This time I want to talk about the remarkable money-making potential of buying things at flea markets, thrift stores and garage sales and re-selling them at a profit. How much do you think you can make? 4-figures? 5-figures? 6? My next guest, Robert Stephenson, calls himself the “Flea Market Flipper” and he’s going to answer that question.
Don’t tell us yet how much you make flipping flea market items, but DO tell us how you got started in this business.
I grew up doing it. I come from big family with 6 older sisters. When I was younger my parents would go to yard sales and thrift stores. Saturday yard sales were a big to-do at my house. We would get out the local newspaper Friday night and circle all of the good looking sales we wanted to go to. My mom would buy items for our family, but also bought things to resell and make some extra money.
You got married and introduced your wife to this hobby and then you two had your first child and that changed everything, right?
Melissa and I were married in 2007 and she quickly learned my passion for buying and selling used items. We both always treated it as a hobby that made us a little extra cash now and then. That is until our first daughter was born. Oh how kids change everything! Melissa cut her personal training business way down to part time so I had to pick up the slack by selling more. It’s funny what you can accomplish out of necessity.
Tell us about the tipping point where you decided to quit your quote-unquote “real job” and go full-time with your flea-market flipping.
I always made more money flipping on the side than I did in my day job as a real estate inspector. The only reason I had that job was for health insurance for my family. I flipped part time here and there and then within the last 2 years I quit my full time real estate inspection job and I do this full time.
And I should say, full-time in your case is different from what many people would picture. How many hours a week do you work?
I say full time but my family is the most important thing to me. I would roughly say 25 hours a week, maybe 30. I don’t work a lot of hours. But I am able to do that because I have put in time to understand the systems.
Lots of people make money re-selling stuff on Ebay and elsewhere, but you have turned it into a living by focusing on the “weird.” Tell folks what that means.
I look for weird stuff that is undervalued. A lot of what I buy I don’t even know what it is but know it is expensive! I do weird stuff. It can be undervalued bc people don’t know how to market it. I have sold some crazy crazy.
Let’s get into some examples. Tell us about the Prosthetic leg: Where did you buy it, how much did you pay and then how much did you sell it for? I found it at a flea market. I knew a titanium leg with a knee joint had to be expensive. I paid $30. We sold it the next day on Ebay for $1,000!
Next example, a Security tower. What is that and describe the flip: That was one of our huge sales. We got it at a local auction. A parking lot tower they used for surveillance around parking lots. It rises up in the air 25 feet. We paid around $6,000 and sold it in less than a month for $25,000.
Whoa. You had to lay out a lot of money for that one. Is that typical?
No, my comfort area of investment is $20-$50. That is what I usually like to spend. If I know I can make good money I will spend more but if I can turn that $20 to $50 into $300-$500, that is my usual range.
You once sold a portable Steam Room. Huh? I have sold a portable steam room. That was a weird one. Got it at a local auction. I paid $25 and sold it for about $800.
And what is an Autoclave and how much did you buy and sell that for? Some things I don’t even know what they are. Like a couple months ago, I bought an auto clave. I knew it was weird and a medical device. It was a lot bigger than I expected.
Now people are starting to see how this can be lucrative. So here’s the big question, Rob: how much money do you make as a flea market flipper?
In 2015 when I was still doing it part time, we made $42,000 in sales. That was with working roughly 10-15 hours a week at it.
Then in 2016, our third child was born, so I made the leap of faith and went full time. We made over $130,000 last year from flea market flipping.
And you’ve become such experts at the flipping that you now make additional money teaching other people how to do it, right?
Our real money comes from flipping stuff. We do have an online course and an eBook and a blog where we teach people how to do what we do. Not making much from that.
My family is everything. I have 3 kids – 4, 3 and 14 months. I am able to do stuff with them. Exercise with my wife every day. Walk the kids to school. Biggest thing is planning my own schedule. Doing what I want to on my own time frame. We are able to travel. We are getting ready to go on a 1 year trip. We bought a 40-ft RV and are getting ready to go on the road with kids next month. It is allowing us to do that. We want to get out of the normal rat race.
Let’s share some advice for people who are intrigued and want to emulate your success. First, you say, only become a flea market flipper if you enjoy this sort of work.
If you already enjoy finding deals and visiting yard sales and thrift stores and flea markets, this is for you.
You suggest people try this as a side hustle first before going full time.
Don’t start this thinking you will bring ten thousand home a month. Use it to help pay bills. See if you like it. You can make $500-$1000 on the side making little investments.
And finally, you say you’ve got to price things right.
Do your research. I try to price myself where I can undercut others and still make good money. Or I give a better shipping deal to make my items attractive.
Rob was kind enough to share a guest blog post about ways to save money on shipping because, of course, shipping eats into your profits.