The Stephenson’s turned a hobby into a full-time business and are now earning six-figures yearly by flipping flea market goods on online sites such as eBay. The following are some reliable tips for getting high-margin finds that you can flip for some money.
We have a scheduled interview with an amazing couple that I’ve been checking out on social media for some time, Melisa and Rob who are members of Flea Market Flipper. They started flipping as a source of earning some extra cash on the side, and they soon transformed it into a full-time job.
Flipper University is a premier course by Rob and Melissa that teaches people how they can make earn money by working for themselves. This is a dream which most Millionable readers have in common. I was lucky to have a chat with Rob and was able to learn one or two more things about their business. This is what he shared.
For people new to this, can you elaborate flea market flipping for us?
Flipping is a word used to describe buying of an item at a cheap price from one market and then afterwards selling the same item at a profit (with a higher price) in a different market.
Flipping is commonly used in real estate, but it can also be done using other goods. For example, we flip items that we buy from thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales and auctions.
How long have you been flipping?
It has been more than 20 years now that I have been flipping different items for a profit. I began doing this at the age of 16 and would store the items I bought in my parent’s garage until I was able to sell them. I was one of the first users of eBay and have witnessed all the changes with the app over the years.
How did you decide to begin flipping?
I was just a 16-year-old who was looking for a way to earn some money for myself so that I can spend it for some fun activities (this hasn’t changed much coz I still love having fun).
Since my family was big with seven children (having 6 older sisters), my parents often shopped at yard sales and thrift stores because they were more affordable. My mom then began selling some dolls and used baby clothes in the classifieds, this is how I decided to use the same idea but with different items.
My first sales were with Nordic Tracks. Since I’m from Florida, most people from the North used to move down here after retirement. Once they arrived here, they would stop exercising indoors because they were now able to spend more time outside for most parts of the year.
I would then get a Nordic Track for about $15 to $30 from local auctions and classifieds, then later sell them on eBay (mostly to people from the North) for at least $200 to $500 varying with the models. I kept doing this and I started making great money at just 16 years.
Which kinds of items tend to have the most profit margins?
This isn’t easy to say since is sell a wide variety of items.
I like to select some weird but interesting items but I can sell almost everything that I’m sure of making a profit from. I avoid getting items that have a small profit margin. What I pick should earn me at least a $100 profit if not, the item isn’t worth my time.
I mostly go for items that are worth $5 to $50 but I don’t mind spending more money on something that has potential to give me more profit. I opt for commercial equipment if they are available at a great price. Patio furniture, medical equipment, kitchen equipment, exercise equipment, boat equipment and kid items are what I normally look out for.
The machine featured below was bought at $5 at the flea market. I didn’t even know what it did when I bought it, but it seemed important and I didn’t mind taking a chance spending $5 on it.
I stored it for some time and in the long run sol it for $700 on eBay. I still don’t know how the thing is operated. All I know is that it is associated with magnetic therapy. That is more than enough information for me. That and the fact that it earned me some great profit.
I purchased an arcade game for $100 which I recently sold for $1,300 on eBay. It wasn’t easy for me to sell off such an item because I would like to have a big game room in the future, but I don’t mind making such a profit.
I bought the cooktop below at $45 at a thrift store. I later sold it for $350 on eBay. I also like looking for nice ovens, microwaves and cooktops that I can resell.
Do you get better deals in person or on sites such as Craigslist, eBay, etc.?
I use eBay regularly, but I mostly use the site for selling than buying. I don’t really buy items so that I can resell them on eBay.
I also purchase items that I need and can use, but it’s not easy to find items that I can resell at low enough prices on eBay. I currently have two favorite sources: the OfferUp app and the flea market. I’m able to get good deals both online and in person.
Have you ever bought items that you weren’t able to flip for some reason?
My wife and I don’t have the same answer to this question. There are instances when I hold on to an item for a long time and wait until I get the right buyer. Since the items I sell are a bit different, I normally wait until I get a buyer who is looking for that specific item. My wife, Melissa always asks me to lower the prices, but once I make a higher sale, she doesn’t complain about it.
The answer to your question; there are items that I end up selling for a lower price, but I usually don’t lose any money on them; the profit I make is just not much. My storage units and garage contain some of these items that I’m “holding on to” at the moment.
What’s the most random and craziest item you have ever flipped?
I’ve sold a couple of random items. One of the craziest items I have sold was a prosthetic leg. I bought it at $30 and later sold it for $1,000. I like quick turnarounds, but in this instance, I wasn’t certain that I sold the item at the right price.
The other random item I have ever bought was a commercial lobster tank. It has a round shape and it looked similar to a cotton candy machine. I bought the tank from a thrift store at $100 and later sold it on eBay for $1,200.
It was pretty funny that I found a lobster tank since we go to catch lobsters yearly down in the keys. Although it seemed right to keep the tank, I decided to take the money instead.
What’s the largest amount you’ve made from a single flip? Most loss?
This past September we made our largest flip ever. We came across a security tower at an auction that costed $6,000. We then sold it the following month for $25,000. This was great profit. I normally don’t invest a large sum of money (and such large amounts make Melissa nervous), but it was definitely worth it.
I can’t really say that I’ve ever lost money, since all the items I haven’t sold yet are still sitting in the garage or a storage unit and I’m planning to sell them eventually.
If you and Melissa don’t agree to buy a particular item, how do you get on the same page?
We’re still discussing about this. Melissa isn’t comfortable with me spending anything more than $50 on an item, even after I assure her that it will eventually earn us a big return. She does love it when the item gets sold though.
We discuss about all the huge purchases and if she’s really against it, I try very hard not to go through with it.
We talk about our budget and settle on an allocated amount of money that will be spent that month. Since both our expenses and income fluctuate from month-to-month, we are constantly trying to figure out this area.
How much money (a realistic amount), can someone begin with if they want to venture into flea market flipping?
One advantage of going into this business id that it can be done as a side hustle and start with very little capital.
I advise my students to set their starting budget at $20 to $50 for buying items. From this amount, you’ll be able to earn between $100 to $300. From there, you’ll use some of the profit you make to buy more items to sell.
You can even get some items at no charge. I currently have an eBook on 5 Ways to Get FREE Items to Resell for Profit that will help people who are new to the business.
You have a lot of experience with this field. How would you advise people that are just getting started?
Same as any other business out there, you should always be consistent.
You won’t find items worth $1,000 after spending one hour at the flea market. I visit the local flea market consistently and different thrift stores weekly. This is so that I can look for the treasures that will make me some money. I also do this because I like the process. I think that you should be passionate about what you do.
Passion, hard work and consistency are very important aspects in this trade, having said that, I’m not really a workaholic. I prefer to play more. This is why I have a personal schedule that I follow because it works well for me.
I would tell people who are new to this that it takes time for someone to be good at spotting items and learning about eBay and shipping. But I personally think that it will be worth your while.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve experienced while flipping items?
The biggest challenge that most people experience is with shipping. The experience can be quite challenging at first, but once you understand the trade it becomes very doable.
I started shipping out big items sometime last year, and I notice a huge difference with our sales. Since I was able to ship the items instead of using local pick up, I was able to sell big items without difficulty. I have written and eBook that talks about shipping bigger items. The title is: The Art of Shipping: how to Package and Ship Large Items for Profit.
We also talk about shipping in our Flipper University eCourse about Flea Market Flipper. This is the main reason why people are keeping away from flipping items as a side hustle.
Give us more information about your course
We have a course know as Flipper University taught at Flea Market Flipper.
Melissa and I created the course in 2015 so that we could help people who would like to make money flipping different items as a side gig but aren’t sure how to begin. We were hoping to create a course that will help people through the entire process. From how to open PayPal and eBay accounts to selling and building a substantial income for themselves.
This as always been a hobby I do on the side, but I have never been keen in tracking the sales I make. Since we created a blog, we started keeping better track. We made at least $42,000 in 2015 just from this side hustle (we spent 10 to 15 hours every week). In 2016, we decided to go full time (work 20 to 35 hours each week), and we were able to make $133,000.
You shouldn’t expect to get these kinds of numbers at the beginning. This can only be achieved with enough experience and legwork, and I’ve mentioned this because I want everyone to know that it is very possible.