggest secrets that you need to know. If you take a blurry pic in a dark room, people won’t take a second glance at your listing.
Grab your phone and scroll through the local listings for furniture. Which ones catch your eye more? The fuzzy dark pics? Nope!
You don’t need professional pics, but if you’re using your phone – grab the Lightroom app for free. Upload your pic, go to the “light” setting, and adjust the exposure. One simple fix and your pics look infinitely better.
I know it’s a hassle if you’re painting in your garage or basement, but take the time to bring it inside your home, add some decor or accessories, and showcase how it can be used.
Any time I’ve staged a furniture flip, the item sells for asking price and sells quickly.
People are more inclined to buy if they can see how pretty it is, how useful it is, and if they can imagine it in their space. Also, they can get a better idea of how it fits a space when they see it in your home all fixed up and pretty.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but add a pretty lamp, a stack of books, or a vase of flowers. Just make it look pretty – if it looks appealing, people are more inclined to give you their hard-earned cash!
Here’s an end table I painted several times but then determined I just didn’t need it. I painted it in a gorgeous blue color, threw some accessories on it, and it sold immediately. So fast and so many offers that I clearly didn’t ask enough money for it. I just needed it gone!
I found these three images online this morning and I was instantly drawn to them. They look beautiful, they are staged perfectly, and I can imagine them in my house. If I were in the market for a dresser or buffet, these would definitely make my list.
What to Avoid When Flipping Furniture
Now that you’ve figured it all out and you’re ready to get started, there are a few secrets that might help you earn more profits. And that’s why you’re doing this – you want to make a profit!
Avoid crazy colors. Maybe you happen to love bright yellow. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But the simple fact is neutral colors sell better. I have nothing against bold colors, but you’re trying to appeal to a large audience and you want buyers. If you can appeal to the majority, you have a bigger chance of selling your furniture for profit. There is nothing wrong with experimenting a bit – not everything has to be white, but the bold colors may not sell as fast. So just be prepared.
Don’t take on more than you can handle. It’s very hard to pass up a good deal, but if you have a basement or garage full of projects waiting on you to finish, tackle those first. It can get out of hand very quickly. Just ask my garage or my husband!
Stalk your online yardsales – see what goes fast and then start searching for similar items. Around here, dressers are a super popular item when students are moving into new apartments.
Don’t take shortcuts that make your work look crappy. This one sounds obvious, but take pride in your furniture flips. Clean out drawers, dust the cobwebs from underneath, remove hardware before you paint – all the little details that make your work stand out from the masses will increase your profits.
And a bonus tip if you want to start flipping furniture for profits:
Find yourself a cheap test piece of furniture. Grab a nightstand or a small table to practice on. I had a nightstand that I ended up painting a million times, staining, distressing, testing out different topcoats or sealers, and anything else I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. It cost me about $20 but saved me tons of time in the long run. If I wanted to test a new technique – I used that nightstand. So unless you’re a seasoned pro, grab yourself a tester piece!
Furniture flipping can be a profitable side gig and can even turn into a full-time income. It’s rewarding to have a hobby that lets you get creative and still make money. Of course, it takes time and you’ll spend some cash on start-up supplies, but if you find the right projects like this dresser makeover I did, you can make decent money. And you’ll be doing your part to keep all that unwanted furniture out of the landfills!
It takes time, but you can earn a good deal of money from refinishing and selling furniture. It’s not the quickest way to earn cash, but if you enjoy doing projects, it can be very profitable.
If you’re just starting – check out my complete guide to painting wood furniture – there are lots of helpful tips on paints, sealers, techniques, and more to help you start making a profit!
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