Tips for Flipping Furniture as a Side Hustle

By Timothy Moore · October 17, 2023 · 10 minute read

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Tips for Flipping Furniture as a Side Hustle

Flipping furniture, or taking one person’s junk and transforming it into a thing of beauty, offers many benefits. It’s a unique way to earn extra income, learn new skills, and even send less waste to landfills. But how profitable can flipping furniture be, what tools do you need, and how do you get started?

You’ll learn all that (and more) in this guide covering:

•   How to make money flipping furniture

•   How to source pieces

•   How to learn to restore and upgrade furniture

•   How to find customers.

What Is Furniture Flipping?

Though flipping furniture has recently become a popular trend on TikTok, it’s been a profitable side hustle for many people much longer. Flipping furniture means taking an old piece of furniture, restoring it, and selling it for a profit. Restoring furniture generally involves cleaning an old piece, sanding or stripping it, then painting or staining it — and maybe installing more chic hardware, like knobs and handles.

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How Do I Get Started Flipping Furniture for a Profit?

Wondering how to flip furniture for a profit? To get started, you’ll need to find old pieces of furniture, research methods for restoring it, buy the necessary tools and materials, and perform the actual work.

Your first few attempts at flipping furniture may not be good enough to sell, but the pieces could make great gifts for friends and family. As with any new skill, practice makes perfect.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of flipping furniture, you can begin to look for places to sell your pieces.

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Where Can I Find Furniture to Flip?

To make money flipping furniture, you need to source old furniture cheaply — or for free.

You can find free furniture by driving around neighborhoods on trash day. The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” applies here: If a neighbor has put out an old dresser or end table for trash pickup, you can carry it or throw it in your truck and take it home to restore. Similarly, watch for neighbors who are moving; many dispose of furniture they don’t want to take to a new place.

If you’re willing to spend a little money, it may be easier to find the right pieces. Here’s a tip for buying furniture on a budget: Try sourcing pieces to flip for a profit here:

•   Thrift stores

•   Garage sales and yard sales

•   Estate sales

•   Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

It’s always wise to thoroughly clean used furniture before starting the restoration process — and ideally before bringing it into your home or workspace.

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What Types of Furniture Can I Flip?

Any furniture that you can get your hands on and improve could theoretically make for a good flip, but in general, some of the best furniture items to flip for a profit include:

•   Coffee tables

•   End tables

•   Dining tables

•   Dining chairs*

•   Nightstands

•   Dressers

•   China cabinets

•   Buffets

•   Baby furniture.

*Fabric chairs that require reupholstering may take more work than they’re worth and also present more risk (bed bugs and fleas, namely) than all wood furniture.

What Do I Need to Look For When Flipping Furniture?

Knowing how to flip furniture for a profit comes down to more than being able to strip paint and install handles. To maximize efficiency and profit, you’ve got to know how to spot the right kinds of furniture.

Here are some things to watch for:

•   Heavier items: If a piece of furniture is heavy, don’t let it scare you off. That’s a good sign that it uses real, solid wood. This kind of wood is more durable and thus attractive to buyers. Particleboard pieces, on the other hand, are cheap and fall apart easily; these are likely not worth your time.

•   Transportation ease: If you spot a great piece of furniture that looks a little bulky, measure it before purchasing. You’ve got to be able to transport it to your workspace and to the end customer or your retail space. If you can’t transport the furniture without renting a vehicle, it may not be profitable to flip it.

•   Craftsmanship: Look for dovetail joints in antique furniture. These are a mark of skill by the original furniture maker — not only do dovetail joints last longer than dowel joints, but they’re also more attractive to look at. Visible nails and staples are a sign of lower quality.

•   Easy flip: Some furniture pieces require less work than others. Think about how much work each piece will need. If some just need a light cleaning (or power washing) and a few screws tightened before you can sell them, these pieces may be more profitable than those requiring hours or even days of labor.

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How Much Do I Need to Start Flipping Furniture?

You don’t need much money to start flipping furniture for profit. If you’re able to source your first few pieces for free, you’ll just need to purchase basic tools and some paint and stain. Many flippers start with as little as $100.

As you begin to profit off your first furniture flips, you can start to invest in higher-quality pieces, better tools, and maybe even booth space at an antique store or flea market.

What Do I Need to Flip Furniture?

To start flipping furniture, you’ll need a few things, including transportation, a workspace, tools and other materials, and a place to sell the furniture.

Good Transportation

When flipping furniture, you’ll need a reliable mode of transportation that can fit multiple pieces to bring back to your workspace. Trucks and SUVs are great options, but if you turn your side hustle into a full-time gig, you may even want a trailer to transport even more furniture to and from your workspace.

You’ll also need blankets to protect furniture in transit and possibly ways to keep it from moving around too much as it’s transported.

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Space to Work on Furniture

If you’re flipping furniture as a hobby or an easy way to make extra money on weekends, you don’t need to rent out a dedicated workshop. Depending on the weather, you could work on furniture flipping in your yard. Basements and garages are also great places to start your flips — but remember that your space should have adequate ventilation.

If you become more serious about flipping furniture, it might make sense to lease a workspace.

Equipment to Restore Furniture

Each furniture flip may require a different set of tools. In general, the following tools and materials should be in your arsenal:

•   Paint

•   Paintbrushes

•   Painters tape

•   Stain

•   Sealer

•   Paint stripper

•   Sanding materials

•   Rags

•   Drop cloth

•   Sewing kit or sewing machine

•   Staple gun

•   Hammer and nails

•   Drill

•   Screwdrivers and screws

•   Wood glue

•   Steel wool

•   Soap

•   Sponges.

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A Place to Sell the Finished Product

Knowing how to start flipping furniture for a profit requires more than just knowing where to buy furniture and how to restore it. You also need to know how and where to sell it.

When you’re just starting out, you may find success advertising to friends and family on social media or to neighbors on a neighborhood app like Nextdoor. You can also list the furniture on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and OfferUp.

Pro Tip: If you’re selling online, take good photos. Nice staging can go a long way in making your finished product appear more upscale.

If furniture flipping becomes more lucrative for you, it might make sense to rent booth space at antique stores and flea markets to sell your flips.

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Pros and Cons of Furniture Flipping

Furniture flipping can be a great side gig, but it’s not for everybody. Here are the pros and cons of starting a furniture flipping business:

Pros of Furniture FlippingCons of Furniture Flipping
You can earn an extra source of incomeIt requires manual labor
You can learn new skillsSome projects can be time-consuming
There are typically low startup costsSelling online to strangers requires some caution
It can be a fulfilling hobbyYou need the right vehicle for transport
You’ll keep furniture from going to landfillsSome pieces may not sell

How Much Can I Resell Furniture For?

How much you can resell furniture for will depend on the type of piece and how much work you’ve done to it. Consider the time and money you put into the piece and the level of transformation it’s undergone.

Though it can vary by piece, you may be able to mark up an item 200% to 400%. For example, if you spent $100 on a table and materials to restore it, you may be able to charge between $200 and $400 for it.

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Is Furniture Flipping Profitable?

Furniture flipping can be profitable. Just remember to keep expenses low, choose pieces strategically, and mark up the end result enough to justify the time and money you put into the project. Flipping furniture may not generate enough revenue for you to quit your day job, but it can be a fun way to make additional income.

Skills to Learn to Improve Furniture Flipping

With each project, you can learn a new skill or try a new technique. Over time, you’ll have a roster of skills and techniques that allow you to transform furniture in new and exciting ways.

Here are some skills that are worth learning for flipping furniture:

•   Carpentry

•   Upholstering

•   Stripping paint, sanding, and priming

•   Painting and staining

•   Polishing

•   Tiling.

You’ll also need to learn basic finance skills to treat your furniture flipping like a real business:

•   Accounting (including what taxes you may have to collect on items you sell)

•   Sales

•   Customer service.

The Takeaway

Furniture flipping can be a lucrative side hustle if you’re willing to put in the effort to source good pieces, learn new skills, and do the actual hard work. While flipping furniture may not pay enough to be a full-time job, it can be a rewarding side hustle that allows you to be creative, try new things, and help the environment.

3 Money Tips

1.    If you’re saving for a short-term goal — whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, or the down payment on a house — consider opening a high-yield savings account. The higher APY that you’ll earn will help your money grow faster, but the funds stay liquid, so they are easy to access when you reach your goal.

2.    If you’re creating a budget, try the 50/30/20 budget rule. Allocate 50% of your after-tax income to the “needs” of life, like living expenses and debt. Spend 30% on wants, and then save the remaining 20% towards saving for your long-term goals.

3.    When you overdraft your checking account, you’ll likely pay a non-sufficient fund fee of, say, $35. Look into linking a savings account to your checking account as a backup to avoid that, or shop around for a bank that doesn’t charge you for overdrafting.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

How much should I pay for furniture I’m planning to flip?

How much you should pay for a piece of furniture to flip depends on how much you think a person might pay for it fully restored. In general, it’s smart to aim for 200% to 400% markup. If the cost of the furniture is too high for you to reasonably sell it for even more, it’s probably not a good piece to purchase.

Is flipping furniture always legal?

Flipping furniture is a legal way to make money. Remember that you must pay taxes on all income, so it’s important to track your expenses (save your receipts!) and earnings, then report it on your tax return each tax season.

Where can I sell furniture?

You can sell furniture online using sites and apps like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Nextdoor, and OfferUp. If you have enough furniture to sell, it may make sense to rent a booth at an antique store or flea market.


Photo credit: iStock/ljubaphoto

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