Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to buy and sell by flipping items. I recently had the chance to interview Melissa Stephenson of Flea Market Flipper, who explains how this may be a possibility for you.
Melissa’s family yearly income through buy and sell by flipping items for 2015 was $42,875, and that was through doing this buy and sell business in about 10-20 hours per week.
Yes, just 10-20 hours a week!
And in 2016, she hit $133,000!
Some of the best flipped items that they’ve done include:
- An item that they bought for $10 and flipped for $200 just 6 minutes later.
- A security tower they bought for $6,200 and flipped for $25,000 just one month later.
- A prosthetic leg that they bought for $30 at a flea market and sold for $1,000 on eBay the next day.
She also has a great webinar, Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days, that will help you learn how to make money by flipping items as well.
If you are looking for a new job or even just a side hustle, learning how to buy and sell may be something that you want to look into.
Check out the interview below for more information on how to buy and sell by flipping items.
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- 8 Items To Sell Around Your Home For Extra Money
Here is how to buy and sell by flipping items:
1. Please give us a little background on yourself, how you started buying and selling items, and how flipping items is going for you right now.
Hi Michelle! Thank you so much for having me on your blog! My name is Melissa Stephenson. My husband Rob and I buy used items and resell them online for a living. It has always been a side stream income for us, but more recently has become the bulk of our income. He started way before I did, and I got into it because of being married to him!
He started back when he was 16 – and was one of eBay’s first users.
Even though he was 16 when he started selling on eBay and in the classifieds, he was exposed to it as a young kid. His mom used to go to yard sales all the time when he was a kid and buy baby items to resell. She would find the nicest clothes, strollers, and car seats and post them in the classifieds. She made a great side income for their family of 9! (They had 7 children and my husband is the youngest and only boy. Can you imagine being the only boy with 6 older sisters! He admits he was a little spoiled by them.)
This was something she could do with her kids, make some money, and still be home with them. This aspect of ‘flipping items’ has more recently attracted me to it. Something we can do while still being home with our three young kids. We have a 4 year old, 2 year old and 9 month old, and having the power of our own schedule has helped us out a ton. We haven’t had to pay for daycare because of it.
Related: How To Sell Your Stuff
2. What’s the best item you’ve ever flipped?
We have had some pretty interesting items come though in the past 10 years of marriage. It is so hard to pick just one! I can put them into 3 best categories.
The award for the fastest flip would go to a parachute harness we sold in September. We found it for $10 at the flea market, listed it on eBay and it sold for $200 in 6 minutes! That is both a good and a bad thing. Good because we made a 2,000% return on our money, and quickly, but bad because if it sold so fast we probably priced it too low!
The award for the most profitable flip goes to a large purchase and sale this summer. We bought a large parking lot security tower from an online auction for $6,200. We don’t usually spend this much money on items, (we actually like to stick to the $10-$50 range) but he did some research and we made it happen. We ended up selling it on eBay for $25,000 in one month’s time! That was a great summer bonus!
Lastly the flip that wins the most unique is one that we did almost 9 years ago. A prosthetic leg! Yep, that’s right! A titanium leg with knee joint. We found it at the flea market for $30 and sold it on eBay for $1,000 the next day!! That was also a quick and very profitable flip too, so it might win best overall as well.
3. What exactly is a flipper? Can you explain buy and sell more?
I would love to explain a little better what it is we do. A flipper is someone who buys something at a lower price point from one market, and sells it at a higher price point to another market that is looking for it. Some people may be familiar with the shows American Pickers and Storage Wars. All of those people would qualify as pickers and flippers. They pick through used items, find out what they can sell then turn around and sell it.
Another example of flipping that is popular is with houses. Many people buy houses that need some TLC, fix them up and then sell them for a higher cost. Pickers and flippers are buying from one market and selling it to another (usually with a little bit (or sometimes a lot) of work in between).
Everyone in the scenario wins. Take for example what we do – buying used items from the flea market, thrift stores, and yard sales. We will use just the flea market to simplify it. We buy an item from a flea market vendor; they make money on us because most likely they bought their item cheaper from an auction in bulk, or from a thrift store. (They are flippers too!) Then we sell it online (on eBay, Craigslist, Facebook or Offer Up), to reach a larger audience. The person who bought it is happy because they got the item they wanted and they got it for a discounted price as well.
You might ask why the flea market vendor wouldn’t just sell the item online to make the larger profit. Do they not know that option is available? Many of them are well aware of selling online, and the ones Rob knows will even tell him what it is selling online for – telling him what we could get for it. I think some of them have lived this lifestyle of the flea market for so long that they don’t really want to mess with selling online. They have their routine of going to auctions to buy supplies, and then selling them at the flea market for a small markup. They make the money to pay the bills, and are happy with that. They don’t really want to learn or try a new skill.
We have good relationships with several of the vendors at our local flea market now, after years of buying things from there. We have returned non working items before, and sometimes we may even have a tab or credit running with some of them. That is how often we see them! Sometimes when they come across an item they think we would be interested in, they call us up and we go check it out, and most likely purchase it. They are helping us out and we are helping them out.
4. How do you make a living through buying and selling?
I mentioned before that we have done this on the side for as long as we have been together (and Rob even longer), but the last 4 years we have made this more of a significant part of our income. We have a couple small income streams on the side. My health and nutrition network marketing company and Rob’s one day a week home insurance inspections help us out, but the flipping items has been the bulk of our income since I stepped away from personal training to raise our three young kids.
We knew that if we could make a significant side income in a few hours a week, that if we put more time into it that we could make a living off of it.
5. What do you like about being a flipper and flipping items?
There are a couple great benefits from doing this as our ‘job’. One thing that we both love is our time flexibility. With three young kids who aren’t in school yet, my day revolves around them. They require a lot of attention, so I primarily work on our business when they are napping or after they go to bed. We can go to the flea market together on the weekends, and I also enjoy browsing yard sales on a Saturday morning. Rob works a little more on our business during the week, but if we want to take a morning off with the kids as a family we do it. For example, in December we wanted to take the kids to go see Santa Clause at the local mall, but wanted to do it on a weekday before school kids got out of school. We did it and walked right up to see Santa with no line! We also have a membership to a water park and in the summer time (who are we kidding, most of the year since we are in Florida!) we take the kids there once a week as a family.
Another thing that I love about it is not answering to a boss. I have enjoyed working for several companies, one as a personal trainer for 5 years, and another as a performer on horseback in a dinner show for 3 years (that was fun!). With any job comes management – some great, and some not so great. It is nice not having to deal with some of the not so great anymore. And we don’t have to ask anyone when we want to take off for vacation! We like our vacations- especially road trips We did a 2 week road trip at Thanksgiving and were able to make $5,600 on eBay while on the road!
A third benefit is that the kids are constantly getting to play with new toys! An example is a couple Powerwheels (drivable toy cars) we have sold. We buy them used, usually replace the battery, and they ride around in them until we sell them. It’s always a thrill to see what comes home from the flea market each week! Which leads me to my next point:
There is never a dull moment. It is hardly a boring job. We never know what fun item we are going to find next. We recently purchased a very large lot of baseball, basketball, and football cards from a flea market vendor who won a storage unit auction. We are going through them to see if there are any ‘treasures’ before we sell the whole thing off. It’s fun because both Rob and I collected baseball cards as a kid. My dad was really into baseball and I loved collecting cards with him. I also think it was the thing to do in the 90’s (when both of us were teens). Last week we bought searchlights that have been used by NASA to guide the space shuttles in – next week – who knows!
6. If you don’t mind sharing, how much have you earned by flipping items? How much can the average person expect to make on a part-time or full-time basis?
When we were just treating this as a side hustle/ side income, we didn’t do a good job keeping track of our numbers. We changed that in the past two years and now keep track of everything. Our yearly income for 2015 was $42,875, and that was doing this business in about 10-20 hrs/week. In 2016, our income totaled $133,000 with probably an average of 15-30 hours per week.
Obviously there are no guarantees with this or any business, but if someone puts in the effort, they should be able to make a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per month over time. We were making on average $2,000-$3,000 per month when we were doing this part time in about 5-15 hours per week. Most people can fit in a few hours in a week to make some extra money – heck, in the U.S. we average 31hrs of television per WEEK! (I could not believe this statistic when I looked it up!)
Our goal is to help people first hit $500/month, then $1,000 and more.
7. How does someone start a buy and sell business?
One thing I love about this business is that ANYONE can do it.
Male, female, any race, any age, any education, and any skill set can all learn the skills needed to be successful at this. A person just needs access to the Internet and a camera or a smart phone. Smart phones have made all the difference in this business the past few years. Rob used to buy an item, take pictures with a camera, plug the camera into the computer, upload them to eBay and then did the item description on a third party html site. Now we snap a picture with our phones and can immediately upload it from the apps. Such a time saver!
We decided in 2015 to start teaching an online course called Flipper University to help people get their business started. We take all of our knowledge and 20 years of experience, and put it all together in a 6 module step-by-step course. We help people get started who have never done eBay before and we help people re-launch their business so they are bringing in more income.
8. How much time does it take to start and maintain a buy and sell business?
That all depends on the buy and sell income goals that a person has.
Someone could easily get started and do well in 5-10 hours a week. When they are just getting started it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to get $500-$1000/ a month in the beginning, and then growing to a few thousand dollars as their experience increases.
9. Who does a flipper typically sell to?
This will depend on their buy and sell niche. We encourage people to sell items in a niche when first getting started.
We ask what things are they passionate about or interested in? Fashion? Accessories? Antiques? Furniture? Baby items? Collectibles? Gadgets?
Whatever they are interested in, they will have a better understanding of the item, and be more comfortable selling it in the beginning. This is just something we encourage in the beginning, but not something that has to be done. We no longer have a certain type of item or a certain type of buyer.
Most of the buyers are from eBay, so we don’t even know much about them. We just know they are looking for the item we are selling, and then they buy it. We usually only know their eBay username and shipping address.
10. How much does it cost to start a buy and sell business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it? Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to start flipping items?
I love this question because it can really be very little to start up. You can even start up with zero cost if you put a little effort into it. There are several ways to find free items that you can flip for a profit. Rob even wrote an eBook several months ago on this topic because we have done all these too!
In our course we also suggest that people budget out a number that they are comfortable with spending in a month to grow their business. We can say for example it’s $20-$100 the first month. With that, a person can buy one or several items to start making a profit on. We won’t buy anything that we can’t at LEAST double our money on. So if we are investing $100, than we are at least going to make $200 on the item. But 90% of the time it is way more than that. Usually we get 3x-5x the amount we are investing.
We recommend that people pick a budget to start with. Let’s say that number to start with is $50. Then they take that $50, make $150, put $75 back into the bank and $75 into buying more items. Now they could make $225 from that $75, put $125 back in the bank, and take $100 to invest. Or they could put $150 in the bank and re invest the $75 to make another $225. (These numbers are not exact numbers obviously, but they are a good idea of what can be done). You can build up a nice little account of money to use to buy items, and keep making more money to pay your bills, put into savings, pay for a trip, etc.
Both Rob and I love the $10-$50 price range for a lot of items. Percentage wise we usually make the most money on this price range. He will spend a bit more on some items that he has done some research on, but we do like to stick to under $50 for the most part. One of his more expensive purchases recently was 3 bedbug machines for $250 at an auction. They were pretty big machines (like a large generator size), that heated the whole hotel room up to kill the bed bugs. We sold the three of them for $3,000. So that was a $2,750 profit minus the eBay fees. EBay charges 10% and Paypal charges about 3% on transactions. While it kinda stinks to pay the fees, eBay reaches such a larger market than craigslist, Facebook or Offer up, so it is definitely worth it. It is a cost of doing business, so you just factor it into your profit.
For someone wanting to try this out, I would suggest start seeing what resources they have available. Find out what flea markets, auctions, and thrift stores are near them. Also check out offer up and Facebook for some good deals that can be flipped. And most of all HAVE FUN! We have a great time visiting the flea markets on the weekend. It is really funny to see how Rob just jumps out of bed those days! He gets lit up when it is flea market day! When you enjoy what you do, the work part of it doesn’t feel as much like work anymore. We are very thankful for our flipping business!
As you can see the investment doesn’t have to be too high. And we launched the free webinar Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days.
Are you interested in learning how to buy and sell and becoming a flipper by flipping items?
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