7 Brilliant Tips From Successful Online Furniture Flippers

A woman paints a chair yellow.
Getty Images

For many local furniture resellers and refurbishers, the market has never been better.

As COVID-19 causes manufacturing and shipping delays for big box stores, customers have turned to an innovative and unique solution — buying refurbished, refreshed and often painted secondhand furniture.

All good, but someone has to sell it to them. Why not you?

7 Tips for Reselling Furniture

It’s not hard to begin selling furniture online and you’ll find buyers on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor and even Instagram.

But you have to know where to start gathering your inventory.

Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through it. By the time you’re through, you’ll probably be ready to take a paintbrush and some new hardware to your old dresser and frumpy nightstands.

1. Find Treasures Online

Leslie Jarrett is a Denver, Colorado furniture painter and reseller. She started painting furniture as a hobby in college. Her mother found a discarded dresser by the dumpster and Jarrett knew she could update it with a little work.

Now, Jarrett is an expert in the art of finding one person’s trash and turning it into treasure. She spends her days scanning Facebook Marketplace for secondhand furniture. She finds the selection is far broader than a thrift store. But she doesn’t recommend searching for specific items — that will affect the ads Facebook serves you and limits you from seeing the full scope of items available.

“I always recommend just the scroll,” Jarrett says.

Summer Berube runs whimsical Pinewood Charm from her Hampstead, New Hampshire, home. When she browses items to buy, she focuses on pieces that are simple and have a little bit of detail, “not over the top.”

“Some pieces need a make-under,” Berube says. “They’re just too busy or they have too much going on.”

And when Jarrett is looking at furniture online, she has a target price range in mind — $40-60 for most pieces, although she won’t go higher than $20 for small side tables. When you know the maximum an item will sell for, it’s easier to know how much money to spend.

This photo shows two pieces of furniture (a side table and dresser) that has been restored.
Leslie Jarrett recommends finding furniture that needs minimal work done to it. She’s also discovered certain pieces of furniture, such as dressers, sell quickly. Photo courtesy of Leslie Jarrett

2. Keep Used Furniture Rehab to a Minimum

When Jarrett is searching, she always looks for used furniture that doesn’t need to be fixed up too much. Your time is valuable and the more you put into a project, the more you will want to charge. It’s unlikely your handiwork will be valued by people looking for a bargain.

She focuses on particular styles that she knows are en vogue and will sell. Think rattan or something boho.

Jarrett also finds that certain kinds of furniture — like dressers — sell easily. Know what your market is looking for and you can turn a profit simply with that expertise.

3. Make Little Changes

If you’ve found a piece online that has potential but needs some work, Jarrett and Berube suggest first starting small.

There are easy and quick ways to make a piece pop without expending a lot of energy and spending a lot of money. Jarrett is a fan of peel-and-stick wallpaper strips, which can line the drawers of a nightstand or dresser and add a fun touch.

She also likes Hobby Lobby and Amazon for hardware — brass and gold hardware are popular, as are cup pulls.

If the item has interesting antique hardware, Berube tries not to change it. But, as she says, “hardware makes or breaks the piece.” So sometimes, it has to go.

4. Don’t Force a Style

Berube is a strong believer in honoring the piece in front of her and letting it speak to her.

“Sometimes, you’ll get a piece and you’ll know exactly what it should be,” she said. “Sometimes you’ll get a piece and you’ll have to think about it for a while.”

The nature of an Instagram feed, if that’s where you are selling or promoting, is that it shows all of your pieces at once, not just your most recent piece. You want your furniture to fit into a particular aesthetic. Berube appreciates modern furniture, but it’s not her passion.

“I can totally appreciate a modern piece on somebody else’s feed,” she says. “I love it, because they would just do it way better than I would.”

5. Paint Furniture in Neutral Colors

When it comes time to paint the furniture, both Jarrett and Berube know what easily sells — neutrals, particularly white, warm gray, navy and black.

But Berube also says that it’s okay to experiment. In fact, she’s been rewarded for that before. She once painted a dresser orange and sold it within 30 minutes. She’s also painted pieces white and seen them sit for a few weeks.

The hardest color for her to sell right now is green — something she says is odd, because it’s a trendy color at the moment. Maybe it’s the shade of green that matters most, more moss than Kermit.

Still, her audience doesn’t bite.

“My followers don’t jump on it,” she says. “Whenever I paint a piece green, it will sit for a little bit, but it’s probably one of my favorite colors to paint.”

6. Be Smart and You’ll Trade Used Furniture for Cash

Both Jarrett and Berube succeed because they know their audience.

Nightstands are a “hot commodity,” according to Berube. She knows that if she finds a matching pair of nightstands in good condition, it’s a no-brainer. They’ll sell.

Dressers are also incredibly in demand in the world of secondhand furniture. Knowing what people tend to buy and use gets a reseller one step closer to success.

This photo is a side by side photo of a furniture flipper and a dresser she flipped.
Summer Berube believes staging is important when photographing pieces to sell. Photos courtesy of Summer Berube

7. Take a Photo for Success

“The biggest moneymaker is how you style and take a good picture,” Jarrett says. She’s not alone in thinking that  — we’ve previously rounded up the best tips from online resellers in photo taking.

Jarrett has a few basic tips: use natural lighting, sit on the floor to take the picture and keep the staging simple. For example, don’t leave your McDonald’s cup in the frame.

Berube agrees that staging is incredibly important. She likes to put versatile pieces — like an oversized dresser — in an innovative spot, perhaps as an entry piece or as a buffet.

“You want to make people think outside of the box,” she said. “You want them to think, ‘I could put this in my living room. It doesn’t have to be in my bedroom.’”

Writer Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, often writing about selling goods online through social platforms. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Smithsonian Magazine and the Tampa Bay Times.