I could make a full salary on Craigslist.

by Ninja on August 26, 2015 · 40 comments

I’ve blogged many times about my love of Craigslist, and how I’ve used it to save money over the years. Over the last six weeks or so, I’ve been flipping furniture on CL and am shocked at just how profitable that can be. Spefically, when you are wheeling and dealing mid century modern furniture. Let’s look at a few case studies shall we…

Case Study 1: 

Girl Ninja and I had been using a black ikea cube bookshelf thingy as a storage space behind our couch. I hated how cluttered it always looked and decided it was time to look in to getting an actual credenza for our space. I came across this guy for $120 on CL. I offered $90 and the seller accepted.

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After realizing it was waaaaaay too small for our space, I decided to put it up on CL for $350 and see what happened. I’ll tell you what happened. Someone paid me $350 and bought it.

Profit: $260

Case Study 2: 

I made $260 in profit from my first credenza so figured it was only logical to roll that money in to another credenza. One that better fit our space. I paid $250 for this Lane Rhythm credenza…

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I did a little refinishing. About 30 minutes worth of work, sanding down the top and staining it to make it shine. I sold it for $650 less than 24 hours after buying it.

Profit: $400

Case Study 3: 

I wanted to dabble with two tone furniture, so I was on the hunt for a mid century dresser. Found this guy for $200 on CL (paid $150 for it after negotiating)…

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I put about two hours worth of work in to this guy. Doing some light sanding, priming, and then painting, with leftover white paint I had on hand. This is what it looked like when I was done…
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I was super happy with the end result and felt like I just Pinterested the crap out of the dresser. I posted it up for $400, and it sold quickly.

Profit: $250.

Case Study 4: 

I had a tree taken down in our backyard a couple years ago and saved one of the rounds that was leftover, figuring I could make something cool out of it. Originally my plan was to make it a centerpiece for our dining room table, but then I decided to turn it in to a live edge, side table. I paid about $45 for some hairpin legs and simply screwed them in to the bottom of my tree round. This was the final product…

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I posted it up on CL for $180 and it sold shortly after listing it.

Profit: $135.

Case Study 5:

I paid $65 for this credenza.

IMG_4925Can you believe it! $65 for this diamond in the rough. The seller was using it as storage for his kids toys in their playroom. He decided he wanted it gone. Within 20 minutes of him posting it, I was on my way to meet him and take it off his hands. It had an ugly wood base that had pretty nasty water damage to it, so I hammered off the ugly bottom and was left with the picture you see above.

I got the bright idea to buy some mid century modern angled legs online and dress things up a bit. The legs and angled brackets set me back $90. That’s right, I paid more for the legs than I did for the actual credenza.

I rubbed the piece down with some teak oil to bring out the woods natural tones and this is what it looked like after…

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My total investment was about $165. I probably could have sold this for about $800 on Craigslist, but a friend of mine loved it and needed a new TV stand. I gave him a friend deal and sold it to him for $400.

Profit: $240 (could have been $600+ if I posted on CL).

Case Study 6: 

Found this mid century dresser on Craigslist Sunday morning for $200…

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I didn’t do a single thing to the dresser. I reposted it on Craigslist as soon as I got home for $450, and it sold six hours later for $450.

Profit: $250.

Case Study 7: 

If you haven’t noticed the theme, I like to stick to credenzas and dressers that could be used as credenzas. It was time to mix things up a bit so I decided to flirt with a new piece.

I saw this coffee table listed on CL for $60 (I paid $50 for it)…

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I brought it home, staged it, took some photos and back on to Craigslist it went. It sold 24 hours later for $200.

Profit: $150.

Case Study 8:

Picked up this Broyhill Brasilia Tallboy dresser on Sunday for $200…

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Haven’t done a single thing to it (except stage it and take some photos). It’s on craigslist right now for $750, and should sell somewhere between $500-$750. I may end up keeping it though because it’s so freaking pretty. I mean look at it…

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So beautiful, and a pretty rare piece at that.

Case Study 9, 10, 11, and 12: 

Picked up this Lane Acclaim credenza for $450 on CL…

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I sanded down the top and stained it to make it shine. I posted it for $800 on CL and had a slew of people wanting to come see it. Girl Ninja freaked out and pulled a trump card saying I wasn’t allowed to sell it. So for now, this is the credenza that we are keeping behind our couch 🙂 Unless I can find someone that is willing to pay me $950 for it, then I’m gonna trump her trump and sell it 🙂

Here are a few other pieces I could sell for a couple hundred more than I paid for them, but Girl Ninja has trumped…

Paid $220 for this white leather chair, could probably sell for around $400…

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Paid $150 for this mid century leather chair. Should sell for $300-$400. 00X0X_jUxBqGVeL1u_600x450

Paid $250 for this desk and chair. Posted it for $500 and had multiple people asking to come see it. That was before Girl Ninja told me I wasn’t allowed to sell it…

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Conclusion:

In the last month, I made about $1,700 by simply buying furniture on Craigslist and selling it a few days later (or sometimes the same day) for double or triple what I paid. And that’s without even trying. It just kind of organically happened. I bet I could triple that income if I really got serious about it.

If you’re interested in flipping on Craigslist here are a few pointers I have for you:

1. Look for crappy ads. Most of these items only had a single cell phone picture of the furniture piece and there was barely any description of the item. Craigslist posts like these tell me the person just wants the piece gone and doesn’t care about getting top dollar. If the furniture is staged and has a detailed description, the seller probably knows exactly what their piece is worth, so there isn’t much room for profit.

2. Always offer less than what they listed the piece for. ALWAYS! Most of the time I can save $25 to $100 by simply asking the seller if they’ll consider taking less. About half the time they agree, the other half they stay firm. Any money you save on the purchase, increases your profit come time to sell.

3. Stage your photos and use a nice camera to take pictures (your 12mp cell phone camera isn’t going to cut it). You’ll notice each of my listing photos are edited to really make the piece stand out. I increase the contrast and sharpness, bring out the natural colors of the wood, and blur the background to make sure the furniture stands out as the focal point. Great photography translates to great profits.

4. Don’t budge on price. You’ll notice in just about every instance I negotiated a lower purchase price from the seller. But I’ve never once budged on my asking price when I’m the one doing the selling.

By the time people have taken the time out of their day to drive to my house and see the piece, I’m almost positive they are emotionally attached to the piece. They ask if I would consider accepting less, and I respond with something like “Sorry, I’ve gotten a handful of other emails on it and am confident it will sell for asking. But I understand if you want to pass. No pressure either way.”

They fear missing out on it, and they end up paying me full asking. Worst case, they walk away, and the next day someone else is knocking on my door to pay full price.

5. Look often. Craigslist gets thousands of new listings every day. I’ve gotten very good at sifting through CL to discover the diamonds in the rough. Search terms, sorting by newest items, and putting the layout in “grid mode” will be your biggest helpers. There is an art to Craigslisting and if you spend enough time on there, you’ll figure it out.

Now get off my blog and go make yourself a little extra money!

 

 

 

1 Michelle

This is definitely awesome! I haven’t looked at Craigslist in awhile but now I may need to see what I can find…

2 Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies

Nice! Your staging is fantastic. Love the hairpin legs on the end table. Craigslist sales seem to have slowed down quite a bit by me lately – I think the market is a bit saturated in Midwest suburbia. However, your photos and staging easily make these pieces stand out. I can see why people gravitate towards them.

3 tom

This is a good point. Seattle has a big market for mid century modern furniture, many of these pieces would look amazing in lofts downtown or the craftsman homes in Queen Anne. I’m wondering how much of the ease of flipping is due to the area. Nothing against the work you’ve put in though. The Midwest certainly doesn’t have the volume of furniture ads that Seattle does. It would be possible, however to make a couple hundred a month doing this with a few pieces. I might have to go on the CL hunt.

4 Ninja

That could very well be true. The farther you are away from a “downtown” of some type, the fewer gems there will likely be.

5 Renee

I agree!! We’re in Omaha, NE and I can’t decide whether or not to buy a mid cent modern bedroom set for $150. I THINK I could sell each piece for $150 but I’m just not 100% sure. I’ve flipped a few CL things in the past and it seems to move slow around here so it makes me nervous to shell out $150 for 2 dressers (that are in GREAT shape) and move them to my house b/c I really don’t want to be stuck with them.

6 Abby

well done! And keep the Brasilia dresser! We bought the Brasilia low dresser off craigslist over 5 years ago and use it as a credenza, and it remains my favorite piece of furniture. I seriously look at it every day and pat myself on the back for finding it because it makes me so happy.

7 Jen

Yeah in our area Craigslist doesn’t work as well. Everyone asks to pay $5 and wants free delivery on just about everything. We decided to move out of our larger home rental and rent a townhouse to save cash for a down payment on something of our own and I’ve been trying to sell a few pieces of furniture and I haven’t sold anything! So now we have all this extra furniture in our garage! It’s so annoying. It’s great that you can do it though.

8 Ninja

Well what I was sharing is different than just trying to sell your no longer wanted furniture. I’m looking for great pieces that are in demand, being sold by someone that might not necessarily realize the pieces market value.

It sounds like you are simply trying to sell furniture you no longer want. There are a million chairs, couches, beds, etc on CL. I sift through the “typical” to find (and then resell) the extraordinary.

9 Bryan @ Just One More Year

I have had great luck selling furniture on CL in our area as well. However, this was furniture that was left when we bought our home.

This is an interesting concept to buy, fix up (or not), and sell as a side business. Making an extra $1k a month would probably put me over the edge to leave my job!

10 Nikki

I live in Seattle and LOVE the mid century leather chair! I’ll give you $350 for it if you’re willing to sell!

11 Ninja

Sent ya an email.

12 Cedes

I’ve thought about doing this, but in my area, people that are selling quality pieces know it is a quality piece and price it as such. And then when you try to turn around and sell something, people (really) low ball you left and right. I understand as a buyer you want the best price possible, but personally, I price things pretty fair, and people still try to cut my prices in half. Good on you for being able to make such a profit with minimal work! Those are some beautiful pieces!

13 Renee

inspiring!! would love to know some details about your refinishing process. I just stripped and stained a dining table and it took a LONG time! some of the ones you didn’t have to refinish were obviously an AMAZING steal! but i’m curious if you’ve tracked hours invested from hauling + refinishing… I’m sure it’s still a good hourly profit. I’m mostly curious b/c I’m thinking about trying it!

14 Ninja

Refinishing is pretty simple. I use my orbital sander on the top with 150grit (then follow with 220grit). Takes about 10 minutes to sand off the stain and protective coating. Then it’s as simple as wiping some gel stain (this stuff is awesome and less messy than regular stain), letting it sit for 10minutes and wiping off the excess. Sometimes I do a few coats of poly on top (each coat takes about 2 minutes to apply).

That’s it. So I maybe put 30min of total labor in to a refinish.

A lot of the times though I don’t sand at all, I just use a little gel stain on the scratches and Knicks to make them match color with the rest of the piece.

As for the driving around. I’m willing to drive up to an hour away if the piece is a steal (like the Broyhill dresser priced at $200 but worth $750). But for the most part all the furniture I pick up is within 25 minutes of my home.

15 Renee

Woah. That is a way simpler process than we went through for this table. haha woops.
Which gel stain finishes have you tried? I considered using it but wasn’t sure how well it would work compared to regular stain. But your pieces look great!

You mentioned orbital sander on the top – do you do the drawers and sides too or just the top and then get gel stain that matches?

16 Ninja

I bought a can of American walnut minwax stain from lowes and it works awesome. Really blends well with the wood. If I have to do the drawer fronts I typically spot sand them by hand. I’ve never had to completely sand drawer fronts. My theory is they are mid century pieces so it’s unreasonable for buyers to expect perfection.

I don’t get rid of all the Knicks and scratches, I just make sure they are stained the same color as the piece so they don’t stand out.

17 Renee

makes sense! thanks for the tips 🙂

ok – expert opinion? I know you don’t know our area well, but what do you think? I think I might buy these and try to resell … assuming they look as good in person. On one hand, it’s only $150. Certainly I can break even. On the other hand, we’re trying to punch our student loan debt in the face very aggressively, so we don’t want to be out any $$.

http://omaha.craigslist.org/fuo/5193440557.html

18 Paul

I think that the best blog posts are the ones that shift my view of the world and leave me thinking. This is one of those posts. Thanks for posting it!

Out of curiosity, did you have any busts in your furniture flipping adventures? Did you ever get to someone’s house and find that the piece wasn’t as described, or purchase an item that you couldn’t sell for a profit?

I may just be ignorant of furniture prices, but I feel like I’d just be guessing as to whether or not a piece could be flipped for a profit.

19 Jack Hoff

Nice to suu you blogging again. You took quite some time off. You left us readers/followers hanging. Anyway, how about a net worth article? I’m interested in seeing how things are going.

Jack

20 Jack Hoff

Nice to see you blogging again. You took quite some time off. You left us readers/followers hanging. Anyway, how about a net worth article? I’m interested in seeing how things are going.

Jack

21 Kurt

Nicely done! You’ve got three things going for you, two of which I lack: 1) mid-century modern is popular, 2) you have a great eye for picking pieces, and 3) you’re talented at just the right refurbishing to get the biggest resale price bang for your time invested. I definitely see a career for you here!

22 John

Just a suggestion, don’t restrict yourself to furniture just because Ninja does. My son sold camping goods while in college years ago. He got interested in telescopes recently and found some very expensive ones cheap. He used them for a while and resold for a massive profit. Just find something you are interested in that is popular in your area and specialize—you can be the local expert.

23 Melanie

How did you teach yourself or learn which pieces are valuable and which are not? This is something that I would definitely be interested in – Like a previous poster said – it’s the kind of post that really makes you stop and say hmmmm.
I’d love to hear a little bit more insight into this!

24 Ninja

I like to think I have a good sense of style and know what people like. If I like something it probably means a bunch of other people would too. I go for things that look like they belong in a west elm magazine.

Most of the furniture pieces I buy are pretty enough to be statement pieces. There are a million dressers in craigslist, but not many like that beautiful Broyhill tall boy I posted.

25 Jestep

Furniture is probably the worst category to try and make money, in my area at least. Maybe it’s just the specific demographics here, but to put a description on it, is furniture has between zero and negative resale value in our market. Doesn’t really matter the material, the designer / manufacturer, condition, etc. It’s so bad that it’s often difficult to give away things for free unless free includes delivery.

26 Paul

That’s interesting that you say that because I feel the same is true in my area (Omaha, NE). I feel like people in eastern Nebraska view Craigslist as an online garage sale (at least in terms of furniture). I could be wrong, though, as I haven’t researched it extensively…it’s just a gut feeling.

27 Ninja

Where you live? I’ll browse the local CL and link to a few pieces i would buy.

28 Paul

Thank you! Here is a link to the local Craigslist: http://omaha.craigslist.org/

It looks like another poster (Renee) lives here, too, so I’m sure she’ll be interested in getting your thoughts, too.

29 Ninja

Boom, I’d offer $100 for it and relist at $450 after touching it up and staging it.

http://omaha.craigslist.org/fuo/5200245054.html

Check out this one listed for $1,000 (which means there must be a market for these)

http://desmoines.craigslist.org/fud/5174292721.html

30 Paul

Thanks for the feedback! Unfortunately, the first item was sold before I could take a look at it. Regarding the second item, are you indicating that a high price for this item indicates there is a high-end market for certain products (in this case, credenzas)?

31 Ninja

I thought that might happen. Bummer you didn’t get to see it. Knew it would sell quick. It was a $125 credenza that could easily sell for triple that. The second link was to show that credenzas are on the market for upwards of $1,000 as they are one of the most coveted furniture pieces for current style. Hence the reason I’ve bought and sold so many of them.

32 Renee

I agree with your observation about craigslist in omaha in general – garage saley. Every so often I spot a diamond in the ruft. My working theory is that because there are basically NO modern furniture stores in the immediate area, mid century mod (or west elm-type statement pieces), those pieces don’t end up on craigslist very often. Which means people don’t shop very often for them.

If you happened to spot one at a decent price (I’ve spotted a few from old ladies moving out of their house selling everything cheaply even though it’s in pristine condition) and you post it, chances are someone with similar taste to you would snatch it up.

But it’s definitely risky.

As for the $1,000 credenza – looks like it’s in a store but hard to tell. I do know of a few furniture stores that sell in a niche for high end vintage or resale furniture – there are a couple centrally located in omaha.

Anyway, that’s all basically a bunch of rambling trying to figure out the market here. I grew up in Chicago and have lived in Boston, both of which have a market for craigslist furniture more similar to seattle – people buy expensive furniture on there!

Here it seems more hit or miss.

33 Dee @ Color Me Frugal

Love this! Thanks for the great idea- I may have to give furniture flipping a try!

34 Danube

Hey! Question, how’d you get the bigger pieces home? If I remember correctly from old posts you have a sedan.

35 Ninja

we bought a Honda Pilot back in 2012 so have a good bit of cargo space. Sold girl ninjas Corolla then. And sold my coupe a year ago now. So the pilot is the only personal car we have.

36 catherine

This is amazing! Good for you. Unfortunately CL is almost non existent where I live though we do have a decently vibrant equivalent but it’s certainly NO where near as good as that, this I know. Do you mind if I ask where you live out of curiosity?

37 Den

I know you’re a ninja and all, but what about security on CL? Do you allow people to come to your house to see the furniture or do you haul to someplace neutral?

Thanks!

38 Jason B

I’ve sold some things one CL before but it wasn’t furniture. I also didn’t make that kind of profit either. I need to check some of the listings in my area.

39 Kevin

Damn, credenzas must be a hell of a market.

Just FYI, I probably wouldn’t recommend this for sofas. I’m currently struggling to sell a pristine reclining sofa on craigslist for $300. I purchased it two years ago for $700.

My guess is people get grossed out thinking about sitting on a used sofa.

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