If only it were as easy as Flea Market Flip. A re-finishing rant.

Feb 25, 20142
A friend, and one of our dealers at Carver Junk, sent me this blog post a few weeks ago. It hit home, and I've been trying to think of a way to post it for our fans/followers/customers to see, without making it seem cranky. While noodling on how to do that, I've also been (completely unrelated) DVR'ing episodes of Flea Market Flip, and catching up on them on Sunday nights. We've had a ton of people ask us if we've ever seen the show, because they "LOVE IT!"
Well, here's the scoop on Flea Market Flip. It's completely unrealistic, and gives viewers the impression that big repurposing projects can be completed with quality in less than 24 hours with no additional cost beyond the original purchase price {seriously, who is paying for all that paint, and all the people helping the flippers do the work?!}. And unfortunately, it leads some {not all} of those viewers to expect much lower prices than are feasible at stores like Carver Junk Company.
To illustrate, let's talk about a piece we bought recently, and repainted: A round pedestal table - priced at $40. The price was fair, so we didn't low-ball or negotiate. We drove 20 miles to pick it up. Because the woman selling it wasn't able to help Chad move it, both he and I had to go, costing us both time - it took about an hour there and back.
I forgot to take a Before photo, so I borrowed this from an online post. It is pretty darn close to the table we bought. {Although the veneer on this one is in better shape; price is also higher}.
Purchase price:  $40 Gas: $7  {yes, our Jeep stinks for gas mileage, but it's great for hauling our trailer} Time: $40 {we value our time at $20 per hour} Then, when we got there, we found the reason the table was only $40 {which, of course hadn't been shared when we asked the condition} - the veneer was bubbling on both the top and the leaf for the table. Add an extra 30 minutes of veneer-fixing time. Fixing: $10 Once it was prepped {fixing the veneer}, we were ready to paint. We use Milk Paint or homemade chalk paint, both of which require no sanding prior. Woohoo! Time savers! But, what we make up for in time, we lose in cost of paint. It's worth it, trust us. Milk Paint: $18 Wax: $3  {a small portion of a large container used} Sandpaper, brushes, etc:  $3  {brushes are reused, sandpaper is cheap, but let's add something for supplies} Bonding agent: $7  {ensures the paint sticks and doesn't require the sanding prep work} Painting with Milk Paint is actually a time SAVER, because it dries so quickly. We chose a light color, so that meant it required a couple of coats. We'll call it three. Each coat takes about 20 minutes, so we're looking at an hour. Painting Time:  $20 Distressing/Waxing Time: $3  {about 10 minutes} It's done! That's it, right? Well, there is also the rent {and utilities} that we have to pay in order to have a place to showcase the table. Sq Ft Rent for Table:  $25 per month, but we'll assume it sells in one month. It's also possible that it sells in the first day of the sale, and we replace it with something else that sells - this is ideal :) And there are the folks we have to pay to work at the store while we're open. That only adds a small cost to each item, so we won't even add it here - but it's important to note the number of things that go into "selling" furniture! So, what does that total look like? Purchase price:  $40 Gas: $7 Time: $40
Fixing: $10
Milk Paint: $18 Wax: $3 Sandpaper, brushes, etc:  $3 Bonding agent: $7 Painting Time:  $20 Distressing/Waxing Time: $3 Sq Ft Rent for Table:  $25This table COST us $176 to buy, paint, and put in the store. We'd likely price this table at $249 {which is determined by a lot of factors like our market, the piece itself, current demand for this type of item, etc.}
Can you see all the distressed and chippy goodness in this photo? And the finish feels like butter.
Well, it's apparent that we aren't professional photographers, but here is the finished table, with leaf. It's she a beauty??
So once we've paid ourselves, the bills, and sold the table, we will have $73 left over to go buy another piece of furniture and start the process all over again. And just for kicks, let's compare our table {$249} to a couple of major retail store tables & prices:
Crate & Barrel,  $499
Pottery Barn, $799
Now, let's be clear. I am not complaining. We LOVE what we do, we LOVE our customers, and we RARELY encounter a situation where someone is disrespectful about pricing. I didn't blog about this in an effort to change anything that happens in our store, nor to make you feel sorry for us - it truly is more about education. In fact, we even offer painting workshops through Carver Junk, so YOU can do these projects yourself if you like! And now, you'll have an idea of what it will cost you in time and real dollars.{and, you won't be fooled by shows like Flea Market Flip! watch, enjoy, and take it as a great entertainment show :)  }

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Comments (11)

  • This is a great article, shows the life costs in living. If life’s stuff could be so easily flipped, we’d all be rich, not just gullible. Time, tallent, effort , imagination, and supplies have to be VALUED!

    Pat Taylor
  • You’re right. To do really quality work, there’s no way it can be done in such a short period of time. Even if thy find bargain pieces, the $100 for embellishments is not really realistic. And even on the show, the profits they make are not nearly enough to sustain a person. BUT it’s still a great entertaining show for those of us who are into this type of stuff. I truly admire their creativity.

  • Right!? The prices things sell for do seem unrealistic, and customers don’t negotiate on the show nearly as they do in real life :)

  • This article is a great education for people who don’t do this kind of thing. Many people wouldn’t think through all of the aspects of Flea Market Flip that aren’t realistic. How many times do you think customers buy because they want to be on tv?

  • Great breakdown! I have many clients assuming my time/ supplies come free with no idea of the true cost involved. Good thing I love what I do!

  • Great breakdown. Good thing we love what we do!

  • Watching from New Zealand it seems that the most awful things ‘sell’ really … do people really buy hideously painted red telephone tables with amateur upholstery… its seems very manufactured and often the loudest and most abnoxious sellers seem to win.

    Karen Ratten
  • I don’t like how Lara is always telling the participants what to do if she doesn’t like their idea. She sometimes seems to be pulling more or one team than the other, often helping with negotiations when buying and selling. That’s not her place.

  • Echoing what others have said, yes: completely unrealistic show. “Flippers” aren’t shown doing the work. They’re in a professional studio with at least 6 master craftsmen (whose salaries aren’t calculated into costs.) Booth and transportation costs aren’t considered, nor are credit card transaction fees, just to name a few other costs not taken into account. Appreciate your blog! Entertaining show but no one should watch & expect to get rich from lessons learned

  • When I first saw the show a year ago I thought it was awesome but my first thought was, why aren’t they added in at least the cost of the materials they use to fix them up against the profit the piece make! That really bugs me about the show. I understand not factoring in the people to assist since they only give them 1 days to do 3 pieces and it takes much more work then that. Love your break down, this is an awesome article!!


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